Tribune Top Five Female Athletes of 2016-17: No. 1 Gabby Hentemann

Josh VanDyke • Aug 1, 2017 at 7:15 AM

The Tribune is counting down our top five male and female athletes, as well as teams, for the 2016-17 school year. The No. 1 female athlete this year is Gabby Hentemann of Grand Haven. The cross country and track standout was an All-State performer in both sports and helped anchor both programs to successful runs to the state finals meet.

In two short years, Gabby Hentemann has become a well-known performer for the Grand Haven Buccaneers in both cross country and track. In her freshman year with the Bucs, Hentemann earned All-State honors in both sports and quickly put herself on the map as a top contender in any race she enters.

In fact, she was so dominant in her sophomore track season in the 1,600-meter run that Grand Haven girls track coach John Tarr decided to run Hentemann in the boys heat of an O-K Red Conference dual just to give her some quality competition before regionals.


So far in her varsity track career Hentemann has earned All-State, All-Conference and All-Regional honors in the 3,200-meter relay (2016, 17), the 800 run (2016,17) and the 1,600 run (2016, 17).

She was the individual O-K Red Conference champion in the 800 and 1,600 runs in her freshman and sophomore seasons, as well as individual regional champion in the 800 and 1,600 runs in both seasons. She was also the anchor on the 3,200 relay teams for Grand Haven that took regional championships in 2016 and 2017, as well.

She is also part of the 1,600-meter relay team that broke the school record at this spring’s Division 1 state meet, and holds the second fastest times in the 800 (2:12.75), 1,600 (4:51.1), 3,200 (11:09.28) and 3,200 relay in school history.

In the winter, she added an 11th-place finish at the Indoor Nationals.

In the fall, Hentemann paces the field in cross country for Grand Haven. She finished her sophomore season with an 18:11.2 5K time, which puts her third all-time in school history. With her performances, Hentemann earned All-State, All-Conference and All-Regional accolades in her freshman and sophomore seasons.

It’s safe to say it’s only a matter of time before Hentemann rewrites the Grand Haven record books with her own name.

Grand Haven girls cross country coach Scott Przystas

On what makes Gabby such a special athlete

“Gabby is a special athlete because she is a combination of a naturally-gifted runner and an extremely hard worker. She has a desire to be the top runner and a work ethic and commitment level to make it happen. Gabby asks the right questions and is able to express her effort during races and workouts which make her super coachable.”

On season goals from 2016

“I wanted to see her repeat as an All-Conference, All Regional and All State athlete again (for the second year), which she did. I also wanted her to continue to stay healthy and enjoy running with her teammates. She was in a position at the end of the season to be conference champion and regional champion, but it just wasn't her time. She knows what it'll take now and will be gunning for those honors this season.”

On training changes

“Gabby has really bought in to the program's goal to build mileage slowly and earning the right to do more. She put in a lot of work doing the things she needed to do to become a better runner and she got to put in more miles. Increasing her volume helped her gain more confidence that she was no longer a freshman and really grew up as a runner. She started running races from the front and going out with the leaders and being one of the leaders. She was able to win a few races and compete in some of the bigger meets, which she kind of shied away from as a freshman.”

On initial impression of Gabby as a freshman

“I had the privilege of coaching Gabby in middle school track and got to develop a coaching relationship with her and build that trust early on. Coming in as a freshman in cross country, I was impressed by how much maturity she showed as a freshman runner running varsity and being that lead runner for us, which was what our team needed at the time. She really is a natural leader who leads by example through her work ethic every day.

On favorite moment coaching her thus far

“My favorite moment coaching Gabby is every day at practice. With her, it is never a, "what kind of effort am I going to get out of Gabby today?" It is always she's going to show up and give me and the team everything she's got, whether it is an interval day or an easy day. She's going to laugh with her teammates and enjoy running and understand that the process is the most important thing and that if she takes care of today, the race will take care of itself. To me, that is pure joy as a coach. If I had a team full of Gabby's work ethic, we'd be in good shape.”

On Gabby’s career ceiling as a cross country athlete

“I would like her to continue to take each season (track and cross country) in stride and continue to get stronger and stay healthy. I think she can and wants to run in college and that will take care of itself if she continues to work hard.”

Grand Haven girls track coach John Tarr

On what makes Gabby such a special athlete

“Gabby absolutely loves everything about the sport of running. Every kid has a different reason why they participate in athletics, and it’s not always because they love the sport. Gabby is unique in the fact that she genuinely loves everything about the sport of running. She loves the comradery with her teammates, the friendships with her competitors from other teams around the state, practice, meets, hard workouts, her coaches, and competing for Grand Haven.

“She also loves the bus rides to meets, competing and winning, and when she doesn’t win, she loves the fact that she has something to strive toward. I have never seen a kid who is more enthusiastic about running than Gabby. And because of this, she never quits, and she never gets down on herself. She smiles the whole time she is on the track. She’d run four events every meet if we let her. She loves the relays and the sprints. I think she even loved being on the same team at the same time as her older brother, Dominic, because they were out there running together.”

On goals for the track season

My goal for her for the 2017 track season was for her to qualify for the state finals in multiple events, and that was what I told our assistant coaches Melissa Richardson and Mike Takas at the beginning of the season. I wanted to give Gabby the greatest possibility to be an All-State athlete in several events. So with that in mind, we brought her along slowly all season to run the 3,200 relay, the 1,600, the 800, and if possible, the 1,600 relay in the state meet. She ended up qualifying in four events and being All-State in three, and setting a school record in the 1,600 relay.”

On changes in training

“Early in the season, we varied her events to prepare her for running those multiple races at the state meet, and Melissa trained her to qualify in both the individual 800 and the 1,600. That can sometimes be a difficult combination because the recovery period is relatively short given the speed of the races at the state meet. It takes a lot out of kid to recover and come back in an hour or so.

“In addition, we had three other good 800 runners, so we felt obligated to ensure that Gabby took them to the state meet, as well. Toward the end of the season, we started running her in the 3,200 relay, the 1,600 and the 800, which is not easy. At one point, she wasn’t sure she could do it. However, both Melissa and I knew that with the training Melissa took her through all season, she could recover quickly in between races and with some encouragement from us, she proved us right in the conference meet and then again in the regional. Then in the state meet, she was prepped to accomplish big things.”

On first impression of Gabby

“I immediately realized how unselfish she is. She will do anything she can to make her team and her teammates succeed. She will run any relay, run as many races as we need, and go out there and support her varsity as well as her junior varsity teammates at every meet. She is remarkably grateful to her coaches and her teammates and to her parents, Rich and Jill, for what she says we all do for her.

“She constantly thanks us and shows a lot of love and support toward her teammates. This was evident from her very first day her freshman year. She had a huge grin on her face all season, and all she wanted to do was run as many races as she could.”

On favorite moment coaching Gabby

“At the state meet this year, she had just run a great 1,600 race and finished fifth, and soon after, Melissa came over to me and said Gabby was thinking of scratching in the 800. So we went over and talked to her again, and I said, ‘Look, you have an hour and a half, so let’s not scratch yet. I want you to think about it. We will support whatever you want to do. You’ve already reached your goal of being All-State in two events, so you do what you want to about the 800, but I think you can do it. I think you should go out and make the attempt.’

“She ran a little cool down then went into the infield to do some warm-ups for the 800, and from what I understand; she looked at one of her teammates and said, ‘Aw, screw it! I’m just going to run it.” And she finished fourth overall, which was better than her finish in the 1,600. That was a perfect example of how much she loves the sport, and how she is willing to do anything to rise above her feelings to excel.’

On career ceiling

“When I see a limit, I’ll let you know. Gabby will set her limit and her limit is unlimited at this point. She is generating a lot of interest from college. U-M is interested in her, and she just returned from their camp in Ann Arbor. She has a great physique for a future college runner. She’s not going to be one of these teeny, tiny, skinny, female runners — she is going to grow and mature and get stronger and bigger like a college athlete.

“Most importantly, she is an outstanding student academically, so her overall potential is wide open. Running will be a means to her end, and her limit will be seen in the school, the career, and jobs she chooses to do one day because of her multiple talents and her tenacity. With the generosity and selflessness she exhibits every day, she will give back to her community and the sport and her family one day, so to me, because of that, her career ceiling is unlimited in so many ways.”

Tribune top five female athletes

Honorable mention: Reiko Johnson and Emily Winicki

No. 5: Kathryn Ackerman

No. 4: Cassie Kingma

No. 3: Alli Keyser 

No. 2: Anna Kramer


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