Top 5 Female Athletes to Watch this fall

Josh VanDyke • Aug 14, 2017 at 4:00 AM

The fall prep sports season officially begins this week, with golf and tennis contests starting on Wednesday, followed by volleyball, swimming, soccer and cross country taking their marks Friday.

Before the competition begins, we wanted to take a look at five standout performers that you won’t want to miss this fall sports season.

Gabby Hentemann (Grand Haven girls cross country)

After a dominant track season in the spring, in which Hentemann collected three All-State honors, the talented incoming junior has plenty of positive momentum carrying her into the fall cross country season.

Hentemann paced the field in cross country for Grand Haven last fall, as she finished her sophomore season with an 18:11.2 5k time, which put her third all-time in school history. With her performances, Hentemann earned All-State, All-Conference and All-Regional accolades in both her freshman and sophomore seasons.

She will once again be the headliner for the Buccaneers in 2017. With Hentemann pacing the field, the Grand Haven girls cross country team will be a contender in the O-K Red Conference and should make a strong push to qualify once again for the Division 1 state meet.

Kathryn Ackerman (Grand Haven girls swimming)

In her sophomore season as a Buccaneer, Kathryn Ackerman looks ready to live up to the hype that her stellar freshman season has produced.

Her breakout freshman season began with shattering the Grand Haven varsity 200-yard individual medley record in her first meet of the season and ended with two All-State certificates for her silver-medal effort in the 200 individual medley and fourth place in the 500 freestyle.

In between, Ackerman took a dual-meet victory in every individual event, broke pool records all over the area and claimed two O-K Red Conference titles with conference records to boot. Since leading the Bucs at the state meet, Ackerman hasn’t taken any time off. With just weeks before their first contest, Grand Haven’s sophomore stud is in fighting shape.

The 15-year-old took on the Speedo Junior National Championships last week in East Meadow, New York, representing Michigan Lakeshore Aquatics taking on the cream of high-school age club swimmers.

Swimming Olympic-style long course meter events, she took fourth in the 400-meter individual medley, with a time of 4:49.46, and setting an MLA record in the process.

Ackerman also competed in the 200 individual medley finishing 10th with a time of 2:17.82 and in the 200 breaststroke, taking 30th overall in 2:38.28.

Now, she will turn her attention to the 25-yard pools of MHSAA competition and look to lead the Bucs through another turbulent O-K Red Conference season, and beyond.

Madelyn Nelson (Spring Lake girls golf)

Spring Lake senior Madelyn Nelson returns to anchor a talented lineup for the Lakers golf squad this fall. The three-time defending Division 3 state champions will lean heavily on the experience Nelson brings to the team, along with junior Hannah Klein.

The Lakers won the O-K Blue Conference last season by 331 strokes, and Nelson was a big reason why. Her 39.88 nine-hole average in conference play was second on the team and helped solidify a lineup that swept the first-team All-Conference awards at the end of the regular season.

At the regional, Nelson finished tied for second-place as an individual with an 87 through 18 holes. She followed up that performance with another strong performance at the Division 3 state meet. At the two-day event, Nelson had the biggest Day 2 turnaround, carding a 79 on Saturday after recording an 89 in the opening round to finish with a 168 on the weekend. She was named first-team All-State for her efforts.

If Nelson can continue to be a steady, consistent performer for the Lakers this fall, it won’t be a surprise if the squad takes home its fourth consecutive state championship trophy.

Olivia Boeve (Grand Haven volleyball)

The Grand Haven varsity volleyball program will be replacing eight experienced senior performers from last year’s regional finalist squad. One player who will ease that process is senior outside hitter Olivia Boeve.

Boeve established herself as a playmaker for the Buccaneers last fall. Her athleticism and court vision helped her finish second on the team in kills, and added a dynamic defensive presence, as well. She was named All-Conference, All-Region, and All-State Honorable Mention last fall.

If Boeve can continue to grow as a high-flying performer and senior leader, the Buccaneers will once again be a competitor in the O-K Red Conference, as well as the Division 1 playoff field.

Julia Bajt (Spring Lake girls cross country)

Spring Lake sophomore standout Julia Bajt wasn’t intimidated by the speed at the varsity level as a freshman for the Lakers last fall.

Of the seven runners for the Lakers at last year’s regional, six were freshmen. Bajt was the only Laker runner who qualified for the state final race as an individual with a time of 20:10.14.

Bajt followed that up with a strong track season this spring, setting personal best times in the 200-meter dash (27.03 seconds), 400 dash (1:00.17), 800 run (2:35.76), the 800 relay (1:45.14) and the 1,600 relay (4:08.82).

With a full year of experience at the varsity level in both cross country and track, the sky is the limit for Bajt this fall.

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