With practices beginning today all over the state, there are plenty of local storylines to follow when competition gets underway in a few short weeks.
Here are five male athletes to follow from Labor Day to Halloween.
Noah Bachmann- Grand Haven tennis
After a prolific sophomore campaign, Grand Haven’s brightest tennis star will return to the court this fall with a score to settle.
A 23-5 overall record carried Bachmann all the way to the state tournament in 2017, where he fell in the round of 16 to the 83rd ranked player in the country.
On his way to the tournament, Bachmann picked up an O-K Red Conference title at his position of No. 1 singles and a runner-up finish at the Division 1 regional tournament, earning him a spot at the finals.
All that added up to an All-State selection, just the second for the Grand Haven boys tennis program since 1980.
Bachmann will assumedly retain his No. 1 singles spot this fall, giving him another crack at the best players the state has to offer. With all five of his losses last season coming against other All-State selections, it's top-tier or nothing for the standout junior.
Andrew Hylen- Spring Lake cross country
Spring Lake’s school record holder in the 5,000-meter run returns this fall for his final laps around the cross country course.
Andrew Hylen clocked in at 15 minutes, 37.2 seconds in the second meet of the season last fall to set the all-time best mark for the Spring Lake boys.
He finished first or second in all but two races last season, taking 14th at the stacked Portage Invitational and 19th at the Division 2 state finals, claiming All-State honors.
This past spring on the track, Hylen continued his distance dominance, taking home a regional title in the 1,600 and the 3,200, as well as a conference title and a 17th place-finish at the Division 2 state meet in the 3,200.
Most recently, Hylen took top honors in the Coast Guard Festival 5k in an impressive time of 15:45.28, just eight seconds off his school record time. Watch for the senior to bring Spring Lake cross country to new heights this fall.
Mason Mahacek- Grand Haven soccer
The Grand Haven boys soccer team has some holes to fill after graduating a stellar class this spring.
One such hole comes on the offensive end, as the Bucs’ most productive goal scorer Connor Lund will suit up for Aquinas College this fall. Mason Mahacek will be key in filling that gap as Grand Haven’s marquee returning attacker and facilitator.
Mahacek serves as the Bucs’ lone returning All-Conference player after racking up a mountain of assists and a fair share of goals in their campaign to a district championship and regional final appearance last season.
The senior’s ball-sharing tendencies and eye for the goal will be crucial to the teams’ success under first-year head coach Nick Tejchma. Combined with a stellar rising senior class, watch for Mahacek and the Bucs to make another meaningful playoff run come October.
Malachi Mulder- Spring Lake soccer
After a crushing penalty-kick loss in the district semifinals last fall, the Spring Lake boys soccer team has a score to settle, but after graduating 11 contributing seniors from the squad, experience will be thin.
Malachi Mulder will take the pitch as the Lakers’ lone returning All-Conference selection, bent on leading the offense with his trademark physicality and ball handling.
Mulder showed his versatility last season building up high assist and goal totals. It will take more of the same to keep a young Laker squad in the hunt for a district title this season. After being ousted via shootout in each of the last two seasons, expect Mulder and the Lakers to hit the ground running this week.
Andrew Ireland- Grand Haven cross country
Grand Haven’s No. 2 runner at the 2017 Division 1 state meet has big expectations this fall.
Andrew Ireland will look to make a splash in 2018, taking over as top dog while former No. 1 Jack Nicholson hits the course for the University of Michigan.
Coming off a 49th-place finish at the state meet in 2017 (16:25.2), Ireland shined on the track this past spring, finishing ninth in the 1,600 at the O-K Red Conference championship meet and seventh at the Division 1 regional championship meet, as well as seventh in the conference in the 3,200.
At the Coast Guard Festival 5k, which featured a score of local standout runners, Ireland finished sixth overall, clocking in at 16:18.04, proving he is ready to take no prisoners as soon as competition starts.
With one final season of cross country, watch for Ireland to burst into All-State territory at Michigan International Speedway this fall.