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Local cross country teams have strong showing at state finals

Dick Hoekstra | Tribune Correspondent • Nov 7, 2016 at 12:17 AM

BROOKLYN — Grand Haven’s Jack Nicholson missed making All-State by just two places with a 32nd place finish last year.

On Saturday at Michigan International Speedway, the junior came in 13th place in the Division 1 race in 15:57.

“I expected to get higher 20s,” he said. “I moved up a lot farther than I thought I would originally. It felt pretty good to exceed my expectations.”

“I told him to get in the second group and run in the top 20,” Grand Haven boys cross country coach John Tarr said. “He came right through the 800 in 12th and the 2-mile in 12th. He ran a really perfect overall race.”

Nicholson helped the Bucs improve from 20th place as a team in 2015 to 13th this fall.

“I figured we were going to be somewhere between 15th and 10th, and we were only eight points out of 11th,” Tarr said. “The guys ran tough races even though the course was a sloppy mess and times were 20-30 seconds slower across the board.”

After Nicholson for Grand Haven, senior Dominic Hentemann took 115th place in 16:55, senior Eric Johnson 120th in 16:57, senior Tom Stock 146th in 17:10, sophomore Dominic Weatherwax 152nd in 17:13, sophomore Aidan Martin 165th in 17:16, and senior Quentin Couvelaire 184th in 17:25.

Haven girls also exceed expectations

The Grand Haven girls also improved from 16th place last year to 12th on Saturday.

“12th is our highest placing in the past few years, but we were only eight points from eighth place,” Grand Haven girls cross country coach Scott Przystas said. “Finishing third in the (O-K) Red and runner-up at regionals, and then beating those teams in the final meet of the season shows the girls' grit and resilience.”

Sophomore Gabby Hentemann nearly equaled her 17th place of a year ago by repeating as an All-State performer with an 18th place finish in 18:35, and senior Eliza Lowe was 46th in 19:21 in her fourth appearance as a state meet qualifier.

"My plan was to be positioned in the top 20 at mile one, hang with them, and pass them the last mile," Hentemann said. "I came into the stadium with three-quarters of a mile to go in 15th, but the last 800 I just started to kind of fell apart and stood my ground as best I could."

Also for the Bucs, sophomore Kelsie Bovee ended up 88th in 19:48, sophomore Abby Buitenhuis 142nd in 20:17, senior Kirsten Prelesnik 146th in 20:20, freshman Meadow White 158th in 20:28, and junior Emily Mattson 167th in 20:33.

“Kelsie made a big improvement, and that’s as well as I have seen her run all season,” Przystas said.

Fruitport boys finish sixth

Fruitport had the highest finish of any area boys team with a sixth-place finish in Division 2, led by senior Aaron Simot’s All-State performance in 17th place at 16:54.

“I wanted to run my first mile at five minutes, keep it constant, push up the uphill, coast on the downhill, and right when we hit the track give everything,” said Simot, who followed his plan and finished in the exact place that was his goal. “Fruitport has never qualified for team state before, so sixth place made us happy.”

The Trojans would have finished fifth, but senior Mitchell Johnson lost 20 team places and 30 overall when he fell just before the finish line.

Johnson still managed to finish 69th in 16:54, junior Cameron Oleen 70th in 16:55, sophomore Brenden Deneen 101st in 17:12, freshman Nick Kleinheksel 107th in 17:14, senior Raven Lockard 191st in 18:16, and sophomore Peyton Sharlow 206th in 18:31.

SL boys finish 12th

The Spring Lake boys came in 12th place in Division 2, led by All-State sophomore Andrew Hylen’s 21st place finish in 16:14.

"I tried to stay with the middle pack of top people," he said. "In the second mile, I think I was near 15th. The ground was hard to run on, I got slowed down by it, and I sort of kicked too soon."

After Andrew Hylen and junior Henok Ghirmay’s 57th place in a personal-best time of 16:47, sophomore Ben Hylen came in 81st in 17:01, junior Cameron Thalhammer 151st in 17:41, senior Matt Schmidt 180th in 18:08, sophomore Matthew VanderWall 197th in 18:24, and senior Joe Negen 228th in 19:15 for the Lakers, who were 10th place at the 2015 state meet.

WMC girls take ninth

In the Division 4 girls race, Western Michigan Christian took ninth place of 27 teams.

Senior Logan Williams finished 35th in 20:42, sophomore Sarah Vanderkooi 36th in 20:45, sophomore Josie Aardema 52nd in 21:03, senior Chanaiya Richards was 125th in 22:32, junior Emma Brink was 198th in 24:48, freshman Emma Visker 215th in 25:44, and senior Leah Sweetman 217th in 25:48.

“We were ranked 11th, so we were hoping to squeeze inside the top 10,” Warriors girls cross country coach Kevin Aardema said. “Just about everyone did what we expected, but Josie was about 30 places better than we hoped for, and helped us push up a couple spots.”

Individual Qualifiers

Among individuals, Spring Lake freshman Julia Bajt finished 159th in 21:15 in the Division 2 girls race, and Muskegon Western Michigan Christian sophomore Eli Rotman wound up 123rd in 18:28 in the Division 4 boys race.

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