The Bridgman boys and girls cross country teams are hoping for a banner day when they compete in the Division 4 state finals Saturday at Michigan International Speedway near Brooklyn.
The Bridgman girls team, led by junior Karsyn Stewart (19:45.6) and sophomore Arie Hackett (20:06.8), is a championship contender. Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart is gunning for its fifth-consecutive state title.
"There are four or five teams that have a real shot of winning and we're one of them," Bridgman coach Spencer Carr said. "We just have to keep doing what we've been doing. Arie and Karsyn lead the way for us. Our three, four, and five runners will try to stick towards the front of the second pack."
The boys team – led by junior Luke Blesy (17:12.37) and senior Chipper Steffey (17:11.3) – qualified for the state meet after John Sanderson, AJ Hackett, and Jayce Warren ran personal bests at the regional meet.
"They ran really well at regionals," Carr said. "We're hoping to repeat what we were able to do on Saturday. We're aiming for a top ten finish. Everyone is running well; Chipper has really dropped his time in the last few weeks. They've been pushing each other and are making each other better."
Coloma’s girls team is making what is believed to be its first Division 3 state finals appearance.
“As far as anybody knows, it's the first time ever,” Coloma coach Courtney Churchill said. “If not, it's been an extremely long time.
“We are beyond excited about the experience that's going to be happening over the weekend.”
The Comets have one runner who has run the course at MIS before, senior Emma Vandermolen. She was an individual qualifier last season.
Other key runners include sophomore Ava Genovese, who ran a team-best 21:16 in the regional, and junior Abby Vandermolen, who is now healthy after dealing with injuries in her first two seasons.
“It's been a couple years coming with these girls,” Churchill said. “They've been building up to what is now a state-qualifying team.”
Churchill added that the team is more focused on running personal records on the relatively flat and fast MIS course rather than its team finish. The Comets hope to continue building next season, as they graduate just two runners and expect to add help from this year’s eighth-graders.
Berrien Springs isn't new to the state finals atmosphere, but is in Division 2 instead of Division 3. Led by Ashton Sheline (16:22.4) and Carter Sheline (16:59), the Shamrocks are hoping for a strong finish to the season.
Bloomingdale qualified as a team in Division 3 after placing second in its Division 3 regional meet at Centreville, while Lawrence advanced to the state meet by placing second in its Division 4 regional at Portage Central.
Shawn Little (Dowagiac), Cole Parker (Dowagiac), Adam Shepherd (Niles), Race Bettich (Lakeshore).
Walker Barz (Buchanan), Kelsey Brown (Buchanan), Ezra Troyer (Watervliet), Gus Finch (Watervliet).
Edward Lopez (Eau Claire), Michael Golden (Lake Michigan Catholic), Logan Payne (River Valley)
Riley Mullen (St. Joseph).
Emily Peters (Lakeshore), Erin Moore (Berrien Springs).
Kallie Harrison (Bloomingdale), Aimee Sustaita (Bloomingdale).
Ericka Lopez (Eau Claire), Madeline Madsen (Lawrence), Allison Glendening (Lake Michigan Catholic), Grace Stockdale (Lake Michigan Catholic).
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