Otsego coach Steve Long and his team celebrated their second straight state title by taking a selfie, just as they did last season. (Photo provided)Otsego’s Maddie Marciniak (left) and Erica Drobny (right) helped the Bulldogs repeat as state champs. (Photo by Scott Sullivan)

Otsego girls defend state title in record-setting fashion

Jason Wesseldyk

Just how dominant was the Otsego girls’ cross country team at the Division 2 state finals on Saturday, Nov. 5?
Consider this:
—The Bulldogs set a new record for fewest points in a Division 2 girls’ state final race, obliterating the previous record by 31 points.
—All five of Otsego’s scoring runners placed in the top 19.
—The first finisher for runner-up East Grand Rapids didn’t cross the finish line until after all five of the Bulldogs’ scoring runners.
—The gap of 126 points between Otsego and East Grand Rapids meant 12th-place Linden was as close to East G.R. as East G.R. was to the first-place Bulldogs.
—Otsego’s times would have been good enough to win the Division 1 race as well.
Dominant indeed.
The Bulldogs finished the race at Michigan International Speedway with 48 points, giving them their second straight state championship.
For Otsego coach Steve Long, the performance was tough to wrap his mind around.
“I think I’m still trying to put that into perspective,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of success over the years and I’ve become accustomed to watching these girls run at the front and win invitationals with extremely low scores. But to see that in the state finals meet was incredible.”
Given the dominance of Otsego’s performance, there was no drama when it came to the race’s winner.
“Normally, after everyone finishes the race, you sit around for a half hour and wait for the officials to post unofficial results,” Long said. “Then you wait for appeals and petitions before they become official results.
“This time, after the girls finished the race with five girls in the top 19, we knew immediately we’d just won a second title. I think all of the girls had their individual and team goals going in. But to see that all come together on the same day was pretty special.”
The senior duo of Megan Aalberts and Sophia Hirzel led the way for Otsego. Aalberts finished sixth at 18:47 and Hirzel checked in ninth at 18:56.
Fellow senior Erica Drobny was the team’s fourth runner, coming in 18th at 19:19.
“This group of seniors is special,” Long said. “Megan, Sophie and Erica were the captains this year, but realistically they’ve been leaders for years. They’re extremely hard working, but know how to have fun and keep their teammates motivated.
“Individually, they lead by example and also prop each other up as examples of success and achievement. And they exude the principles of individuals striving for excellence. However, it is and has always been team first for them. You can’t replace girls like that. They will be sorely missed.”

For full story, pick up a copy of the November 10 issue of The Allegan County News or The Union Enterprise or subscribe to the e-edition.

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