Otsego cross country teams claim conference championships
Given its history of success, being part of the Otsego cross country program brings with it a certain level of expectation.
“Part of the legacy of being a part of this program is pursuing excellence,” said Otsego coach Steve Long, who has two state championships to his credit. “These kids know that and they race with that every time they take the line. They know there’s a bullseye on their back at every meet and I’m proud of the way they embrace that.
“That’s a lot of pressure, I think, so they just do what they know at this point: trust each other and race for each other. They all know their job going into each meet and trust that everyone is going to do their absolute best to get that job done.”
And get the job done is exactly what Otsego did at the Wolverine Conference Meet in Sturgis on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
The Otsego girls turned in a 37-point effort to edge out Plainwell by six points, while the Otsego boys finished with 40 points to finish 48 points ahead of runner-up Allegan.
The championship was the seventh straight and the 11th in 14 years for the Otsego girls, who were competing without one of their top runners—Joy Wolfe—due to sickness.
“I was extremely impressed with how the girls competed,” Long said. “We knew it was going to be another tough head-to-head competition with the Plainwell girls, but I really think our team confidence is high right now.
“We didn’t have Joy, but I think the girls were still feeling pretty confident that all the work they’ve put in was going to make a difference in the meet.”
Chelsea Glessner and Claudia Stachura led the way for Otsego, placing third at 19:39 and fourth at 19:40, respectively. Elizabeth Burrill (seventh at 20:30) and Ashley Goodrich (10th at 20:49) also made it into the top 10.
Brie Mosher was Otsego’s final scoring runner (13th at 21:04), while Annaliese Podewell (17th at 21:09) also received All-Conference by placing in the top 20.
Maria Germain was Otsego’s final runner, placing 29th at 22:11.
“Elizabeth came up huge for us,” Long said. “She was our sixth through eighth runner for most of the year, but came through as our fourth runner at the jamboree and then our third runner at the conference championship meet. Ashley and Brie both came up big as well.”
Plainwell gave Otsego a stiff challenge, with Makenna Veen winning her third conference title (18:01) and teammate Grace Pettit placing second (18:58).
“Obviously Makenna and Grace ran well and did exactly what we expected of them,” Plainwell coach Brett Beier said. “Makenna’s time was her best time of the season and I’m confident that as her legs get some more rest for the upcoming couple weeks, she’s going to be ready to compete for that individual state title.”
The remainder of Plainwell’s scoring runners—Mackenzie Hill (sixth at 20:12), Morgan Try (16th at 21:07) and Kennedy Vanderlugt (18th at 21:09) also received All-Conference.
“We had a great meet,” Beier said. “We ran extremely well as a team. We went in hoping to give Otsego a run for their money, but Steve had his girls ready and they ran lights out to beat us. I’m so proud of the girls for giving it their best shot.”
Allegan had one All-Conference runner in Sabrina Mills (11th at 21:01).
On the boys’ side, Otsego had six runners earn All-Conference honors, led by runner-up Colin Mulder (16:09). Hunter Zartman was also in the top five, placing fifth at 16:42 despite battling illness.
“I was happy with how the guys ran as well,” Long said. “They basically did what they needed to do to earn the championship. We were missing Logan Kolhoff, who is one of our top runners, to illness. We’re battling a little bit of a virus on our teams, so it was good to see that the boys stayed focused and held it together for the win.”
The title was the fifth straight for Otsego and the eighth in nine years.
“Hunter gets to graduate as only the second boy in school history behind Alex Comerford to graduate as a member of four cross country conference championship teams,” Long said. “He wasn’t feeling well, but like always he left it out on the course for his boys. I’m very proud of him.”
Mason Kolhoff (seventh at 16:53), Tyler DeHaan (12th at 17:20) and Andrew Kubiak (14th at 17:30) were Otsego’s other scoring runners. Andnet DeBoer (18th at 17:39) also earned All-Conference, while Colin Wesseldyk (21st at 17:42) came within 53 one-hundredths of a second of giving Otsego seven All-Conference runners.
The Allegan trio of Connor Harlan (third at 16:26), Blane Johnson (sixth at 16:48) and Mason Kleeves (10th at 17:12) all received All-Conference, as did Plainwell’s Eli Veen (eighth at 16:53) and Ethan Johnson (15th at 17:33).