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West Michigan Conference 2022 girls track preview: Team-by-team capsules

League race looks to come down to defending champ Whitehall, Montague and Hart.

Whitehall, Montague and Hart are coming off strong girls track and field seasons in 2021 and they again look to be the cream of the crop this spring in the West Michigan Conference.

Whitehall is the defending champion in both the league and the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association. Meanwhile, Montague and Hart return athletes who earned state championships and other top state finals finishes in relay events.

Here are preview capsules of the 2022 season in the conference based upon info submitted to CatchMark. Teams are arranged alphabetically:

Hart’s girls track and field team members pose for a photo during the 2022 season. (Courtesy of Hart track and field)

HART PIRATES

Coach: Calvin Ackley (3rd at high school level, 27th overall)

Last year: Placed fifth at Division 3 state finals

Key returnees:

Alyson Enns: Returning all-stater and member of the state champion 4×800 relay team

Audrey Enns: Returning all-stater and member of the state champion 4×800 relay team

Lauren Vanderlaan

Kendall Williamson

Savanna Owens

Aspen Boutell

Lynessa Fielder

Selena Herrera

Abby Pretty

Natalie Rodriguez

Abigail Simkins

Gina VanderKodde

Key newcomers:

Addi Hovey

Jessie Jazwinski

LexieBeth Nienhuis

Laura Bitely

Audrey Aerts

Season outlook:

Hart is hoping to improve upon its fifth-place finish at the state finals. Typically, the Pirates have had a real strength in the distance events, which continues to be the case, but this season they are more well-rounded, which should help their chances down the road. “Not only do we have goals at the state finals, we are a PR team,” Ackley said. “We also strive for personal improvement no matter what ability, having fun and to be a serving and helping member of our team.”

MASON COUNTY CENTRAL SPARTANS

Coach: Maria Holbrook (20th season at MCC, 31st season overall)

Last year: Fourth in the West Michigan Conference, seventh at regionals, 10th at the Division 3 state finals

Key returnees:

Ava Brooks: Mid-distance; scored 74 points last season

Jayden Baker: Mid-distance and sprints; scored 57 points last season

AshlynRose Kelley: Mid-distance; scored 11.75 points last season

Reaghan Brooks: Throws; scored four points last season

Season outlook:

Holbrook said it is difficult to prediction how her team will do this year so early in the season. The Spartans have only one upperclassman in Kelley, who is a senior. They have three sophomores and four freshmen. “They are good athletes. We have good leaders and have a great work ethic,” Holbrook said. “It will be fun to see the season progress and see how well they improve heading towards the conference meet (which Mason County Central hosts). We have a small team, but other teams in the conference have the same numbers.” Holbrook specializes in girls and boys hurdlers and jumpers, while assistant Katie Cooper works with girls and boys throwers.

MONTAGUE WILDCATS

Coach: Terry Fick

Last year: Division 3 regional champion, eighth place at state finals; 4×200 relay team won the state title and 4×100 relay team placed second at state

Key returnees:

Natalie Erickson: Member of 4×200 relay team that won state title and 4×100 relay team that placed second at state; also all-state in the 100 and 200

Claire Meacham: Do-everything athlete, who competed in shot put, discus, high jump and 300 hurdles as she scored big in all four events

Maddie Meacham: Member of 4×200 relay team that won state title and 4×100 relay team that placed second at state; also qualified in pole vault

Brooke Stark: Member of 4×200 relay team that won state title and 4×100 relay team that placed second at state; also scored in the 200

Lauren Smith: Member of 4×200 relay team that won state title and 4×100 relay team that placed second at state; also scored in 100 and long jump

Emma Pendell: Scored for the Wildcats in pole vault

Isabelle Auch: Scored in distance events

Britta Johnson: Did whatever was needed, including hurdles, 4×800 relay, 4×400 relay and 400 dash

Cammie Erickson: Scored in the 300 hurdles, 4×800 relay and 100 hurdles

Brooke Berry: Scored in the throws

Hanna Metcalf: Scored in long jump

Elizabeth Woller: Mid-distance

Sam Beishuizen: Mid-distance

Autumn Phipps: Hurdles and pole vault

Key newcomers:

Haylee Schwarz: Pole vault and sprints

Orianna Byslma: Pole vault

Amanda Cederquist: Hurdles

Jocelyn Rodriguez: Throws

Liv Seaver: Mid-distance

Grace Torsch: Mid-distance

Annie Jensen: Pole vault and sprints

Ella Hain: Mid-distance

Lizeth Guzman: Distance

April Howard: Distance

Ella Flynn: Mid-distance

Natalie Basset

Aubrey Misiora

Henni Semi

Dania Ibarra

Season outlook:

As usual, Montague’s top meets in the West Michigan Conference will be those involving Whitehall and Hart as well as the overall conference meet. The Wildcats are looking to defend their regional title, likely having to do so against an always strong Kent City squad. Montague will be hosting the regional. “Going out and competing at every meet, trying to PR and try to be at our best come end of May,” Fick said. “We will have to compete against an always strong Whitehall team, and Hart’s distance team has added a very good sprinter. It should be a great conference race, and we plan on being right in the middle of it all.” Montague has added some new coaches along with Fick, including Justin Dennett, Craig Graham, RJ Nordlund, Chelsea Binder and Joe Brunsen.

North Muskegon girls and boys track and field team members pose for a group photo during the 2022 season. (Courtesy of North Muskegon track)

NORTH MUSKEGON NORSEMEN

Coach: Phoebe Schroeder (1st season)

Last year: 0-7 in duals

Key returnees:

Gabriella Wingard: 1600 and 3200; all-conference last year; state qualifier in the 3200 and in cross country for the past three seasons

Whitney Byard: 100 hurdles and sprints

Carolyn Bennett: 1600 and 3200; all-conference last year; state qualifier in the 3200 and in cross country

Season outlook:

North Muskegon looks to sport a much larger roster than last season, but the Norse will have a lot of inexperienced runners competing in key spots. The team’s focus will be on improving each week and preparation for the regionals on May 21. Schroeder, who is a former Norse runner, takes over the reins from her coach, Doug Clark. Clark retired after coaching track at North Muskegon for 33 seasons.

OAKRIDGE EAGLES

Coach: Danielle Groendyk (1st season as head coach, 2nd in track)

Last year: Seventh in the West Michigan Conference

Key returnees:

Raegan Ruel: Distance

Merceydez Patton: Distance

Milla Hanks: Mid-distance

Chloe Slack: Sprints

Saidee Raap: Sprints

Key newcomers:

Destyni Lane: Sprints

Cara Morse: Mid-distance

Jacklyn Wei: Sprints

Season outlook:

Oakridge’s goal this season is to build the program. The Eagles are coming off a season with very few numbers and they’re hoping to build a new team culture for the track program at the school. This season’s roster features 17 athletes. Oakridge again will be hosting the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association meet, this time on Friday, May 6.

RAVENNA BULLDOGS

Coach: Monte Gerwig (8th season)

Last year: 3-4 in duals, fifth place in the West Michigan Conference

Key returnees:

Grace Banuelos

Marissa Calderson

Alexis DeNio

Gabrielle Dohm

Isabelle Emery

Alivia Gilbert

Alison Phillips

Kendra Postema: School record-holder in the 200 and state qualifier in long jump, 100 and 200; all-state in the 200; academic all-state

Claira Schullo

Anabel Skuse

Allison VanWesep: Cleared 5 feet in high jump several times last season

Season outlook:

Ravenna’s goals for the season are to move up in the West Michigan Conference standings and qualify as many athletes as possible to the state meet in June. The highlights for the Bulldogs should be the conference meet at Mason County Central and regional meet at Montague.

SHELBY TIGERS

Coach: Geoffrey Kies (4th season)

Last year: Eighth place in the conference

Key returnees:

Elizabeth Flores-Gonzalez: Sprints

Trinity Bowen: Sprints

Key newcomers:

Claire Kelley: Mid-distance

Morgan Weirich: Mid-distance

Season outlook:

Shelby’s girls roster this season features 14 athletes, which Kies considers a strength. He said that weaknesses will be in hurdles and select field events. The goals are to improve each meet leading up to the regional.

WHITEHALL VIKINGS

Coach: Carrie Goodrich (3rd season after returning from “retirement” 20 years prior)

Last year: First in the West Michigan Conference and champion in the GMAA meet

Key returnees:

Charley Klint: Pole vault, 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles

Jenna Smolen: 4×100 relay, 4×400 relay

Neva Hundt: 4×200 relay

Ari Treat: 4×800 relay, 1600

Hayli Fagan: 3200

Maeli Hope: Shot put, discus

Arianna Black: High jump, hurdles, sprints

Rayne Thompson: High jump, hurdles

Emily Miller: Long jump, sprinters

Alyssa Lohman: Pole vault, hurdles, sprints

Mallory Britton: High jump, 400

Kya Mahoney: Mid-distance

Key newcomers:

Cami Kraai

Adalyn Britton

Corina Mitteer

Emily Smolen

Samantha Mead

Sidney Shepherd

Season outlook:

Whitehall captured West Michigan Conference and Greater Muskegon Athletic Association titles last season and the Vikings are looking to compete for those again. Senior leadership and a talented group of freshmen will make a scoring difference for the Vikings, according to Goodrich. Klint will be going for the school’s pole vault record and she has scoring potential in hurdles or wherever she’s needed. Thompson returns after missing the 2021 season with an injury. The all-state volleyball player will be a scoring leader for Whitehall in high jump and hurdles.

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Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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