In the Midwest region, we saw the same team hold down the top ranking over the entire year. That team would be the Grand Valley State Lakers. Saginaw Valley State sits behind them at#2. That was the 1-2 finish among teams at the GLIAC Championships. Malone and Walsh currently #3 and #4 after a tight team race at the GMAC Championships. Southern Indiana dominated their conference meet with 38 points and at the #5 spot. Cedarville fell all the way from#3 to #6 after being upset by both Malone and Walsh at the conference meet.
There isn’t really anyone in this meet that can touch Grand Valley. They're a national team title contender and yield arguably the best 1-2 punch in Zach Panning and Enael Woldemicheal. Their depth is unreal and not many teams in this region have a runner as strong as their 3-7 athletes. Those runners are all somewhat interchangeable making it even harder for opposing teams to out run the Lakers. We could go on about GVSU all day, but it’ll be another regional title for them.
Saginaw Valley failed to make the National Championships last year, but have set themselves up well for a bid this year. They placed 2nd at the GLIAC Championships and have a good number one runner in Tom Goforth. He finished 3rd at the conference meet. As a team, they finished 4th at the Lewis Crossover and 8th at the MSU Spartan Invitational. Parker Eisengruber and Nate Frasier look to be rounding into form at the right time while freshman CarLee Stimpfel debuted and served as the number two man at the GLIAC Championships. If he is able to perform like that at regionals, we’ll be talking about a very different Saginaw Valley team.
Malone took home a three point victory over Walsh last Saturday and they did so with their top two guys (George McCartney and Zach Fresenko) leading the way. They were the difference as they had three runners in before Walsh did, but had their full five in after Walsh. Noah Chaplik is a strong third scorer, however, runners 4-5 are a little shaky. There is no real consistency at the backend for me to feel super confident in.
Walsh lost to Malone at Pre-Nationals earlier in the year by five points. They were able to narrow that to three points at the conference meet. Is this the weekend they place ahead? Jacob Kernell, Jacob Caniford, and Noah Murray have been a very good top three runners for Walsh. Each one has once led this team through eight kilometers. Jacob Turner has the fastest time of the finishers from conference. but it’ll be a mix of him, Ed Walsh, and likely Beau Boyden to help this team advance.
Southern Indiana is one my teams to watch this weekend. They have two very good runners in Austin Nolan and Titus Winders. Both finished in the top 10 at the Lewis Crossover meet while leading SIU to a 10th place finish. With those two at the front, SIU do some damage if guys like Nathan Hall, Grady Wilkinson, Javan Winders, and Matt Everling take another forward this weekend.
1. Grand Valley State
2. Saginaw Valley State
4. Southern Indiana
1. Zach Panning (Grand Valley State)
2. Enael Woldemichael (Grand Valley State)
3. Austin Nolan (Southern Indiana)
4. Jacob Kernell (Walsh)
5. Tom Goforth (Saginaw Valley State)
Just like the men, the Grand Valley State women are also favorites to win the regional title. They hold the #1 spot in the Midwest. Walsh stayed pat at the #2 spot this week while we saw Michigan Tech move into #3 with Hillsdale dropping to #4.
Grand Valley State is a top five nationally ranked team and they’ve shown us no reason to believe otherwise throughout the season. They scored 17 points at the GLIAC Championships while placing six inside the top 10.
Seniors Sarah Berger and Gina Patterson have helped lead the Lakers to some impressive performances as a team. Allie Ludge has continued her success since her All-American run last year in cross country and as well as her All-American finish in the 1500 this past spring. She led the Lakers through the line at the Bradley Pink Classic and was 4th at the conference meet. She helps create a three-headed monster for Grand Valley that seemingly has tons of depth as it is.
Walsh won their conference meet with 34 points over Hillsdale and Cedarville. They had three inside of the top 10 in Brianna Coy who has been the most consistent and has maintained her position as a true number one. Claire Robertson, Andra Lehotay, and Alexa Leppelmeier have all been interchangeable within the season and have helped create a very dangerous team. They finished 2nd behind Colorado Mines at Pre-Nationals and the meet prior to that they finished 6th at the Lewis Crossover meet. A runner-up finish should be very doable for Walsh this weekend.
Michigan Tech saw a strong team performance in which they scored 71 points with scorers placing between 8th and 24th. Emily Byrd finished 8th overall and has paced this Michigan Tech team throughout the season. She finished 6th at both Roy Griak and the Lewis Crossover, giving us the idea that she’ll be towards the front in the race. Liz Bloch has been a good number two scorer and looks to continue her strong season after setting a personal best at GLIAC's. Despite the strong runs from scorers 3-4-5 last weekend, they’ll need something of the same caliber this weekend to stay competitive.
Hillsdale is a team that fell a spot due to a poor conference performance. They saw three runners inside the top 10 and were keeping pace with Walsh until their 4-5 scorers came across the line. Maryssa Depies, Arena Lewis, and Christian Sawyer have been good for them all year long and will be needed one again this weekend. They’ll need bigger performances from their 4-5 runners as the field gets even more crowded.
1. Grand Valley State
3. Michigan Tech
1. Sarah Berger (Grand Valley State)
2. Gina Patterson (Grand Valley State)
3. Brianna Coy (Walsh)
4. Allie Ludge (Grand Valley State)
5. Arena Lewis (Hillsdale)