Conventional wisdom says upperclassmen usually come out on top in varsity sports.
Sophomore sensation Abby VanderKooi of Western Michigan Christian easily won her second straight GMAA girls individual title, taking first place by more than two full minutes in the driving rain.
On the boys side, sophomore Klay Grant of Reeths-Puffer made his debut in style, winning the individual championship by 28 seconds.
The trophies were spread around, because the individual champions were not on the championship teams.
Montague won the boys title by placing three runners in the top 17. The girls title went to Reeths-Puffer, which only had two runners in the top 10, but took the 11th, 12th and 13th spots in the race.
There was little drama in the girls individual race, because everyone figured that VanderKooi, an individual state cross country and track champion in 2018-19, would easily win again.
VanderKooi finished with a time of 17:19.25, well ahead of Ryann Jibson of Whitehall, who took second with a time of 19:27.74.
Isabella Lindsay of North Muskegon was third with a time of 20:13.08, followed by Isabella Uganski of Whitehall (20:24.99), Ariana Treat of Whitehall (20:25.26), Ari Antor of Reeths-Puffer (20:34.17), Cecelia Conrad of Mona Shores (20:47.48), Dreea Atchison of Montague (20:54.38), Rebekah Sweany of Reeths-Puffer (20:57.92) and Ava Rotman of Western Michigan Christian (21:04.96).
VanderKooi said she was happy with her performance, even though her time was slower than last year due to the rain and mud.
“It was awful,” VanderKooi said about the weather conditions. “When we were warming up, it was just nicely drizzling, not too heavy, but then the wind picked up so much. The course was ridiculously slippery. The first hill I almost face-planted, but I didn’t.
“Considering the conditions I think I did pretty good. My coach was happy with it, which made me happy. I would have loved to go faster, but it was so gross out there.
Grant, the son of R-P coach Darin Grant, posted a winning time of 16:30.35 in the boys race, edging Jon Wildey of Fruitport, who took second with a time of 16:58.93.
“I was pretty confident going in,” said Grant, who finished in the top 10 last year as a freshman. “Everyone was running in the same weather. The course was soft and the wind was tough, but it was a fun race to run in the rain.
“I got out really fast cause I didn’t want to let Jon Wildey into the race. I got out quick in that first mile and hung on from there.”
Addison Bluhm of Whitehall was third with a time of 17:04.61, followed by Emerald Lawrence of North Muskegon (17:07.67), Brett Schlaff of Reeths-Puffer (17:22.92), Jackson Helmer of Mona Shores (17:23.15), Adam Wolffis of Montague (17:38.42), Jonathon Claussing of Western Michigan Christian (17:53.30), Clay Jancek of Montague (17:58.90) and Riley Buys of Whitehall (18:01.45).
The team competition was a different story, because the object is to get as many runners near the top of the standings as possible.
Reeths-Puffer edged out Whitehall 46-51 to win the girls trophy. Montague was third with 83 points, followed by Western Michigan Christian (99), Mona Shores (122), Muskegon Catholic (200), Fruitport (202), Holton (214), Oakridge (221`) and Ravenna (222).
The top runners for the champion Rockets were Antor (sixth place), Sweany (ninth place), Kennedy Hynde (11th place, 21:78.25), Eva Shinaberry (12th, 21:20.84) and Grace Lockhart (13th, 21:36.58).
Montague claimed the boys team title with 63 points, Mona Shores was second with 72, followed by Whitehall (89), Western Michigan Christian (90), Reeths-Puffer (99), Fruitport (115), North Muskegon (181), Ravenna (248), Muskegon Catholic (260) and Muskegon (267).
Leading the charge for the champion Wildcats were Wolffis (seventh place), Jancek (ninth place), Owen Fairchild (14th, 18:04.12), Cale Coppess (16th, 18:08.62) and Michael McKeown (18:16.42).