Once again, it appears there is no shortage of talent when it comes to area boys cross county.
Four of the eight area teams earned a berth last season in the MHSAA Division 1 state finals and this year should be no different, led by White Lake Lakeland, which was second only to KLAA North Division rival Waterford Mott in every major meet last season, including the Lakes Conference, regional, Oakland County and state finals.
The Eagles return another strong squad, led by all-state runner Jackson Grzymkowski, who placed 23rd overall in Division 1 with a time of 15:23 (for 5,000 meters).
Also returning this season is first team All-Area selection Kyle Garbovits, a senior, who ran 15:57 last fall (36th overall in Division 1), along with second team selection Drew Wenger, a sophomore.
“Last season, I think a lot of teams were surprised when we were runner-up at the state finals,” Lakeland coach Joe Verellen said. “There will be no hiding this year. We look to continue to improve throughout the season, with the finals being our end goal. The team has a proven front-runner in Grzymkowski and a large pack of runners close together behind him. The group thrives off one another and accepts the challenge of finding a legitimate fifth guy.”
Northville, which earned its best team finish in school history with fourth in Division 1 a year ago, will be paced by senior Conor Naughton (32nd, 15:51), a first team All-Area pick.
“Admittedly, we are a work in progress this season and it could be early October before we see this team’s full potential,” Northville coach Chris Cronin said. “There will be a lot of healthy competition for those top seven varsity spots this season and I believe we’ll see some newer faces emerge.”
Novi and Novi Detroit Catholic Central have strong teams returning after placing 15th and 17th, respectively, in the Division 1 state meet.
Novi welcomes back senior Joost Plaetinck, the All-Area Runner of the Year who earned all-state honorsby placing 13th at MIS with a career-best time of 15:39.5. Second team All-Area selection Scott MacPherson, a junior, also returns.
“If we stay healthy, we should be competitive in every race we run in,” Novi’s 33rd-year coach Robert Smith said. “I’m very excited about the make-up of this team.”
Catholic Central coach Tony Magni, entering his 42nd season, returns two second team All-Area runners in Scott Smith and Bailey Hobson.
Season-ending injuries to Brendan Canavan and Ben Ludtke, however, could set the Shamrocks back. But the coach of the Catholic League champions remains optimistic.
“If we run as a group, the team will do well,” Magni said. “The young runners have to respond as varsity runners.”
Last season, perennially strong Milford found itself on the outside looking in after placing fifth at the St. Johns regional. Juniors Jack Aman and Dakota Giles are the Mavericks’ top two regional meet returnees.
“Last season was the first time since 1996 that our boys did not qualify for the state finals,” Milford coach Brian Salyers said. “A combination of graduation and injuries created an obstacle we were unable to overcome. Despite that, we had a solid season, winning four dual meets and enjoying the growth and development of our underclassmen.”
In the KLAA Central’s Division, which features state-ranked Northville and Novi, both South Lyon East and South Lyon face uphill climbs.
East, Division 2 school, returns individual state qualifier Adam Caruso, while South Lyon is led by junior Josh Chezick.
Meanwhile, Novi Franklin Road Christian hopes to crack the top three at the Division 4 regional, led by senior Will Govan.