It’s only appropriate that Northville is nicknamed the Mustangs, especially when it comes the girls cross country team.
Third place a year ago and MHSAA Division 1 state champions in 2013, coach Nancy Smith has another stable of talented runners for the 2015 season.
The Mustangs ran their first unofficial meet of the year Friday in the End of the Summer Classic hosted by the Ann Arbor Running Co. at Hudson Mills Metropark.
Although no team scores were tabulated, Northville was the top performer in the 14-school field placing four runners in the top 10 and five in the top 15.
Senior captain Lexa Barrott, who finished 15th last season in the Division 1 sttae finals with 5-kilometer time of 18:18.1, led Northville’s End of Summer contingent with third-place clocking of 18:29.
Others top performers for the Mustangs included junior Cayla Eckenroth, fifth (19:07); senior Emma Herrmann, ninth (19:28); junior Emma Smith, 10th (19:51); freshman Olivia Harp, 13th (19:52); sophomore Ana Barrott, 20th (20:37); and senior Hailey Harris, 21st (20:38).
Last season, Eckenroth was the KLAA champion and Division 1 regional runner-up. She also earned Area Runner of the Year honors after finishing 11th in the state meet with a career-best 18:08.7.
Meanwhile, Harris also made All-State after winding up 27th in last year’s finals with a clocking an 18:32.2.
Northville is the Division 1 favorite this fall based on its enormous depth, which also includes Herrmann (33rd, 18:46), along with second-team All-Area selections Emma Smith (106th, 19:45.4) and sophomore Rachel Zimmer (19:37).
Add the promising freshman Harp and Ana Barrott, who migrated from the girls swim team, to the mix, and you have Northville team that will be tough to beat.
“I really happy with what I saw today and that the summer conditioning helped us prepare for the season,” Northville coach Nancy Smith said. “It was a good start for them as they continue to work to improve each meet. Newcomers Ana Barrott and Olivia Harp ran their first 5K cross country race of their careers and showed they have what it takes to become great cross country runners.”
With Northville being so dominant in the KLAA’s Central Division, the fight will be for second place.
The area’s next best team, Milford, is no slouch either.
The Mavericks finished fourth a year ago in Division 1 and 20th-yard coach Brian Salyers has a team to be reckoned with the return of first-team All-Area selections Mallory Barrett, a junior, and Nicole Grindling, a sophomore.
Barrett finished 17th overall in Division 1 (18:21.8) was the KLAA Lakes Conference champion, while Grindling also made All-State after placing 26th in the finals (18:31), along with a third-place finish at the regional.
Also returning for the Mavericks are second-team All-Area picks Gabrielle Byndas, a senior; Emilie Kennedy, a sophomore; Rebecca Bradsher, a sophomorel; and Sarah Ausum, a senior.
“We have the largest incoming freshmen class in my tenure,” said Salyers, who guided Milford to KLAA West, Lakes Conference and regional titles in 2014. “We do not yet know which ones will have the opportunity to make an impact, but we did take four of them to our varsity camp.”
Another team to watch is Novi, which lost All-State runner Hannah Lonergan (Northern Michigan), but returns a slew of juniors led by Jacalyn Schubring and Jessica Lypka.
“We were only five points from third place in our regional, so a lot of those girls who were juniors have a taste in their mouths and have been hungry, and they’ve been working hard all summer,” Novi coach Marsha Reid said.
Also fighting to move up the ranks in the KLAA’s Central Division will be South Lyon, led by senior captain Mackenzie Flannery, and South Lyon East, paced by senior captain Kayla Zielinski.
White Lake Lakeland, a member of the KLAA’s North Division, will be led by sophomore Oliva Clymer, an individual state qualifier who placed 85th last year in 19:24.
In Division 4, Novi Franklin Road Christian took fifth in the regional and hopes to move up with Michigan Independent Athletic Conference pace by sophomore Audrey Govan.
See capsule outlook of area girls cross country teams.