By Jason Wesseldyk
EAST LANSING—For all of the success enjoyed by the Otsego girls cross country team—including back-to-back state titles in 2015 and 2016—the Bulldogs had never taken home a first-place trophy at the Spartan Invitational.
That changed on Friday, Sept. 16.
Competing in the Division 2 race, Otsego had four of the top six finishers and ended up with 62 points to outdistance runner-up Zeeland East by 35 points.
The Otsego boys—despite being without the services of their top two runners—earned second-place honors with 142 points, which was nine points behind winner Allendale.
“I thought the girls ran really well,” Otsego coach Steve Long said. “We’ve never taken home the big trophy at MSU, so this was great.”
Freshman Emma Hoffman led the way for the Bulldogs, placing second with a time of 19:08.
“I think Emma’s race was a coming out of sorts,” Long said. “She’s a great runner, but to take second place at an invite this size was outstanding.”
A trio of Hoffman’s teammates were close behind: junior Megan Germain was fourth at 19:37; sophomore Taylor Mitchell was fifth at 19:40; and junior Logan Brazee was sixth at 19:46.
All four earned medals by virtue of placing in the top 30.
“Our top four are running great right now,” Long said. “We’re looking for a five runner to step up and get into the 20s, but this is a special team.”
The Otsego girls have taken first place at all four of their invitationals this season.
“Being undefeated after four invitationals is quite the accomplishment,” Long said.
Sophomore Olivia Timmons was the fifth and final scoring runner for the Bulldogs, as she placed 47th at 21:49.
Also competing for Otsego were: freshman Rebekah Stachura (60th at 22:04); senior Maeline Dehanne (70th at 22:25); sophomore Taylor Klimp (90th at 22:49); junior Brooklyn Badders (106th at 23:14); and senior Ellie Bush (115th at 23:34).
The Otsego boys, meanwhile, knew top runner Colin Wesseldyk would be unavailable as the senior continued to recover from an injury. But just prior to the race, the decision was made to also sit senior Luke Aldrich—the team’s second/third runner—out of an abundance of caution as he dealt with an injury.
The rest of the team responded with a runner-up showing that included medal-winning efforts for sophomore Caleb Wesseldyk (12th at 17:13) and freshman Kenny Sheffer (26th at 17:36).
“Going in without our top two guys and finishing runners-up was a testament to the other guys on the team and how strong they are,” Long said. “We’re clearly much better with (Colin Wesseldyk and Aldrich), but it gave some other guys an opportunity to step up and feel important and make a difference.”
Junior Matthew Schreiner (36th at 18:04), sophomore Aidan Goodwin (38th at 18:10) and senior Pierce Bentley (40th at 18:12) were the other scoring runners for the Bulldogs.
Other Otsego runners who competed were: senior Ethan Raseman (61st at 18:51); sophomore Holten Mulherin (69th at 19:04); senior Trevor Johnson (87th at 19:31); and sophomore Logan VanHouten (122nd at 20:11).
Prior to the their race, the Otsego boys had the chance to watch former Bulldog standout Hunter Zartman as he competed for Michigan State in the collegiate race.
“It was cool that the boys got to watch Hunter race,” Long said. “That’s one of the reasons I like going to this meet.”