Sydney Kubiak was one of four Otsego girls to finish in the top four at the Sparta Invitational. (Photo by Jason Wesseldyk)Otsego’s Alex Comerford (left), Will Finch (middle) and Hunter Zartman (right) compete in a recent race. (Photo by Jason Wesseldyk)

Otsego girls claim championship at Sparta Invitational

Jason Wesseldyk

Senior Maddie Marciniak joined some elite company when it comes to the Otsego girls’ cross country program with her performance at the Sparta Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 16.
Marciniak won the Gold Division race with a time of 19:41.
“That puts her as the third fastest girl I’ve ever had race there,” Otsego coach Steve Long said.”Only school record holders Taylor Smith and Megan Aalberts have run faster there for the Lady Bulldogs.”
Not that Marciniak was the only Otsego runner to perform well.
Rather, Sydney Kubiak and Gracie VerHage joined Marciniak in the top five and all five of Otsego’s scoring runners were in the top 15 as the Bulldogs easily won the race with a score of 34.
Grand Rapids Track Club/Grand Rapids Fire was well behind in second place with 94 points, while Grand Rapids Catholic was third with 106 points. Allegan placed ninth with 232 points.
The Otsego boys had the top two finishers in their race with Alex Comerford and Will Finch going one-two. The team finished sixth with 122 points.
Kubiak finished with a time of 19:50, while VerHage checked in at 20:05. Molly Farrell (13th at 20:58) and Kristen Brylowski (15th at 20:59) rounded out the scoring runners for Otsego.
“I was pretty impressed with the girls’ performances,” Long said. “This is the time of the year that they’re racing tired intentionally. We’ve started our two-a-day practices and their bodies are still trying to adjust.
“So for those girls to go out and run well like they did is a good sign for the remainder of the season.”
Brenna Stratton and Gina Farrell also ran for Otsego, placing 18th (21:05) and 19th (21:08), respectively.
“What I’m liking most right now though is how our team is starting to gel,” Long said. “The freshman are starting to get it: practice hard, race hard, compete with each other and have a lot of fun.”
Sasha Mills led Allegan, placing 35th at 22:52.
For the boys, Long couldn’t say enough about the effort put forth by Comerford and Finch.
Comerford won the race with a 15:32, which bested runner-up Finch (16:07) by 35 seconds.
“Alex and Will are running times that I’ve never had this early,” Long said. “I know they’re extremely tired too, but they keep putting down times that are at a different level than any previous runner I’ve had this early in the season.”
Hunter Zartman was Otsego’s third runner, crossing the finish line 11th at 17:16. Andrew Bickel (45th at 18:57) and Alex Peterson (63rd at 20:03) were the other two scoring runners for the Bulldogs.
“We are dealing with some issues with depth, but I’m confident that our four, five, six and seven runners are going to step up for us by the end of the season. They just need some more miles on their legs.”
The Otsego boys entered the season unbeaten at 25-0.
“We kind of suspected that this was going to be the turnout,” Long said. “We’ve got a plan for the season and these boys are great at trusting the process. They’ll be ready when they need to be.”
Allegan’s Blane Johnson finished a few spots ahead of Zartman at ninth with a time of 17:11. The Tigers finished ninth as a team with 191 points.


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