By Jason Wesseldyk
2018 results: SAC champions, regional champions, fourth at Division 3 state finals
Coach: Rick Bauer
Returning letter winners: Corey Gorgas (distance), sr.; Brad Dunn (hurdles, sprints), sr.; Jeff Kolhmeyer (sprints), sr.; Collin Yarde (sprints, jumps), sr.; Nik Pettinga (distance), soph.; Ray Bartlett (distance), sr.; Tom Beckman (throws), soph.
Season outlook: Saugatuck has established itself as one of the top programs in the state, having won state championships in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
The Indians will strive to add a fourth state title to that resume this season.
“We have the horse to do something special at the state meet, but it is going to take a team effort to get there,” Saugatuck coach Rick Bauer said. “Young guys will need to step up in the smaller meet to take some of the load off of our big guns.”
And there is no bigger gun than senior Corey Gorgas.
The defending state champ in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter runs, Gorgas also claimed the Division 3 cross country state title last November. He recently signed his letter of intent to run for defending NCAA men’s cross country champion Northern Arizona University.
“We are blessed to have one of the top distance runners in the country in Corey Gorgas,” Bauer said. “Our distance group should continue to be a great source of points for our team.”
Sophomore Nik Pettinga (1,600 and 3,200 SAC champ last spring and All-State in cross country last November) and senior Ray Bartlett (All-State in cross country last November) join Gorgas to lead that distance crew, as does freshman Max Sharnas (All-State in cross country).
“Max has already run 4:32 for 1,600 this indoor season,” Bauer said. “He was also a qualifier for the New Balance Indoor nationals in the freshmen 1600. Max is one of the best young distance runners in the state and in the country; he should be extremely helpful to our squad this season and beyond.”
Senior Brad Dunn is back to lead the way in the hurdles after finishing third in the state in the 110 hurdles and fifth in the state in the 300 hurdles.
Benny Diaz joins Sharnas as a freshman to watch.
“Benny is an outstanding athlete with a wide range of talents,” Bauer said. “He holds the freshmen state record in the 200 meter dash. And he was a qualifier for the freshmen 60 and 400 meter dashes at the New Balance Indoor Nationals. He is a dual-sport athlete with track and baseball this spring and looks to be extremely impactful for both programs. He is a special athlete.”
2018: Not provided
Coach: Candi Dykstra
Returning letter winners (partial list): Jacob Hoggard (sprints), soph.; Matt Beach (distance), sr.; Cody Obbink (distance), sr.; Cody Lamay (distance), sr.
Season outlook: Candi Dykstra is entering her eighth season as head coach in Fennville. And in none of those previous seven seasons has she been quite so optimistic heading into a season as she is this year.
“We have the strongest team yet in my eight seasons here,” Dykstra said. “I think we have several athletes who have great potential to qualify for the state finals.”
Among those athletes who have the opportunity to represent the Blackhawks in the finals is sophomore Jacob Hoggard.
A sprinter who posted a time of 11.33 seconds in the 100-meter dash at Fennville’s first meet of the season, Hoggard is also slated to participate in the 200, the 400 and the sprint relays.
Returning senior Matt Beach, a standout in cross country, is another potential state qualifier in the distance events. Fellow seniors Cody Obbink and Cody Lamay are among the other Fennville athletes who will make up what Dykstra believes will be a formidable distance crew.
“We have a strong distance team this year,” Dykstra said. “If they work together, they can push each other to improve immensely by the end of the season. I see some great relay times in their future.”
In terms of newcomers, the freshmen tandem of Tyler Schut and I’zayah Strickfaden are among those who could make a difference right away. Schut is slated to take part in the 200 and 400, while Strickfaden will run the 100 and 200.