Hesperia girls complete perfect season by repeating as Division 4 cross country state champions

Hesperia girls complete perfect season by repeating as Division 4 cross country state champions

Provided by Shawn Liverance | The Muskegon Chronicle

BROOKLYN — The Hesperia girls cross country team completed a perfect season on Saturday by winning its second straight Division 4 state championship at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

The Panthers, who were ranked No. 1 all season and never lost a meet, won the state title in convincing fashion over rival North Muskegon.

Hesperia had four runners in the Top 30 and accumulated 67 points, beating the runner-up Norse by 36 points. Saugatuck finished third with 159 points.

"Unbelievable season to go coast-to-coast and never lose a meet," said an emotional Hesperia coach Doug Baird. "I have had some good teams, but never had one go through the season and win every meet they entered."

Led by seniors Alexa Rumsey, Gabbie Bates and Donna Aslakson, the Panthers finished in the Top 10 at the state finals for a fifth consecutive season. Hesperia's boys cross country program has also won two state championships.

"It feels really nice to win it back-tp-back," said Hesperia's Alexa Rumsey, who became a three-time all-state runner by placing third overall in a time of 18:45 in sunny and unseasonably mild running conditions.

"We worked really hard as a team this season to get back here and win this again."

Bates, who also became a three-time all-state runner by placing ninth overall, finished with a personal-best time of 19:18. 

"We are like a great big family," Bates said. "It was our goal as a team to win two straight state championships. This is something we will all long back on years from now and remember what we accomplished."

As they have all season, the Panthers showed great depth. Aslakson finished in 25th place to earn all-state honors as did sophomore Lauren Zeerip, who crossed the finish line 30th. Jasmine Hall rounded out Hesperia's team, placing 36th.

"To have probably our greatest performance of the season in our last race tells you how special this group is," Baird said. "We really gelled as a team and to perform like we did today is why there is so much to be proud of with this group."

"It is a little bittersweet as it is over now," Rumsey said. "I am really going to miss this group."

North Muskegon, as it did all season, came up just a little bit short against the Panthers. NM will have all seven runners from this year's team back next fall.

"Hesperia was the team to beat all year and they showed why today," North Muskegon coach Gary Neal said. "We are trying to get to that level, but I thought we ran very well today and I am looking forward to next year."

Leading the Norse was Abby Vermeulen, who finished 20th overall in a time of 19:50 to become an all-state runner.

Emily Witham became a two-time all-stater by placing 24th overall. Ginny Hoch (27th) earned all-state honors and was followed by Avery Lowe (34th) and Hannah Meier (56th).

DIVISION 1: Grand Haven fell short in its quest to repeat as state champions, placing third overall with 163 points. Grosse Pointe South won the team title with 106 points. The Bucs were led by a pair of all-state runners in Claire Borchers and Roxy Glasser, who finished 16th and 17th, respectively. Lindie Vallier (41st), Brooke Spruit (74th) and Julia Stock (80th) rounded out the Grand Haven runners. 

DIVISION 2: East Grand Rapids won the team championship with 153 points. Fremont placed sixth with 241 points and was led by all-state runner Anna Kreslins who placed 11th overall in a time of 18:30. Sandy Kunnen (48th), Brooke Wahl (70th), Claire Schaar (129th) and Kristine Olsen (153th) rounded out the Fremont runners. Spring Lake's Brittany Beeler (13th) and Ludington's Devon Sutton (21st) also earned all-state honors.  

DIVISION 3: Benzie Central won the team championship with 126 points. Kent City finished in second place with 146 and Hanover-Horton placed third with 166 points. Hart finished in 23rd place. Kent City was led by pair of all-state runners — Jeanne Wilson (17th) and Sadie Ringer (28th). Other point scorers for runner-up Kent City were Kaitlin Truman (32nd), Ashley Russo (50th) and Amanda Sizemore (96th).