By Noah Genson

MUSKEGON TOWNSHIP – Last week at the Portage Invitational, Evan Hodson said that he didn’t feel mentally prepared to go up against some of the top talent in the state.

RP’s Evan Hudson beats out Montague’s Cole Jensen to take first place. Photo/Randy Riksen

But after a visit with a sports psychologist this past week, the Reeths-Puffer cross country standout was mentally ready to win the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association’s City Cross Country meet, and he did just that.

It was a tight race for Hodson, but he beat out Montague senior Cole Jensen by .48 seconds to claim the GMAA title at Muskegon Community College with the time of 15:53.44.

“The meeting (with the sports psychologist) really helped my outlook on the race,” said Hodson, a senior. “Coming down the stretch I felt like I had stayed with him this long, and I’d be able to take him the distance, which I did.”

“He’s been grinding since the end of track season,” said Reeths-Puffer head coach Derin Grant. “The amount of work that he’s been able to put in, you can really see it paying off for him now.”

Sparked by Hodson’s first-place finish, the Rockets came away with the boys team title as well with 49 points, followed by Fruitport with 59. Whitehall finished third, followed by Montague, Western Michigan Christian, Mona Shores, North Muskegon, Muskegon, and Ravenna.

WMC’s Abby VanderKooi leaves her challengers far behind, winning the girls race by two and a half minutes. Photo/Randy Riksen

For the Rockets, Klay Grant (16:54.28) finished eighth, Brett Schlaff (17:06.36) finished tenth, Zach Ostoin (17:14.43) took 12th, and Mitchell Moore (17:39.51) was 18th.

The girl’s competition was much closer, with Reeths-Puffer tying Western Michigan Christian for first place with 61 points. But the Rockets won the tiebreaker to take home the GMAA title and complete the sweep for their school.

The tie-breaker was based on which school’s sixth runner did the best.

“Our girls ran incredible,” said Reeths-Puffer girls coach Stephanie Sweany. “We were ranked third coming into today, and I told the girls that anything could happen as long as we ran our best. Everyone stepped up and I am so proud of them.”

Western Michigan Christian freshman Abby Vanderkooi was the individual star in the girls race, winning with a time of 16:57.30, two and a half minutes before second-place finisher Ryann Gibson (19:32.32) from Whitehall.

Leading the way for the Rockets was Rebekah Sweany (19:54.97) in fifth place, followed by Kendall Jones (20:32.97) in tenth, Raegan Lockhart (20:40.03) in 12th,  Ari Antor (21:09.95) in 16th and Grace Lockhart (21:13.71) at 18th.

“I was nervous coming into today,” said Vanderkooi after the race. “I got over my nerves quickly though, and was able to go out and run my best.”

With regionals on the way, Vanderkooi said her goals are more team-oriented.

“I really hope we can qualify as a team (for the state finals),” she said. “As much as the individual accomplishments are great, I’d love to be able to experience qualifying with my team.”

Finishing in third place in the girl’s team standings was Whitehall, followed by Fruitport, Montague, North Muskegon, Mona Shores, and Muskegon Catholic Central.


Top 10 individuals


1. Evan Hodson 15:53.44, Reeths-Puffer
2. Cole Jensen 15:52.92, Montgaue
3. Sam Baustert 16:10.80, Whitehall
4. Nick Denison 16:21.63, Mona Shores
5. Brenden Deneen 16:38.33, Fruitport
6. Jon Wildey 16:39.09, Fruitport
7. Jack Zuidema 16:52.28, Western Michigan Christian
8. Klay Grant 16:54.28, Reeths-Puffer
9. Addison Bluhm 17:01.84, Whitehall
10. Brett Schlaff 17:06.36, Reeths-Puffer
1. Abby VanderKooi 16:57.30, Western Michigan Christian
2. Ryann Jibson 19:32.32, Whitehall
3. Faith Clark 19:47.48, Fruitport
4. Isabella Lindsay 19:49.26, North Muskegon
5. Rebekah Sweany 19:54.97, Reeths-Puffer
6. Sarah VanderKooi 19:56.71, Western Michigan Christian
7. Emily Tyler 20:06.59, Montague
8. Josie Aardema 20:16.43, Western Michigan Christian
9. Solana Witham 20:19. 47, Whitehall
10. Kendall Jones 20:32.97, Reeths-Puffer






Girls Top 10 Individuals