AllendaleWestern Michigan’s girls cross country team knew it had a target on its back entering Saturday’s Division 4 regional championship at Allendale.

The Warriors were ranked in the top five all season and No. 1 the last several weeks. They knew teams would give them their best shot.

No problem, said WMC head coach Greg Gould.

WMC 2021 girls regional cross country champions

“It’s all great to feel like you’re the number one seed coming in,” Gould said. “But, that’s also a target on your back, too. But the girls performed exceptional today.

“We felt it (the title) was within our grasp, but you’ve still got to out and get the job done,” Gould said. “They excelled today, so we’re super happy.”

The key for Warriors were their second, third and fourth runners behind senior Abby VanderKooi. That gave the Warriors a dominating score of 27 to 76 for runner-up St. Joseph Lake Michigan Seminary. Manton also qualified for state with a third-place finish. Muskegon Catholic finished fifth.

VanderKooi dominated the individual competition, finishing far ahead of the second-place runner by more than 2 minutes. Vanderkooi had a time of 18:00.49.

The Warriors took the next three places, as junior Brianna Zuidema was fourth in 20:52.09, senior Ava Rotman finished fifth in 20:58.11 and sophomore Eleanor Kingshott was sixth in 21:03.85.

“At least on the girls side, we felt we were going to have a comfortable margin, but we were not going to let off the gas, either,” Gould said.

“That’s not a mindset we like to employ, that ‘Hey, we can go easy today.’ We wanted to go out and if we were destined to be dominant, fine. And, send a message to our greater competition that we’re going to try to race for the podium next week.”

Wyoming Potter’s House was third followed by Libertas Christian and Muskegon Catholic.

“We wanted to work on some things tactically here, being as grouped together as possible and the other girls really delivered on that up front,” Gould said. “That’s going to be key for us in the final. It’s going to be a much bigger race, with a lot more bodies. Sometimes it can get real hard to stay connected with your teammates.”

With four runners in the top 10, the race was pretty much over.

Girls who set personal records in the meet included Zuidema, Kingshott, Grace Folkema and Morgan Lawrence. Rotman’s time was her season’s best.

WMC boys cross country team advances to state meet with runnerup finish at the regionals held in Allendale on Saturday

On the boys’ side, the Warriors qualified with a second-place finish behind regional champion Wyoming Potter’s House, 57-75.

We got out really aggressive, got ourselves in good positioning early which I think really paid off,” Gould said. “The race got really strung out.”

Rounding out the scoring was Gobles in third to qualify as a team, St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic was fourth and Three Oaks River Valley was fifth. Muskegon Catholic came in sixth.

WMC’s first runner was junior Jonathan Clausing, who was sixth with a time of 17:45.77. Freshman Matthias Morse finished 11th in 18:10.04.

Boys who set personal records were Morse, Demitri Lawrence and Alexander Lawrence.