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Otsego boys eye NBC title (08-14-13) PDF Print E-mail
Written by KEVIN GORDON Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor   
Wednesday, 14 August 2013 09:06
Otsego’s Brandon Avers runs in the Otsego/Wood County Invitiational at Mary Jane Thurston Park last season. (Photo: Aaron Carpenter/Sentinel-Tribune)
GRAND RAPIDS - Otsego's boys cross country team ran well late last season.
The Knights are striving to build on their strong finish.
They won the Northern Buckeye Conference meet last season and are setting their sights on winning the conference championship this season.
The Knights return 11 lettermen, including defending NBC champion and junior Brandon Avers and junior Jordy Ghesquiere, who was fifth in the conference meet last fall.
Four other Knights who received all-conference recognition return.
"We're definitely ahead of where we were last year,"  Avers said.
The Knights' lettermen consist of four seniors, four juniors and three sophomores.
"Last year, we were very young," Avers said. "This year, we have a lot of returning guys and a few new guys who will help the team out and push everyone to be faster than we were last year. Last year also made us realize we're not the best team out there, that there's still a lot of work to be done over the summer to make us one of the top teams."
This season's NBC champion will be decided only by the results of the conference meet.
That's in contrast to last season when the champion was determined by points awarded for a team's finish in two regular-season jamborees and in the conference meet.
The NBC meet was worth double points. The jamborees, in essence, were another conference meet.
Elmwood won the NBC title last season by winning the two jamborees and finishing second in the conference meet. Even though Otsego won the conference meet, it was second and fourth in the jamborees.
The Knights' other primary goal is to qualify for state.
"Our seniors and juniors have the experience now, so it's just a matter of putting in the work and seeing what improvement we can see in the freshmen and sophomores," said Otsego coach Ryan Hafner, who is in his second season. "We're excited to start the season and see what we can accomplish. The boys know if they put in the work, they're going to be right there."
Otsego's runners started the 1,000-mile club last November, and the goal was for each runner to run 1,000 miles by the end of the cross country season. Avers, who reached the milestone just over a week ago, expects every member of the team to complete the distance.
"For the start of the season, everyone is running very well," Avers said. "We all share the same goals for the team. Everything is centered around the league meet, for sure."
Avers, who was fourth in the NBC meet as a freshman, won last year in 16:21, to earn first-team All-NBC honors.
Sophomores Derek Morgan and Caleb Baus were named to the All-NBC second-team, and senior Garry Armstrong and junior Fred Balmoria received honorable mention.
The top seven finishers in the league meet earned first-team recognition, while finishers 8-14 were second-team and finished 15-21 were honorable mention.
"We have a deep team and everyone is pushing each other," Hafner said. "There's not a lot of difference from our third runner to our eighth, ninth runner. We're going to have some good runners who aren't in the varsity lineup, and that competition is going to help make us a stronger team."
Avers also is seeking to qualify for state as an individual. He finished 40th in the regional last season, with only the top 16 advancing to state
"This season is pretty much state meet or bust for me," Avers said. "Everything for me is centered around the state meet.
"Not making it last year is probably the best thing to ever happen to me as a runner," Avers added. "Every morning when I get up to go run, I know there's the option to stay in bed or get up and go run and get to Columbus. It's an easy choice."
Avers spent most of the offseason running against older and faster runners.
"That made me better ... I just found guys who were a lot faster than me, guys who pushed me to do things I can't do by myself," Avers said. "Whatever I do to make myself better is going to help the team get better. I'm definitely in better shape than I have been in past years.
Avers also is hoping to break the 16-minute mark this season. His best is 16:20.
"He's just a focused, motivated, hard working kid," Hafner said.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 August 2013 09:33

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