Benzie Central Girls Loaded with Talent in 2017
BENZONIA – A program rich with tradition, the Benzie Central girls track and field team is setting its sets on claiming its first team state championship since 2011.
The Huskies return six all-state athletes from last year’s team that finished sixth at the MHSAA Division 3 team state meet, including seniors Olivia Brian and Manon Lutzke, who will both be taking their talents to the collegiate level.
With a bulk of its talent returning, Benzie Central is looking forward to another promising spring.
“I feel very confident in this team and how we’re going to compete and how well we compete,” Brian said. “We’ve got a lot of girls coming up that have performed in middle school and a lot of girls that have competed in high school very well.”
“We’ve got a lot of upperclassmen that have competed at state, a lot of all-state runners returning, numerous all-conference runners,” coach Asa Kelly added. “A lot of experience top to bottom, which is great and which is exciting.”
In addition to a sixth-place finish at the team state meet, the Huskies captured their 10th consecutive Northwest Conference title last year.
“We definitely walk in with a lot of confidence and it’s a good motivational point for the younger girls to look at,” senior Olivia Chiumino said.
Over the past decade, the Northwest Conference has been dominated by Benzie Central, as the Huskies have won every conference meet to go along with eight regional titles, one state Division 3 state championship (2011) and three runner-up finishes (2009-10, 2012).
“We definitely go out there and compete our hardest, especially at the conference meet, regional meet, any meet. It’s definitely something we take a lot of pride in,” Brian said. “It’s a big tradition here.”
Each year a new crop of athletes looks to keep the streak alive.
“It was a little intimidating as a freshman coming in, but now that I’m a senior and I’ve gone through four years of it, it’s not surprising because of how hard we work and the overall talent of the team that we have,” Chiumino said.
“The precedent that like the people that have come before us have set is crazy because we’re hearing about it in middle school,” junior Mary Claire Smeltzer added. “We want to become those people for the middle schoolers that are coming up and set a precedent for them for the future.”
Benzie Central competes at Muskegon Reeths-Puffer’s Rocket Invitational on Friday.