By Ryan Kaczmarski
The unofficial start of the fall high school cross country season played out last Wednesday with the 20th annual Classic at Mastick 5K race.
Several local teams competed in the race to see where the runners are at in their training, and some just used the race as a “fun run.” The official start of the season is not until the end of the month, but the teams are starting to take shape.
The MAGNIFICAT High School girls will kick off the season on Aug. 25 at the Panther “Run to Fun” Invitational. The Blue Streaks are led by head coach Anjanette Arabian Whitman (in her 11th year at Mags), and will be without their 2011 star runner Abby Marquard, who is now running for Duquesne University.
The returning veteran varsity runners are seniors Macey Walker (2011 and 2012 track regional qualifier, 3200 meter), Katherine Kerr (2012 track state qualifier, 4×800 and 4×400 relays) and Shannon Sullivan (2011 indoor track state qualifier, 4×800 relay); junior Gretchen Horning (2012 track regional qualifier, 1600 meter); and sophomores Katie Whitmore (2012 track regional qualifier, 1600 meter) and Brooke McQuinn.
A notable newcomer to the team is incoming freshman Sabina Frost.
Expectations for Magnificat’s team are always to qualify for the state meet as a team, and this year is no different.
“We only graduated one senior from our sixth-place state meet team of 2011,” Whitman said. “The 2012 team has excellent leadership by the seniors, plus the eagerness of the younger team members, to set the tone for this season. We have some returning varsity ladies who are working through injuries and may not be participating until the end of the season. However, we look forward to the opportunity this affords to the younger talent to rise to the occasion of keeping up the tradition of team success.”
The ROCKY RIVER High School girls team will also be without last year’s star runner, as perennial state finalist Elyse Beirut has gone on to run for Elon University.
The Pirates’ girls team is 12 members strong this season, including five new runners. Seniors Madison Connelly and Anna Eversman will serve as team captains this year. Other returning letter winners are senior Anne Swartz, junior Emma Russ and sophomore Elizabeth Weger. Newcomers to the 2012 squad are sophomore Ceara O’Connor and freshmen Chloe Beirut, Elise Pichola, Terri Sack and Clara Sandu.
“The team is looking to give the new runners experience through the leadership of the seniors,” Rocky River girls head coach Laura Brabant said. “Being moved to Division I last year, means all the meets we run have tough competition – Tiffin, Strongsville and Medina will be big meets.”
The Pirates boys team is coming off a 2011 season where it finished in third-place at the West Shore Conference Championship meet, third-place at districts and qualified for regionals as a team.
“Last year’s team was without a true No. 1 runner, but the team was very deep,” Rocky River boys head coach Kevin Kelley said. “This year’s team will be the same, with a lot of competition for the final three spots on varsity from week-to-week.”
Key returning lettermen are seniors Blake Williams, Bennett Kellogg, Adam Smith and Gabe Valencia; and junior Justin Reynolds.
“Blake Williams was the number one runner last year and will look to be the same this year,” Kelley said. “He is coming off a stress fracture suffered in the spring track season.
“The next three spots will be up for grabs between Kellogg, Reynolds and Smith.”
According to Kelley, the team strengths are strong senior leadership, talent across all grades from freshman to senior and depth, in that each week, the runners on varsity will have to defend their positions on varsity. The team goals are to finish in the top two at the WSC Championship meet and to qualify as a team in the regional meet.
The Pirates start the season on Aug. 25 at the WSC preview meet at Cahoon Park.
The BAY High School girls cross country team has an amazing 42 members this season, which will keep co-head coaches Danielle Harkins and Anne Ashley busy.
The returning letter winners are seniors Maggie Harter (captain) and Jenna Miller (captain); juniors Alyse Arko (2011 second-team All-WSC, district and regional qualifier), Katie Bricmont (2011 WSC honorable mention, district and regional qualifier), Maddie Britton (2011 first-team All-WSC, first-team Northeast District and regional qualifier), Hallie Bechtel (2011 first- team All-WSC, second-team Northeast District and regional qualifier) and Andrea Hanna; and sophomores Maddie Voiers (2011 first-team All-WSC, district and regional qualifier) and Carleigh Walter (2011 WSC honorable mention, district and regional qualifier).
Other returning runners include seniors Hannah Debenham (captain), Maria Passalacqua (captain), Eliz Fulop and Amanda Spiesz; juniors Colleen Farley, Norah Hoke, Elizabeth Hughes, Emily Neroni and Maddie Tomczak; and sophomores Sarah Evans, Maddie Fisher, Lea Flanagan, Katherine Kerka, Payton Lake, Marissa Lee, Hallie Matejka, Lauren Uram and Mary Woods.
The projected newcomers are seniors Zoe Heaton and Sam McClain; juniors Marlee Berlan and Sarah Christel; sophomores Maddie Eaton and Katie Galang; and eight freshmen.
“We are 42 strong this year, which is our largest team ever,” Ashley said. “We are very excited to start another season of Bay cross country. Our newcomers add talent and great motivation to our group of returning letter winners.”
Although the Rockets’ boys cross country team only had two returning varsity runners in 2011, the team still managed second-place in the WSC and were district champions.
This year’s squad has seven returning lettermen, including seniors Aric Diamond (captain), James Fell (who won the WSC title in the 1600 meter race in the 2012 spring track season), Ben Nortz (captain), Griffin Thompson (captain), Brandon Farnham, Rowland Taylor, James Roubal and Brian Ritzenthaler.
“All of my runners are key to me and this team,” Rockets’ boys head coach Steven Babson said.
According to Babson, the team’s strength is its tough summer training program, which gave his team a strong sense of comradery, but the team will need to engage the competition earlier in races this year.
The Bay boys squad lacks numbers compared to the girls squad.
“I would like to extend an invitation to any Bay High School young men to join our team,” Babson said. “It can be a lot of fun and very rewarding.”
The Rockets boys start the season at the Upper Sandusky Icebreaker Invitational on Aug. 21, while the girls squad starts at the WSC preview on Aug 25.
The FAIRVIEW High School girls squad has added some runners this season to complement the existing team from 2011. The Lady Warriors will be led by team captain, junior Emma McQuate (2011 regional finalist).
“Emma has developed into a veteran runner and will be looking to improve her times from last season,” Fairview head coach Andy Slack said.
McQuate will be followed by seniors Sarah Lyman and Taylor McClukey, sophomore Casey Main and freshman Caitlyn Groh. Rounding out the top seven are sisters Nikki and Kaprina Hawkinson, and juniors Shannon Kilbane and Nicole Gladish.
“Once the season starts, I think the girls team will be a team to watch out for,” Slack said. “The Lady Warriors will be looking to improve on their fourth-place finish at (the Patriot Athletic Conference Championship meet) from last year.”
The Fairview boys team is looking to improve on 2011’s impressive season. The team only graduated one senior runner from last year and added some new talented runners.
Senior captain John Miles looks to lead a young team this season.
“John is an all-conference runner, who also qualified for regionals last season,” Slack said.
The Warriors also added seniors John Krabil and Michael Wilkinson to provide depth to the varsity lineup. According to Slack, sophomores Kevin Kerchenski, Luke Borsody and Billy Guerry have worked very hard in the offseason to bring a tough, competitive edge to this season.
“All three were varsity runners last year and will be in an important role for the boys quest for a conference championship,” Slack said.
The team is currently looking for its seventh varsity runner.
“With a team this talented and deep, the position could change from week to week,” Slack added. “Keep an eye out for seniors Addison Clark, Brendan Kilbane and Mitchell Minnich; and freshman Wil Kruger to compete for that (final) varsity spot.”
The Warriors open the season on Aug 20 at the PAC preview meet.
The LUTHERAN WEST High School cross country teams are both coming off a fourth-place finish in the Pac last year.
“The boys team was loaded with underclassmen, and the girls had practically no underclassmen,” Longhorns head coach Mark Fenske said.
The boys team returns four of the top five runners from 2011 in junior Drew Fuchs, senior Brian Giguere, and juniors Matt Brown and Steven Dill. The girls team only returns on of the top five runners from last year in Olivia Vasiloff. The other returning runner for the girls team is Lorissa Reeves.
“Sophomore Jaan Pirn will be key for us this year (for the boys team),” Fenske said. “His improvement from last year is great, and with him having a big year, we should be competitive in the conference.
Giguere has been named the captain for the boys team.
“Really, he has been our captain for the last three years,” Fenske said. “He is the heart and soul of the team, and will be running for Bowling Green (University) next year.
“How he runs, is how we will fare as a team. If he has a fantastic year, we will have a fantastic year,” he added. “If he has a bad year, we will be a disappointment.”
The girls team is very young this year, but both teams have tremendous depth.
The Longhorns also start the season on Aug. 20 at the PAC preview meet.
The WESTLAKE High School boys team is coming off a 2011 season in which it took second-place at the Orange Invitational and won the Jack Wilhelm Classic.
The Demons boys team has a new head coach this year, but as an assistant track coach last spring, Kyle Romansky has seen some improvement over the summer.
“I have worked with many of the boys in the spring (track season), and after seeing the improvement (over the summer), look for Westlake to make big jumps in the Southwestern Conference and at districts,” Romansky said.
The returning lettermen are seniors Aaron Brown, Kevin Dempsey and Jon Simon (captain); and juniors Peter Eyre, Brian Hood, Ian Hulse (captain) and Gavin Kelly (captain). Other key runners will be senior Brian Guzik, junior Zach Gordon, sophomore Alex Barth, and fresmen Nick Irwin and Jacob Kraft.
“Gavin Kelly will be a strong front-runner for the team,” Romansky said. “The boys will run very well as a team. We have a tight pack that works well together and challenges each other in practices and meets.”
The Demons girls team has an amazing 21 returning letter winners, including seniors Stephanie Buza, Rachel Collins, Jacky Gardner, Liz Kobe (captain), Nora Lee (captain), Eleni Packis and Bridget Smik (captain); juniors Michelle Adamczyk, Katherine Garruto, Caroline Hazapis, Grace Jenkins, Ingrid Wagner and Jasmine Welch; and sophomores Paige Dawson, Morgan Hansen, Sam Karam, Madeline Lee, Lucia Del Rincon Martinez, Hannah McCarthy, Sarah Randar and Allison Veide.
The newcomers to the team are freshmen Robyn Hageman, Ally Smith, Taylor Hood, Emma Franklin and Leah Franklin.
“The team looks to finish in the top four of the SWC for the first time since 2002, with what looks like the most talented group of runners the school had in several years,” Demons girls head coach Travis Haselswerdt said. “Jenkins leads the teamon the course and is aiming to return to All-SWC status, while underclassmen Hansen, Madeline Lee and Hageman will be close behind and will form one of the strongest cores the team has had in several years.”
The girls team is still trying to settle the sixth and seventh spots on the varsity squad.
The Demons will start the season on Aug. 25 at the SWC preview meet.
The NORTH OLMSTED High School boys team finished in third-place at the SWC Championships and in fourth-place at districts in 2011.
The Eagles only return three lettermen from that squad, including senior Zach Kozik and sophomores Brad Tomcho and Noel Cordero.
“Kozik and Tomcho have been inseperable this summer, and together they make a formidable one-two punch,” Eagles boys head coach Michael D’Alessandro said. “Noel has battled a leg injury this summer but still looks to be an important part of this season’s top seven.”
According to D’Alessandro, sophomore Cullum Andrews finished the 2011 campaign on a strong note, running a personal best of 19:01 at the SWC finals and should have an immediate impact on the varsity team.
“As always, the team enters this season with a positive attitude, high expectations and hopes of surpassing previous North Olmsted cross country teams,” D’Alessandro said. “The core of this year’s team is a talented group of sophomores, led by some extremely gifted seniors. The entire team works hard and loves to run.”
The Eagles girls team returns all but one member of the 2011 squad that finished in third-place in the SWC, which tied the best finish in school history.
Returning letter winners are Haley Reines, Emily Johr, Rebecca Shroka, Becky Szabo, Grace Cleary and Sadie Lamparyk.
“Reines and Johr are our two returning regional qualifiers from last year,” North Olmsted girls head coach Aubrey Alexander said. “I’m very excited to see what they can do this year. They both had outstanding track seasons last spring which gives them great momentum heading into the cross country season.”
Seniors Reines and Meghan Slattery are this year’s team captains. The other seniors on the team are Brittany Antognazzi, Sabreen Alameddin, Lindsey Martinak, Brianna McCaskey, Hanna Moore, Rebecca Shroka, Szabo and Myka Walker.
“The team’s biggest strength this year is that the girls have been working extremely hard on their own this summer,” Alexander said. “They have many goals that they want to reach as a team, as well as individuals, and have been doing everything it takes to accomplish them. They are going into the season more confident that they ever have.”
The Eagles start the season on Aug. 25 at the SWC preview meet.
The OLMSTED FALLS boys team will be a mix of veterans and newer runners stepping into varsity roles. According to head coach Jeff Kho, the team lost its top three runners from last year, so a lot will be asked of those who ran four through seven. They will need take on the added responsibility of leading this smaller, less deep team.
“Kids moving, and-or moving on, has thinned the roster a bit, but the boys left are excited about their new challenging roles,” Kho said. “They especially look to improving upon their third-place finish at Dover last year, defending their championship at the Valley Forge Invitational and improving upon last years SWC placement.”
The returning lettermen are senior Ed Gorski, and juniors Dominic Dulin and Josh Musial.
The Bulldogs girls team returns four varsity scorers from last year, and has improved its numbers and its talent, making this year’s squad both strong and deep.
“Senior leadership will be the key to this team’s success, as several of the girls are two- or three-time letter winners,” Kho said. “The girls put in a consistent, stable base of mileage this summer and look to improve on their finishes in several key meets last year. They also look to finish high at the Dover Invitational, defend their championship at Valley Forge, and improve upon last year’s disappointing SWC finish. They have the veteran talent to do it, and have added some track stars to help boost their roster.”
The returning letter winners are seniors Brittany Carson, Katelynn Duplaga, Jaime Fossen, Lindsey Kaschak and Carrie Vichill; and sophomore Reilley Gomez.
The Bulldogs open the season on Aug. 25 at the SWC preview meet.