Girls cross country previews
By Ryan Kaczmarski and Joe Ostrica
With six of its top seven runners back, the Avon Lake High School girls cross country team is hoping to improve on its 2012 fourth-place finish in the Southwestern Conference. Sophomore Allie Spensley, who made All-SWC first team as a freshman, is back to lead the Shoregals, along with key returning seniors Marisa Gerrone and Jessica Lambert, junior Katey Faber and sophomores Audrey Spensley and Julia Jantz.
“We ran as a pack last year,” Avon Lake head coach Becky Uszak said. “Our No. 1 to No. 7 was usually within 30 seconds of each other. Since we have six of them returning we are looking for them to improve their individual times and continue to work together and have the pack mentality.”
Senior Caroline Popiel, juniors Charlotte Ward, Abby Francy and Ashley Mandel, sophomores Maddie Meese, Mary McGrail, Hailey Berroteran and Emily Lambert and freshmen Tait Keller, Gabrielle Post, Allison Skyrock and Sophie Popiel round out the roster.
“They have been committed and worked hard all summer,” Uszak said. “We are a young team with dedicated workers who have worked on improving their speed. Like last year, the girls run in a pack and motivate each other in practice and meets. Any one of them could be our lead runner each week.”
Uszak said Westlake and Brecksville look to be the tough teams to beat in the SWC this year.
“The girls would like to be in the top three in the SWC,” Uszak said. “Many of them have individual goals of running in the 19s, which they are capable of doing. It will take hard work day in and day out. so they will need to consistently push themselves in practice as well as their teammates. Everyone would like to qualify for regionals, especially the seniors. We have our work cut out for us since we have an extremely tough district and only teams can qualify.”
The North Olmsted High School girls team finished third at last year’s SWC finals, and ended up seventh at the district meet.
“Our top three returning girls are Emily Johr (junior), who ran a personal best of 19:55 last year at the Strongsville Invitational; Grace Cleary (senior), who’s best was 21:26 at McDonough; and Heather Biltz (junior), 21:50 at Strongsville,” head coach Katie Michal said. “Also likely to help the varsity team this year are Elise Covell (sophomore), 22:14 at SWC Finals, and Hannah Griswold (sophomore), 21:56 at Strongsville.”
Others running for the Eagles this year are junior Hope Frolo, sophomore Stefanie Salazar and freshman Emma Stec, who will all likely play a key role on the varsity team this year.
“Our strength this year compared to last year is that we have a fairly young team,” Michal said. “However, that may overlap into our weaknesses. Youth and inexperience go hand in hand. But this team should, despite age, provide a lot of excitement.”
Westlake High School returns five key runners from last year’s team that finished fifth in the SWC last year, and has some new faces that could be scoring for the Demons this year.
The returning seniors are Grace Jenkins and Jasmine Welch.
“Grace is as solid and consistent as they come, is one of the top runners in the area and is a leader with her work ethic,” head coach Travis Haselswert said. “She’s also really bought into the ‘pack’ running mentality – running as a group rather than as an individual – and as a result, has done a great job in helping other girls on the team to improve. With her talent and work ethic, she has a great chance to return to All-SWC status this season.
“Injuries have set Jasmine back over the years, but if she can stay healthy, she can help solidify our varsity seven,” he added. “She’s a fine role model with her dedication to running, and she’ll be counted on to both solidify the back end of our varsity group but also to lead the JV runners as well.”
Juniors Madeline Lee and Katie DuBois, along with sophomores Michelle Appel and Robyn Hageman, will be counted on to run strong this season.
“Madeline is poised to have a break-out season, and has looked fantastic all summer long; just crushing her workouts,” Haselswerdt said. “As one of the team’s top-three, she has the potential to be not only the team’s top runner this season, but also a regional qualifier as well.
“While we don’t have any state-level runners, we have an outstanding group of runners who understand ‘packing’ and working together,” he added. “If Grace, Robyn and Madeline – our top three runners – can stay together and help our next 3-4 runners – Michelle, Katie, Jasmine, and Alexis – get close to them, the team should be in good shape for success this season.”
The returning letter winners for Olmsted Falls High School are junior Reilly Gomez, and sophomores Julia Burnell and Courtney Howe.
“This year’s girls team also boasts the biggest numbers in school history, topping out at 31 strong,” head coach Jeff Kho said. “The team includes 11freshmen, and an additional 11 girls who are new to cross country. How the team fares with so many new faces remains a bit of a mystery, but with a rock solid summer things look very bright. It will be hard to replace all conference and regional qualifying standouts Jaime Fossen and Brittany Carson from last year, but many girls are sure up for the challenge.”
West Shore Conference
With four of its five top runners lost to graduation, the Avon girls cross country team is hoping the remaining members of the Lady Eagles can pick up the slack this fall.
“Our girls lost our first, second, fourth and fifth spot runners from last year,” Avon head coach Matt Nortz said. “However, with the girls with that I saw this summer our middle varsity spots are solid, bringing up our 4 to 7 spots from last year. I know the girls are working hard, which will make it interesting to see how far they go.” The Lady Eagles will be paced by sophomore Erin Laird (All-Lorain County first team, West Shore Conference second team) and senior Kellie O’Keefe (All-Lorain County second team). “Taylor Nowakowski, Haley Carissimi, Erin Crotty, Kayla Graham, Haley Parker and Claire Robertson all had solid summers and have potential for filling varsity spots,” Nortz said.
The Bay High School girls cross country team is poised for a repeat as the West Shore Conference champions. With eight returning letter winners from last year’s team that not only won the WSC – the Rockets won the Northeast district meet, placed second at the Tiffin regional and finished eighth in the state – co-head coaches Danielle Harkins and Anne Ashley are excited for the 2013 season.
“We are 53 strong this season, which is our largest team ever, and we are very excited to start another season of Bay cross country,” Ashley said. “Our newcomers add talent and great motivation to our group of returning letter winners. It looks to be another exciting year.”
The key returning runners are seniors Alyse Arko, Hallie Bechtel, Maddie Britton and Sarah Christel; junior Maddie Voiers; and sophomores Abby Christel, Olivia Bechtel and Hailey Russell.
The North Ridgeville girls cross country squad placed last in the WSC last year, but head coach Bryan Morgan is seeing positive improvements among the Lady Rangers already this year.
“Senior Leah Lindak improved her time in the WSC Preview by a full two minutes from last year,” Morgan said. “She finished 25th this year. We believe if she proceeds well with the workouts that she may have a shot at regionals, which would be a great accomplishment for her and the program.” Senior Grace Wade, sophomores Natalie Casselberry and Anna Pavlovski and freshman Olivia Sycz round out North Ridgeville's small roster. “We want to see individual progression with the runners' times,” Morgan siad. “Because we have four new runners this year we are looking to make great individual strides with their times so we can get to the point of being competitive in the invitationals this year.” With Avon and Bay expected to be among the leaders of the WSC, Morgan said it will be another year of trying to get the program to the point where it can be consistent. We are working with the middle school and trying to create a culture of running at North Ridgeville,” Morgan said. “We are looking to add some more runners this season and add the runners coming up to increase numbers, which will in return increase our competitiveness.”
The Rocky River High School girls finished third in the WSC, and fifth at the district meet.
“This season we have 16 runners on the team,” head coach Laura Brabant said. “Eight returning runners (five returning letter winners) and eight new runners are on the team; one junior, two sophomores and five freshmen. So the team is a young.”
Returning letter winners are senior and co-captain Ellen Corcoran, junior Elizabeth Weger and sophomores Chloe Beirut, Elise Pichola, Terri Sack and Clara Sandu.
“Our biggest strength this year is the girls’ ability to run together as a pack – they have been training together and all their time trial times are very close,” Brabant said. “This ability to run as a pack will certainly help them run stronger and faster together as the season progresses. They are excited that they can run so closely together, which is a great motivator.”
The freshmen on the team are Laura Banks, Anna Brandt, Laura DeVito, Jillian Kinsley and Nora McKeown. The new junior is Monica McDonough, who played soccer freshman year and runs the 300 hurdles in track. The new sophomores are Haily Mylett and Emily Farr.
“I am very excited about the new runners on the team as they are excited to be here and ran their mileage over the summer,” Brabant concluded.
The Lakewood High School team finished fourth at the 2012 WSC championship, but has lost runners Hannah Gregory to graduation and Mikayla Harper to injury.
Key returning girls include Maeve Christie, Alyssa Hasman, Grace Latham, Gabby Wise, Cate Schleckman, Yasmeen Shafik and Anna Riddle. The key newcomers are freshmen Lauren Lowell and Olivia Rodriguez.
According to head coach Scott Troyan, the Rangers’ strengths this year are depth and experience.
“We have 14-plus girls who will be fighting for the top seven spots,” he said. “Our goal is to make the state meet as a team this season.”
Patriot Athletic Conference
The Brookside girls cross country team has two regional qualifiers back who are hoping to help the Lady Cardinals improve over last year's fifth-place finish in the Patriot Athletic Conference last year. Seniors Emilee Gil and Savannah Pliszka are looking to build off their terrific 2012 finishes. Gil was a All-PAC and All-Lorain County second team selection last year. Pliszka was named to the All-Lorain County second team as well. “Both girls were regional qualifiers in 2012, coming on strong in the final month of the season,” head coach Kevin Landis said. “Both girls have worked hard this summer and should improve on last year’s performances. They are second and third on our all-time list and one of them will likely end her career with the school record. “Returning runners Jocelyn Miller, Libby Nardi, and Casey Frey have also been consistent this summer. Freshmen Emily Biltz, Cameron Norris, Julia Mohrbach, Alli Schill and Kayla Clark will also be in the mix for spots in the top seven. The girls should improve in the PAC and have an excellent chance to advance to regionals as a team.”
The Fairview High School girls cross country have added some upperclassman talent and are looking to improve in the Patriot Athletic Conference, from last season.
The team is led by two-time captain Emma McQuate, who has been the team’s leading runner the last three years.
“Emma is looking to finish an accomplished four-year career with the support of some new teammates,” head coach Andy Slack said. “Number two runner Shannon Kilbane has had a great off season and has proven she is ready for a great senior season. Shannon had an impressive time at the PAC preview and is looking to have a breakout senior season.
“Senoir Clare Rehor is running cross country for the first time, but is competing like a seasoned veteran,” he continued. “She has surprised me to see how quickly she transitioned from a severe knee injury two years ago. Casey Main, who is a two sport fall athlete, will provide a the girls team with another varsity runner who will continually drop her meet times. She has a great attitude and is a great addition to our team. Freshman Sarah Guerry is looking to round out our top five varsity spot. Even though she is young, she is a hard worker who is not afraid to put in the miles. She is currently nursing a sprained ankle, and is sorely missed in the varsity line-up. The girls team is rounded out by sophomores Julie Danko and Alexis Newhaus and freshman Alexis Brown. The girls are running in a talented girls conference this season.”
Lutheran West High School has five of its top seven runners returning from last year, including senior Olivia Vasiloff; juniors Katie Snable, Jessica Bradley and Amanda Elkins; and sophomore Michaela Bierly. Key freshmen on this year’s squad are Emily Giguere and Anna Maxwell.
“There are three things that must happen for the Longhorns to be a factor in the conference race,” head coach Mark Fenske. “First, the team must stay healthy. As thin as we are, in order to be competitive in the conference race at the end of the year, we cannot afford any injuries.
“Second, we will need either Elkins or Giguere to step up. Both have very little experience in running distance, so it is too early in the year to tell what kind of up-side either have. But if we want to contend in October, one or both of them need to be running in the 23s. Lastly, Jessica Bradley will need to prove that her breakout year in 2012 was no fluke. Bradley improved a ridiculous amount in 2012, and will need to maintain that speed and be a strong fourth runner for Lutheran West to have a chance to defeat Keystone come October.”