The Cross Country Wildcats fell short of the regional championship this Saturday, finishing in 2nd place behind the Hudson Explorers at the OHSAA Regional Meet.
In the field of the top 24 teams in Northeast Ohio, the Wildcats were again able to hold off Kenston and Mentor, but Hudson, winner of the GlenOak District meet last weekend, won off of a :26 split between their first and fifth runners. The Wildcats knew they needed a near duplication of last week’s District Championship season-best performances, but the muddy, slow Boardman course decided it was not meant to be.
Boardman is already known for slow times; everyone knows that. Add in a week of rain and 46 degrees at race time, and you get times on Saturday that were a full minute slower then normal, on average, per runner across the whole race. About 500 runners had already run the soaked and destroyed course during the 4 races before the Division 1 boys race, and even from the start line, the Cats had their shoes stuck in the ground and were splashed all over with mud. The key would be to get out quick, avoid the pushing and shoving of the tight first mile, and have the freedom on the course to run wide on turns and run on the outside of the course on muddy stretches. Unfortunately, every team seemed to have the same idea.
The first mile was a 200-kid shoving match, with 6 hairpin turns in the first mile. At each turn, the whole pack slows down, as each kid tries to cut the turn as tightly as possible, and then runners want to resume a 5:00 mile pace right out of the turn. If the kid in front of a runner is in his way, it’s common for a hand to push the back or for shoulders to jarringly collide. It’s every man for himself out in the mud, but the Cats do their best to avoid trouble by taking turns wide and pushing as little as possible.
Nathan Moore, one of the top individuals in the state, headlined the race along with Saint Ignatius, Kenston, Mentor, and Hudson, 4 of the top 10 teams in the state going head to head. Moore pushed out to an early lead and won with a time of 16:27, a full 39 seconds slower than his performance at Boardman earlier this season. Many Cross Country Cats saw similar dips in time. Matt Kelly ran 17:03 for 8th place overall, Sean Uhran 17:19 for 21st, Aidan Monroe 17:33 for 36th, and Connor Geary 17:36 for 42nd. These 4 runners were an average of 1:02 behind their times from districts last weekend, an incredible metric of a tough course and day. Alex Paliga (in his first time scoring in a postseason race!), Joseph Maloney, and Peter Fitzpatrick finished 5-7 for the Wildcats, and all saw similar drops in time.
The Cats finished 6, 18, 29, 35, and 60 for scoring positions, compared to Hudson’s 10, 22, 25, 28, and 31. It was the tale as old as time for the Cats this season, struggling to bridge the gap between the 3, 4, and 5 runners, but almost all the boys agreed each man’s race could have gone better, and the blame falls on no single man. With the ambitious goal of a top 4 finish at states set for this weekend, this race will be fuel to the fire, and one final week of tapering will have the team ready for the brand new State Championship course.
In the race for the state championship this weekend, things heated up at the regional meets, and many team spots shifted around.
Pre-Regional Rankings and Regional Meet Performance Breakdown:
#1 St. Xavier
#2 Lakota West
#3 Hilliard Davidson
#5 Saint Ignatius
#8 Dublin Jerome
1st: #1 ranked St. Xavier with 49 points
2nd: #2 ranked Lakota West with 59
3rd: #6 ranked Beavercreek with 80
4th: #4 ranked Mason with 125
Pickerington North Regional:
1st: #3 ranked Hilliard Davidson with 57
2nd: #12 ranked Dublin Coffman with 128
3rd: Unranked Lancaster with 137
4th: #8 Dublin Jerome with 138
1st: #10 ranked Hudson with 116
2nd: #5 ranked St. Ignatius with 148
3rd: #7 ranked Kenston with 155
4th: #9 ranked Mentor with 192
Projected Pre-State Rankings:
#1 St. Xavier
#2. Lakota West
#3. Hilliard Davidson
#6 Saint Ignatius
#10 Dublin Coffman
Lakota West seems to be the only team at this point that can challenge St. Xavier, and HIlliard Davison seems to be the lock for third place. Fourth place could reasonably go to any team 4th-8th in the projected rankings.
The State Championship race will be at Fortress Obetz in Columbus this Saturday, November 7th. The Division 1 boys race is expected to take off at 3 pm. Check @SIHSSports on Twitter for updates on the team!