KENSTON, Oh - In Head Cross Country Coach Bob Wolf's '08 first outing as head coach, the Cross Country Cats took down many local top teams at the 2021 Frank Gibas Invitational at Kenston High School. In addition to the race being special for this reason, all race athletes were given green ribbons to wear on their jerseys to honor the passing of Medina High School's cross country coach Milt Place, making the day more meaningful to all runners and coaches involved.
The first race of the season, especially for freshmen, should be a chance to get a foot in the door and "get time to work from," but boy did the Wildcats, especially the freshmen, come to play.
Fortunately for runners like John Corrigan, who is known for saying "I don't like running on grass," this course was more like the Mastick trails than the Edgewater loop the Wildcats train on. Almost all of the race was on a trail by the high school but unfortunately primarily alone with no spectators. Runners also did not get a 2-mile marker during the race, making it very hard to stay mentally gauged and time your efforts.
With heavy heat coming later in the day, the races went off early and the course was empty by noon. The varsity boys ran first at 9 a.m. with eight Wildcat seniors and two juniors finishing in order of Matt Kelly 15:55 (3), Sean Uhran 16:12 (6), John Corrigan 16:39 (13), Alex Paliga 16:41 (14), Danny Becker 17:22 (20), Freddy Becker 18:04 (44), Caleb Delacruz 18:24 (56), Joey Sepesy 18:46 (69), Owen Rodstrom 18:59 (73), and Will Leahy 19:21 (86).
The Cats ran their scoring five in the top 20 and next five between 44th and 86th. The Cats narrowly defeated St. Edward with scores of 56 and 58, with Brunswick scoring 90 in third place. Senior Matt Kelly's third place came behind Brunswick's Evan Jarold and St. Edward's Evan Bork, who were familiar opponents from the track season earlier this year.
Separating Kelly from Uhran were Brunswick's Alex Keller and Aurora's Andrew Ploskunak; after Uhran came Highland's, Elijah Hadler. All seven of these top finishers had previously qualified individually for a state championship in their last track or cross country seasons, which shows the strength of the field at this race. Also in the highlights were John Corrigan's excellent performance (and finishing sprint) in his first high school cross country race and Danny Becker's last 600m, where he simply made the difference between first and second place, passing four runners.
One hour after the varsity race, the JV wildcats ran an incredible seven runners in the top 18 in a race that held 12 teams! Unfortunately, St. Edward had five in the top 12 and scored just 28 points to beat the Wildcats' score of 39. Freshman Aiden Walter took the field with a daring first mile. He finished second for the Cats in the race in a time of 18:14, just one second behind his fellow freshman teammate Ronan Donnelly who was the Cats' top finisher in 18:13 and third place individually.
Also scoring for the Cats were senior Carmen Caserio in 18:52, sophomore Aiden Zielinski in 18:59, and junior Ben Showman in 19:10. Senior Conor McGuire ran 19:11 next to freshman Cael Luecke in 19:12 to finish out the top 7. An excellent breakout race and PR for Carmen and the strong freshman presence for the Cats made some fantastic storylines to come from this race.
This upcoming Saturday will be the fourth in the last five years that the Cats elect to run their second race of the year at the Mentor Cardinal Classic! Come out and support the Cats in-person at this race if you can, as it is the closest meet they run at for a while, with following meets at Tiffin and Boardman before the Strongsville Invitational on September 25, followed by meets at CVNP and Youngstown.
The runners would also like to thank Coaches Wolf, Strauss, Mayer, Stefancin, True, and Pinchak for making our summer training go so well and making race day so successful!