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A Challenging Course Fails to Slow the Cats

By Matt Kelly '22, 10/08/21, 10:45AM EDT


Despite a difficult course at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Cat Pack places first at the Woodridge Cross Country Invitational.

CUYAHOGA VALLEY, Oh - For the third weekend in a row, the Cross Country Cats entered their race ranked fourth in the state. All seniors and varsity raced at the Woodridge Cuyahoga Valley National Park Invitational on Saturday, October 2nd.

The JV and Open teams competed at the Gilmour Academy Paul Primeau Invitational on Friday, October 1st. In the two races the Cats competed in over two days, both came out with team victories.

At Gilmour, the Cats pulled off a tremendous domination of the JV Open race. Aiden Walter led the way with an individual victory! He ran 17:56, adding another sub-18 to his résumé and also his first win. Aidan Zielinski finished second in 18:15, CJ Lyon in third in 18:30, Cael Lucke in fourth in 18:32, Matthew Muntean in fifth in 18:35, John Scally in sixth 18:38 and Will Nicklas in 14th in 18:55. That’s correct: the Cats finished 1-6 in the race (which is very fun to watch as a spectator) and scored a perfect 15.

Many other Wildcats had outstanding performances in this race, including but not limited to Shivam Pandaya, Mickey Polito, and Will Scott, all dipping just under 19 minutes and Dominic Wilson having a PR in a season with an injury. Other PRs included Braeden Pentz, Fitz Lokiec (who broke 20 minutes), and Colin Bibbo. The JV Cats set up a hard act to follow on Saturday.

The Woodridge meet, a notoriously tricky course that runs slow times (understatement), was taken on by 14 wildcats: 12 seniors and two juniors, John Corrigan and Caleb Delacruz. Going into the race, the Cats remembered what Joshua Cheptegei said before breaking the 10km track world record, “I know it is hard, but I am harder.” This mantra is pretty unbeatable when it comes to a course or opponent that may cause doubt.

During the week, there was a lot of talk about “how big the hills are” or that “it’s actually 3.17 miles,” but there were no excuses during the race. The Cats took the course on aggressively and without fear, starting at the front. Matt Kelly took the lead at 600m and led Sean Uhran and the chase pack through the first mile under five minutes, with a time of 4:56.

The rest of the Wildcats came through in similar, quick times in the first and easiest mile of the course, including 500ft elevation gain and slopes as steep as 24 degrees. The hills start in the second mile, with “killer hill” at 1.5 miles, another just after the 2-mile mark, and a challenging, underknown (especially to Matt Kelly) hill at 2.25 miles. Kelly came through two miles still in the lead, but after the third prominent and final hill, he suffered from lactic acid buildup, collapsed, and finished the last 1.5k in a slow stagger.

At the top of that hill, Sean Uhran took the lead from Joshua Taylor of Bryan High School and battled with Taylor over the last half mile for the win, ultimately coming just seconds short. In an incredible performance, Sean finished in 17:16 with two points and was followed by Danny Becker, running 17:54 to score eight points as the Wildcats’ #2. John Corrigan and Alex Paliga finished three and five for the Cats in 18:02 and 18:31 for 10 and 17 points, respectively, and Freddy Becker also had a monster race similar to Danny and finished fourth for the Cats, scoring for the Cats for the first time this year with 15 points!

Christian Wolke and Caleb Delacruz were six and seven, followed by 8-13, in order of Matt Kelly, Owen Rodstrom, Joey Sepesy, Conor McGuire, Ben Ravas, and Brian Keim. The team won by a score of 52 to Woodridge’s 59.

After Thursday, October 7 rankings, the Cats are still in fourth. Varsity will have one more regular-season meet at the Legend’s Meet on October 9, and JV and Open runners will run two more meets: Legend’s and the St. Joseph Invitational on October 20. The Madison High School District meet on October 23rd will be an excellent opportunity for any Wildcat fans to catch the Cats racing close to home, so make it out!