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A District Championship for the Cat Pack

By Matt Kelly '22, 10/28/21, 11:30AM EDT


The Cross Country Cats won the District Championship, while the JV Cats wrapped up their season with a win.

The Cross Country Cats rounded out the regular season at the Legend’s Meet and the St. Joseph Academy Race. At these races, Varsity and JV ended their regular season with victories, and the seniors ran their last race on a home course with many PRs. The Legend’s race for the three postseason alternate runner spots also created one of the most exciting competitions of the year, with Caleb DelaCruz, Christian Wolke, and Aiden Walter being named alternates for the 2021 postseason team.

On October 9th, the Varsity, JV, and Open Cross Country Cats ran at the Legend’s Meet in Trumbull County. In the Varsity race, the Cats took first place against a strong field, and in the JV/Open race, the Cats earned second place by a slim margin.

At the Legend’s Meet, the Cats faced their worst course of the season. Although historically an excellent course for a PR, rain throughout the week and eight races before the JV/Open race created a 5-kilometer mudslide. Long stretches of the narrow path featured nothing but torn up the earth, and times from the races before the Cats were very slow.

However, these poor conditions gave rise to tremendous intrasquad competition. At this last race before the postseason, the JV/Open race featured a battle among the non-varsity runners for Wildcats to earn alternate positions on the postseason team. In the end, after a long struggle of rotating positions and racing antics, Caleb DelaCruz, Christian Wolke, and Aiden Walter were the top three for the Cats and earned each man’s first spot on a postseason team. Cael Luecke, Brendan McGraw, Will Nicklas, and Mick Polito were closely behind were finishing off the Cats’Cats’ top seven. These seven finished 2-3-8-9-13-16-18, suitable for a top-five total of 35.

Included in this race were many exceptional close finishes between teammates, often less than a second apart:

  • Mick Polito and Joey Sepesy finished at 19:52.2 and 19:52.9.
  • Conor Mcguire and Aidan Zielinski finished at 19:59.2 and 19:59.4.
  • Matthew Muntean and Tim Schmelter finished in 20:02.0 and 20:02.2.
  • Shivam Pandya and John Scally finished at 20:16.0 and 20:16.1.
  • Tyler Chahulski and Brian Keim finished at 22:19.4 and 22:20.5.

The Cats showed their competitiveness and ability to push each other to the finish, demonstrating the teams' camaraderie this year. On a slow course, the JV/Open Cats ran ferociously and ran great times, given the conditions.

In the Varsity race, the 11th and last race of the day, the Cats continued to fight the mud. The Cats finished 7-8-15-19-20-(39)-(48) for a five-person score of 69 with many slow times. The Varsity Cats ended their regular season undefeated, with this win also-attending #5 St. Edward scoring 75, #8 Louisville scoring 88, and #13 Massilon Perry scoring 133.

Matt Kelly and Sean Uhran finished together at 16:58 and 17:03 for 7th and 8th. Danny Becker ran 17:25 for 15th, and John Corrigan and Alex Paliga continued the JV Cats’Cats’ finish-line dramatics, running 17:34 and 17:35 in a tight finish! Freddy Becker and Ronan Donnelly ran 18:15 and 18:32, respectively, as the Cats six and seven guys.

On October 20th, the JV and Open teams ran their final season at the St. Joseph Academy Mastick Race. In this race, the JV/Open Cats had a rematch against St. Edward from 11 days prior and won first place! Many runners ran mammoth PRs.

While the Mastick course is known as a PR haven for its post-taper season timing and flat, dry, and familiar terrain, nobody could prepare for what the JV and Open Cats would do at the Rocky River Reservation in their final race of 2021. In the three-team, 96 individual race, the Cats scored 2-3-4-6-11-(15)-(19) for 26 points and first place over St. Edward’s 30 and Mentor’s 73. Christian Wolke, Owen Rodstrom, and Aiden Walter were the top three Cats in earth-shaking, tower-crumbling PR times of 16:56, 17:00, and 17:10. What’s more impressive is that the subsequent four runners for the Cats also PR’d by an average of 51 seconds, with Caleb DelaCruz dropping his best from 17:56 to 17:19, Cael Luecke improving from 18:14 to 17:46, Shivam Pandya falling from 18:57 to 17:50, and Tim Schmelter diving from 19:08 to 17:50.

Out of the 31 Saint Ignatius runners at the Mastick race, 26 ran an all-time personal best! Other notable improvements include Evan Richter, who dropped from 19:20 to 18:10, Aaron Rodstrom from 21:35 to 20:46, and Peter Spellacy from 19:09 to 18:34. The seniors who ran their final cross country race at Mastick were Braeden Pentz, Brian Keim, Conor Mcguire, Dominic Wilson, Sam Ripepi, Christian Wolke, and Owen Rodstrom. These seniors ran well throughout the season and in their final race. Congratulations to these Cats and Carmen Caserio, Joey Sepesy, Ben Ravas and Will Leahy on their senior seasons!

The Varsity Cross Country team has completed the first of three steps toward a State Championship in the 2021 season. The Wildcats won the District Championship at Madison High School on October 23rd to give the program its fourth straight District Championship, and the 2021 Varsity Cats their fifth victory of the year. The team averaged a time of 16:30.95 with a:36.00 spread from 1-5, with the seven runners for the Cats placing 2-4-6-9-16-34-35 to score 37 points, defeating second-place Mentor by 35 points and 3rd place Solon by 70 points.

Sean Uhran led the way for the Wildcats in second place with a time of 16:14. Matt Kelly and Danny Becker followed in fourth and sixth in 16:26 and 16:27, and John Corrigan scored ninth in a time of 16:35. Alex Paliga was the fifth man in 16:50 for 16th place, and Freddy Becker and Ronan Donnelly displaced other runners as the Cats’ 6-7 in 17:13 and 17:14 for 34th and 35th.

The eight teams that advanced from the Madison District were St. Ignatius, Mentor, Solon, Chardon, Kenston, Nordonia, Painesville Riverside, and University School. These eight teams and three individuals from Madison will race on October 30th at the OHSAA Regional Championship-Youngstown at Boardman High School. Two other districts of 8 teams and individuals, Glenoak and Lorain County Community College, will also join the Cats at Boardman. 

The #4 ranked Wildcats are currently favored to win the Regional Championship, but they will have to get past several state-ranked teams, including:

#5 St. Edward (LCCC District Champions)

#6 Massilon Jackson (3rd at Glenoak)

#8 Louisville (Glenoak District Champions)

#9 Hoover (4th at Glenoak)

#11 Massilon Perry (2nd at Glenoak)

#12 Glenoak (5th at Glenoak)

#17 Medina (2nd at LCCC)

#18 Solon (3rd at Madison)

#21 Aurora, (6th at Glenoak)

#23 Mentor (2nd at Madison)

#26 Brunswick (3rd at LCCC).

The top eight teams from the Youngstown Regional Championship qualify for the State Championship on November 6th. The Youngstown Region, one of four regional races in the state, features seven of the top 12 teams and will qualify eight teams, compared to two from the Tiffin region, five from the Pickerington North region, and five from the Troy Region. 

Louisville appeared the Wildcats' most robust competition at their district meet, averaging 16:15.57 at the Glenoak course for 88 points and the win. Massillon Jackson, the Cats’ highest-ranked opponent, struggled at their district meet but have run six runners under 16:40 this year and could have Alex Zuckett and Elliot Zuckett as two potentially very low scorers to contribute to a well-scoring team.

The Cats have defeated St. Edward all three times the teams have faced this year, but their most recent matchup came to only a six-point margin at Legend’s. Overall and the Wildcats need all five scorers to run well to win the Regional Championship.

The regional title is more up for grabs than any year in recent memory on the individual side. The three individual district champions competing at Boardman include Thomas Rice, running 15:33 at Glenoak, Luke Ondracek, running 15:49 at LCCC, and Luke Danison, running 16:01 at Madison. Other top contenders include Evan Jarold, Evan Bork, Blaze Fichter, Colby Adams, Nick Plant, Alex Keller, Bobby Ganser. Still, Sean Uhran and Matt Kelly have the ability to run with this pack as well and compete for the coveted, 1-point-scoring, individual championship.

The Cats will race at 4 p.m. at the regional meet, the sixth and final race of the day of the DIII, DII, and DI championship meet. On top of the historically slow Boardman High School course, rain is expected to downpour all-day Friday and Saturday in Boardman. Like the Cats’ district race, the race will be cold, wet, and muddy and will go to the most demanding team and individual. Come bundled up and support the Cats!