LaGRANGE â€” Victory was especially sweet for the Black Riverâ€™s boys cross country team as it won its first conference title in 20 years at Saturdayâ€™s third annual Patriot Athletic Conference meet at the Lorain County Equestrian Center.
Black River placed five runners in the top 10 as it defeated two-time defending champ Buckeye, 23-40.
The Bucks defeated the Pirates in a highly controversial meet last year. In 2006, Buckeye beat Black River via the sixth-runner tiebreaker after the two teams tied at 33.
The controversy involved the Piratesâ€™ No. 7 man, Taehyung Kim. The South Korea exchange student became slightly disoriented at the finish line and was allegedly passed by several more runners in the finish chute. As a result, Buckeye won the tiebreaker 15 to 16.
This time around, Black River left nothing to chance.
Seniors Robert Altenburger (17:45) and Brian Bush (17:52) finished 1-2 overall. Senior Dave Kindall (fourth, 18:20), senior Jim Randolph (sixth, 18:34) and freshman Matt Ross (10th, 18:47) also finished in the top 10.
â€œWe had a score to settle,â€ Altenburger said. â€œIt made us want to win it more. It gave us a little more motivation because we knew we could do it.
â€œToday was special. I guess this proves weâ€™re a force to be reckoned with.â€
Black River last won a league title at the 1987 Firelands Conference meet.
â€œIt would have been nice for our two seniors from last year (Chris Hudak and Scott Krieder) if they could have been around for this,â€ Black River coach Eric Yetter said. â€œThey were a big part in terms of planting the seed for whole thing. It carried through into this year. We finished what that group started.â€
The significance didnâ€™t slip past Yetter.
â€œWe talked about all week how we hadnâ€™t done this as a school since 1987,â€ said Yetter. â€œI didnâ€™t have to say much to get them motivated for this. The task primarily was to stay focused, donâ€™t take anything for granted. They saw the writing on the wall.â€
Behind junior Mandy Culley of Westlake, the Lutheran West girls finished second to defending champ Buckeye. The Bucks won their third straight title over the Longhorns, 25-65.
Culley was fourth overall in 21:30 as she finished behind Buckeyeâ€™s Deven Karr (20:24), Jessie Yagel (21:15) and Leighann Giriunas (21:17). Last year, Culley was only 15th at conference in 22:39.
The Buckeye girls finished the day on top of the world as freshman Karr and Yagel, sophomore Giriunas and senior Julie Kotesovec earned First Team All-Conference honors.
Bucks coach Shirley Van Epp was elated with how her team performed.
â€œIt was awesome; I was so pleased. I said in the beginning of the year that my freshman would play a huge role in our teamâ€™s performance this year,â€ Van Epp said. â€œIt was a strong win. It really was a good finish.â€