July 24, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Young Blue Devils not feeling pressure

Highland's Cole Vandenberg will be competing this weekend in the Suburban League Championships. (Judd Smerglia / photo)

Eric Barnes

The Gazette

Young and carefree.

That’s a way to describe Brunswick’s girls cross country team as it prepares for Saturday’s Northeast Ohio Conference Championship at Garfield Park in Mentor.

The Blue Devils are the reigning Division I state champions, but coach Kerry Hunter said they’re not worried about living up to expectations.

“I don’t think they feel any pressure from that,” Hunter said. “Tara (Horton) and Hannah (Meyer) are the only two on this team that ran on the state team.”

Led by freshman Vanessa Pasadyn, the young Brunswick girls — only runner is a senior — seem more focused on creating their own legacy.

“It’s good,” Hunter said. “They’re just kind of moving ahead and having fun. They’re just enjoying it.”

Who wouldn’t have fun with how their season is shaping up?

The Blue Devils have six athletes running times that are among the fastest in Medina County. Pasadyn and fellow ninth-grader Jenna Scott lead the area, while junior Tara Horton and sophomores Emily LaPolla, Hannah Meyer and Katie Pavlick also rank in the top eight. Brunswick’s seventh runner, senior Anastasia Fitzroy, also is in the mix as a top-20 performer.

“Right now, they are pretty much where we expected them to be,” Hunter said. “It’s a pretty talented group.”

Brunswick placed second last season at the NOC Championship. Medina’s girls were third.

The Bees are also young, with only one senior.

Medina has been led this season by junior Maria Scavuzzo and sophomore Sarah Pack. Joining them are senior Alexis Smith, juniors Sidney VanLeeuwen, Kathryn Grenfell and Tessa Dombi and freshman Aliah Keller.

Brunswick’s boys have suffered from inconsistency.

“We’ll have three guys run well one week, and then the next week it’s three totally different guys,” Hunter said. “We can’t get seven on the same page at the same time.”

Hunter hopes the Blue Devils turned the corner last week.

Senior Tyler Menear put together his best race of his season, winning the Legends meet at the Trumbull County Fairgrounds with a season-best 16:39.

“He’s been struggling,” Hunter said of Menear. “He was thinking about it too much or something. I told him, ‘Tyler, just go run. Get up front and run with those guys.’ That’s what he did.”

Along with Menear will be seniors Jake Mehalik, Cody Bukszar and Josh Summerauer, juniors Dan Maher and Ben Eyssen, and freshman Tim Bizon.

Medina’s boys are deep and are coming off a victory at the Medina Festival last week.

Seniors Tommy Menyes, Ken Kutcel and Ian McKee join juniors Dan Schwendler and Dylan Dombi as the runners to watch.

Suburban League

Wadsworth’s girls are the defending champions, but 2012 is a different season.

The stars from last season, Paige Szabat and Nicole Cargill, have graduated, and Wadsworth has had to get by without a guaranteed frontrunner on the roster. Throw in adversity and it’s been less than a dream season.

“It’s definitely been a learning year for all of us, myself included,” Wadsworth coach Michelle Farr said. “We had some girls battling illnesses and injuries, and some who hadn’t run over the summer and are now getting into the groove. Our varsity lineup has been a revolving door, with only two girls on our team who have remained in the top seven all year.”

Cara Powell has Wadsworth’s best time of the season at 20:35. Julia Drury (20:38) and Moira Priest (20:50) are also among the county leaders.

“Cara, Moira, & Julia have had some great meets this year, and they’ll all have to be on at the same time,” Farr said. “Kenzi Hines is starting to regain her stride after having serious asthma issues this fall, as well as Kassidy Deuber, who battled mono most of the season.”

“We’re going to have to rely on all seven of our girls running a tight pack. I truly have no idea how our order will play out.”

Highland’s girls have been solid all year, as Nicole Hadler, Carlee Rhodes and Maggie Christopher have kept the Hornets in the thick of it.

Hadler and Rhodes finished second and third, respectively, a month ago at the SL Super Duals.

Cloverleaf’s top runner is senior Ashley Murray, who is among the county leaders with a season-best 20:32.

On the boys side, Highland is looking for redemption after a less-than-stellar performance at the SL Super Duals.

“We were totally embarrassed by the way we ran at the Super Duals,” coach Josh Victor said. “We still have trouble with our (No.) 4 and 5 runners, but we are far better than we showed in early September.”

At the top of the Hornets roster is Cole Vandenberg. Clocking the sixth-best time in the county, Vandenberg is having a good senior season.

“Cole has really worked hard in the off season and has learned to pace himself throughout the race,” Victor said. “He gets stronger toward the end of the race.”

While Vandenberg is consistently Highland’s top runner, Stuart Arbuckle turned in a fifth-place finish to lead the team at the Super Duals. Arbuckle’s fastest time of the season (17:16) puts him in the county’s 25.

Victor said his team works hard and has shown faster times as the season goes along.

“I have been pleased with the teams continued improvement, especially my 4 and 5 runner,” he said. “They are trying their best to run in the middle 18s. That’s all I can ask of them.”

Junior Jeff Batey is the fastest for Wadsworth, which boasts three of the top 21 runners the county. Batey is fifth in the area with a season-low 16:35. Ben Murphy (16:43) and Cameron Croghan (17:11) give the Grizzlies a solid core to compete at the conference championship.

Patriot Athletic Conference

Expect a three-way battle for the top spots in the boys race.

Last season, Buckeye’s Ryan Gallagher and J.J. Grzincic and Black River’s Gus Kazek were 1-2-3.

Don’t be surprised if history repeats Saturday at the Lorain County Equestrian Center.

“If they run a smart race and a good race, there’s no reason why they can’t do that again,” Buckeye coach Jon Brenenstuhl said of his top runners.

Gallagher leads the county with a best time of 15:45, while Grzincic is second at 15:58. They are both seniors, and Brenenstuhl said the two complement each other on the course.

“J.J. is very relaxed. He has an easy-going personality,” Brenenstuhl said. “He’s a great runner, and so is Ryan. They compete against each other, but they’re teammates, too. Ryan is really focused and works hard. I think Ryan helps J.J. stay focused, and J.J. helps Ryan relax and have fun.”

Behind Gallagher and Grzincic’s effort, the Bucks won last year’s championship.

Other Bucks to watch are senior Bobby Auber and freshman Colin Theis, who also ranks among the county’s top 15.

The Buckeye girls look to repeat as conference champions as well.

Saturday will be the first time since the second meet of the season all seven of the Bucks’ top girls will be running together.

Battling injuries for most of the season, Buckeye has not been up to full strength.

“I think we’re probably there right at the most important part of the season,” Brenenstuhl said.

Buckeye’s most consistent runner has been sophomore Isabelle Petek, who is among the county’s top 25.

Joining Petek are seniors Ryhanna Wroblesky, Jordan Walker and Denell Cormany, juniors Emma Franz and Erika Fauver, and sophomore Mady Williams.

Contact Eric Barnes at sports@medina-gazette.com.