ELYRIA — There’s still work to be done, but Buckeye’s cross country program accomplished its missions at Saturday’s Elyria District, as the boys and girls teams advanced to regionals for second straight year.
The No. 13-ranked boys qualified with a third-place finish by scoring 95 points at the Elyria D-II event behind No. 8 Bay (44) and No. 21 Rocky River (82). For the second straight year, the Bucks qualified on the strength of a 1-2 finish by seniors Ryan Gallagher (16:30.32) and J.J. Grzincic (16:59.28).
The Buckeye girls (82) also qualified third behind defending champ Padua (39) and Holy Name (65).
“It was a good race,” Gallagher said. “Nothing crazy fast, but nothing easy-slow — just nice and consistent.
“I just focused on breathing and made sure that I was keeping on the same pace.”
Gallagher’s tough company at Tiffin includes by Defiance senior Abel Flores (16:02.59) and Van Wert senior Jared Fleming (16:10.56), who finished 2-3 at last year’s regional. Gallagher was only seventh (16:31.31) in 2011 at lightening fast Hedges Boyer Park, but came back the following weekend to finish sixth at state in 15:59.75, while Flores was second (15:41.35).
“I’ve been there (regionals). I know what it’s supposed to feel like,” Gallagher said. “I know how to race it. It’s nothing new. It’s just racing to get to state. Top 16 is what you go for. The standings online help. I know what jerseys to look for. I know who I’m supposed to be pacing with, at least at the start. The finish is always fast so it’s really who with that counts.”
Grzincic missed state last year by 13 places and 18 seconds (29th, 17:06.14), so he knows that he needs to be firing on all cylinders to have a shot.
“I wasn’t feeling well this week. My back was hurting,” he said. “I slipped a little the opening mile and it started tightening up. It was hard, but the main goal was going 1-2 with Ryan. We got that, so that was important.
It was windy, but the course wasn’t as waterlogged as last year. Next week will be nice with all people. It helps to carry you through. It’s a quick course.”
Freshman Colin Theis (13th, 17:52.35), senior Bob Auber (38th, 19:02.19) and freshman Aidan Gallagher (43rd, 19:19.91) rounded out the Buckeye boys’ top five.
Sophomore Isabelle Petek (sixth, 22:24.14), junior Emma Franz (11th, 23:13.29) and senior Jordan Walker (14th, 23:17.78) led the Buckeye girls. Junior Erica Fauver (23rd, 24:11.94) and sophomore Mady Williams (29th, 24:35.55) rounded out the top five.
Black River senior Gus Kazek earned his third straight regional ticket as he placed fourth in 17:09.98.
Contact Paul Heyse at 440-329-7135 or email@example.com.