Over the last decade, Medina’s boys cross country team has made a habit of making annual trips to the state meet in November.
After earning the final state bid from the Tiffin Division I Regional last fall, the Bees extended their streak to nine and are poised to keep the good times going.
It won’t be easy, however, with the graduation of seven of their top 10 runners.
“We are going to have a nice top three in Dylan Dombi, Dan Schwendler and Kevin Menyes,” said coach Milt Place, whose program has produced 28 collegiate runners in the last nine years. “We need to find a fourth and fifth runner who can get under 17 minutes if we are going to have a chance to get back to the state meet.”
Like Medina, Brunswick also will look to make a return trip to state and extend its own streak to three, but will have to replace a host a talented runners.
Buckeye was a regional team a year ago and won another Patriot Athletic Conference title, but will need to fill the big shoes left from the graduation of two-time Gazette MVP Ryan Gallagher.
Here’s a look at Medina County’s seven teams:
Coach: Adam Laskos (6th season).
Assistant coaches: Colleen LaHood, Robert Altenburger.
Last season: 5th PAC, 9th Lorain D-II District.
Key letterwinners lost: Gus Kazek (All-Gazette), Anton Hsia, Brett Harrenton, Alex Vonderau.
Returning letterwinners: Justin Beltowski (jr.), Triston Hornbeck (jr.), Casey Skala (jr.), Tanner Hawley (so.).
Top newcomers: Walter Polanski (so.), Derrick Kuntz (so.), Tyler Hornbeck (fr.).
Outlook: With the graduation of Kazek, a regional qualifier, Triston Hornbeck and Hawley will look to fill the void.
“Those two will be working together to lead our team,” Laskos said. “We are going to be looking to get the team to run together and push each other, developing a pack mentality.”
Tyler Hornbeck, Skala and Beltowski are slated to round out the top five. Beltowski is poised for a breakout season, according to Laskos, after recovering from an injury.
Coach: Kerry Hunter (25th season).
Assistant coaches: Melissa Wojtala, John Reminder.
Last season: 4th NOC Valley, 3rd Strongsville D-I District, 3rd Tiffin D-I Regional, 13th D-I state.
Key letterwinners lost: Tyler Menear (All-Gazette), Jake Mehalik, Cody Bukszar, Logan Indre, Josh Sumerauer.
Returning letterwinners: Ben Eyssen (sr.), Dan Maher (sr.), Tim Bizon (so.).
Top newcomers: Tyler Decuzzi (sr.), Josh Ogorzaly (fr.), Andre Godbott-Bollam (fr.).
Outlook: Hunter will be learning meet by meet as his team looks to replace its top five runners from a year ago. The Blue Devils return Bizon and Eyssen, who ran in the 16:35 range last year and will set the pace for a young group that is ready to form its own identity.
“We have a lot of spots to fill,” said Hunter, whose team was one of four Valley Division squads to advance to state in 2012. “We probably won’t know who we are until the halfway point of the season.”
Coach: Jon Brenenstuhl (3rd season).
Assistant coaches: Joe Srodek, Lisa Auber.
Last season: 1st PAC, 3rd Lorain D-II District, 8th Tiffin D-II Regional.
Key letterwinners lost: Ryan Gallagher (Gazette MVP), J.J. Grzincic (All-Gazette), Bobby Auber.
Returning letterwinners: Colin Theis (so.), Aidan Gallagher (so.), Michael Keith (sr.), Chance Ziegler (sr.).
Top newcomers: Matt Shook (fr.), Ray Mier (fr.).
Outlook: The Bucks have won four of the last five PAC championships and have had a hand in six crowns since the league was established in 2005. With the loss of Ryan Gallagher and fellow All-Gazette first-teamer Grzincic, the Bucks will be counting on underclassmen to keep the good times rolling. Sophomores Theis and Aidan Gallagher will lead a unit that has great potential. Theis ran a personal-best 16:53.9 at the Malone Invitational last fall.
Coach: Garth Gucker (3rd season).
Assistant coach: Marty Ryan.
Last season: 8th SL, 11th Strongsville D-I District.
Key letterwinners lost: Chris Markeson, Teryn Lefevre, Jacob Wolf.
Returning letterwinners: Kevin Martin (sr.), Josh Butt (sr.), Corey Grabowski (sr.), Jacob Scott (sr.), David Berchtold (jr.), Andrew Jarrett (jr.), Darren Egner (jr.), Jared Wamsley (jr.), Michael Martin (so.).
Top newcomers: Adam Goodreau (sr.), Daniel Chudzinski (jr.), Cameron Billy (fr.), Matthew Butt (fr.).
Outlook: Junior Josh Butt had the team’s lowest time a year ago at 18:03.8 and will be joined by fellow returnees Jarrett and Berchtold. Goodreau, an All-Gazette swimmer and first-year runner, will look to provide some depth.
Coach: Josh Victor (18th season).
Assistant coaches: None.
Last season: 5th SL, 9th Strongsville D-I District.
Key letterwinners lost: Cole Vandenberg (All-Gazette), Stuart Arbuckle, Ryan Wilber.
Returning letterwinners: Jason Hadchiti (sr.), Alex Knoer (sr.), Ian Alred (jr.), Maison Dewalt (so.).
Top newcomers: Miles Howell (fr.), Ben Rife (fr.), Nick Kuhl (fr.).
Outlook: After losing a pair of All-SL selections to graduation in Vandenberg and Arbuckle, the Hornets will be banking on youth to improve on last season’s fifth-place SL finish. A handful of letterwinners combined with freshmen Howell, Rife and Kuhl have Victor hopeful the progress will be there come season’s end.
“Development is this season’s word,” Victor said. “We are a very young team. Our focus will be on improving from one race to the next.”
Hadchiti has the top time out of the returnees, clocking 17:57.6 at districts.
Coach: Milt Place (16th season).
Assistant coach: Ed Dargay.
Last season: 5th NOC Valley, 4th Strongsville D-I District, 4th Tiffin D-I Regional, 16th D-I state.
Key letterwinners lost: Tommy Menyes (All-Gazette), Ian McKee, Ken Kutcel, Billy Mainwaring, Ton Kall, Jesse Rudolph, Chris Liatti.
Returning letterwinners: Dan Schwendler (sr., All-Gazette), Dylan Dombi (sr.), Kevin Menyes (so.), Jake French (jr.), Ian Mariner (sr.), Will Hastings (so.), Josh Mone (so.), Steve Stenquist (so.), Brian Fotheringham (so.), Ben Loeper (so.).
Top newcomers: Noah Rose (jr.), Matt Stump (fr.), Nick Schmeller (fr.), Jimmy Foy (fr.), Eric Breeden (fr.).
Outlook: Schwendler is one of two returnees — Dombi is the other — to post sub-17 minute times last season, with a best of 16:29.1 clocked in an 86th-place finish at state. The time is the fastest of any returning runner in the county. Dombi (16:37.7) and Menyes (17:23.3) also are back as the Bees will use early-season meets to find the right combination and fill the lower half of the lineup while competing in one of the toughest conferences in the state.
Coach: John Burton (2nd season).
Assistant coaches: None.
Last season: 2nd SL, 6th Strongsville D-I District.
Key letterwinners lost: None.
Returning letterwinners: Jeff Beatty (sr.), Ben Murphy (sr.), Theo Bach (sr.), Cameron Croughan (jr.), Mike Hillegass (jr.), Jon Bach (so.), Brady Dearth (so.).
Top newcomers: None submitted.
Outlook: After making significant progress a year ago in finishing runner-up in the SL, the Grizzlies are a year older and a year wiser. Seniors Beatty, Murphy and Bach will lead the way.
“I believe our strength lies in having good senior leadership,” Burton said. “Both Jeff and Ben broke the 17-minute mark last year and they have individual goals of improving upon those times. Theo had a great track season in terms of individual improvement and I’m looking forward to that translating over to cross.”
Combine those veterans with Croughan and Bach and the Grizzlies feature a deep lineup.
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.