Jon Huff | The Gazette
LAGRANGE — With the shrill of a whistle and the blast of a starter’s pistol, the cross country season started for Cloverleaf, Buckeye and Black River at the Patriot Athletic Conference Icebreaker.
For county runners, the season started with a bang at the Lorain County Metro Parks Equestrian Center.
Cloverleaf’s Ashley Murray won the girls race in emphatic fashion. She finished in 20:00.70, more than a minute faster than second place.
“It went really well,” Murray said. “I felt pretty good and I felt strong. I just wish I had known where the half-mile point was so I could’ve kicked it in sooner.”
Murray led the race almost wire to wire. After the course’s first loop, she had a commanding lead and never let it go.
“I wanted to go a little slower and work my way up there,” she said. “But I got caught up in the race because I don’t like people being in front of me. I’m a lead pack racer.”
True to their Colt Pack name, the Cloverleaf girls stayed packed together. Riley Freeland finished sixth and Anna Winnicki was 10th. The five scoring Cloverleaf girls finished in the top 20 spots, and they ran away with the team title.
“I think the team did really well,” Murray said. “I think in upcoming years we can surprise some people. We really packed up at the end. I couldn’t do anything without my team.”
The Buckeye girls finished fourth. Isabelle Petek led the Bucks, grabbing 12th place. Erica Flauver finished 16th.
With only three girls running, Black River did not compete in the team standings. Sarah Kelley finished in 25th, while Angie Kazek was 45th.
In a fashion similar to Murray’s, Buckeye’s Colin Theis took the boys race. From lead pack to finish line, Theis coasted into the chute at 17:26.41.
“I was supposed to stay a little bit behind the leaders the first mile or so, and then Coach (Jon Brenenstuhl) told me to take off, if I could,” Theis said.
He did just that, finishing 30 seconds ahead of second place.
Cloverleaf’s Andrew Jarrett had a comfortable third-place finish. Black River’s Tanner Hawley and Buckeye’s Aidan Gallagher took seventh and ninth, respectively.
Unlike the girls race, the team competition looked wide open for the boys. Each of the top eight runners represented a different school.
When the official results came in, Fairview had finished first. Buckeye claimed Medina County bragging rights in fourth. Cloverleaf finished ahead of Black River for sixth.
For all the coaches, the early season meet let them get a look at their teams.
“I thought we did well on both the boys and girls side,” Buckeye’s Brenenstuhl said. “There’s definitely room for improvement, which is what you want to see at this time of the year.
“We run this course twice a year, so most of our kids are really familiar with it. For the girls, it was see where they’ll fit in. We have a lot of new runners. After today, you can see what girls are going to be in your top five, top seven.”
“There’s always a balance between excitement and a little bit of race anxiety,” Cloverleaf coach Garth Gucker said. “I think today was a good race for the girls to start out on. They worked really well together. I thought it was a good team race for us today. I thought the boys did a really good job of being patient. Our message today was don’t get caught up in the first half mile, don’t get too anxious and burn up, and the boys did a good job of that as well. And they did a really good job of finishing strong.
“Obviously, Andy with a third-place finish for the boys and Ashley with a first-place finish for the girls, that’s a great way for them to start out their individual seasons as well.”
“It’s a base to see how the guys are doing,” Black River coach Adam Laskos said. “I think there’s still a lot of work to do. I think we have a lot of potential with our team. … It was just getting that first race out of the way and remembering what it’s like to run a 5K.”
Contact Jon Huff at firstname.lastname@example.org.