June 28, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Cross country: NOC meet like mini state meet

Jonathan Huff | The Gazette

Conference time is here again.

This weekend, Medina County cross country teams run for bragging rights in their respective leagues. Here’s a breakdown of each:

NOC Valley

Medina and Brunswick will return to Garfield Park in Mentor for the third year for the big-school Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division Championships. The Bees have seen the course this year, racing at the Cardinal Classic on Aug. 31.

The NOC provides strong competition in all sports, but cross country may be the stiffest of all. Last year, five NOC boys teams and four NOC girls teams competed in the 16-team state meet. Mentor took the 2012 Valley title for the boys and Brunswick won for the girls.

“Last year we got fifth at conference and we made the state meet,” Medina coach Milt Place said. “Five of the teams in the NOC made the state meet. It’s a tough conference.”

The Strongsville Invite featured five of the six teams, with the Strongsville boys and Brunswick girls finishing best among conference members. But the Medina boys did not use their top runners, skewing those results.

Dylan Dombi

Solon’s Kevin Blank and Hudson’s Kyle Mau battled for first at the Strongsville Invite and are among the favorites along with Medina’s Dylan Dombi and Mentor’s Joe Polakowski.

The team title could go to any of five teams. The difference will come down to grouping. Hudson and Solon could have duos in the top 10 but Mentor, Medina and Strongsville could have a smaller gap between their scoring runners.

Things look clearer for the girls, as Brunswick has been dominant throughout the year. Vanessa Pasadyn will be racing near the front, but the Blue Devils’ strength comes in their team. They can put all five scorers in the top 20 and have this year.

Second place should be tight between Medina, Hudson and Solon. Solon will have Louiza Wise and Geneva Sandridge competing for the win, but Medina is more consistent throughout.

The individual race should be between Wise and Pasadyn. Wise got the better of Pasadyn in three races through the year.

Suburban League

The early season Super Duals set the tone for the year in the Suburban League. The Tallmadge boys and Nordonia girls have proven to be two of the toughest teams not just in the league, but in the region.

Tallmadge’s Patrick Ferguson looks to repeat his Super Duals first place. Second place should be a fight between Tallmadge’s Brian McGovern, Green’s Noah Schaub and Stewart Schmidt and Nordonia’s Zac Thaxton and Charlie Korodi. Jon Bach of Wadsworth will be in that group as well.

With so many runners from so many teams fighting for those top spots, the team competition will be tough. After Tallmadge, the teams are hard to call.

“Tallmadge right now is top dog,” Wadsworth coach John Burton said. “Nordonia really looked good at Medina. I would like to compete with them. Our goal is to get into that top-three range.”

Like Tallmadge, the Nordonia girls are by far the best. Led by Leah Vasarhelyi, the Knights come into the meet with victories at the Strongsville Invite and Medina Festival. Vasarhelyi is expected to win individually.

Cloverleaf’s Ashley Murray will challenge, however. With Murray and Riley Freeland, the Colts hope to improve on their Super Duals finish of seventh.

“We’ve dug ourselves a hole,” Cloverleaf coach Garth Gucker said. “We’re going to focus on where we finish Saturday. That’s our push. We could be second as a team.”

Patriot Athletic Conference

After a turn of events, Buckeye will host the Patriot Athletic Conference Championships. With a conflict of events at the Lorain County Equestrian Center, Buckeye was awarded the meet.

Racing on their home course should give a little inspiration to Colin Theis and his Bucks teammates. Theis is favored to take the PAC title after his win at the conference Icebreaker in August. Since the Icebreaker, he has performed well every week, including second place at the Tiffin Carnival.

Icebreaker runner-up Creighton Jensen of Brookside is the No. 2 runner coming into the meet, but Black River’s Tanner Hawley and Firelands’ Brennen Crawford will compete for spots in the top three. Crawford and Hawley went first and second at last weekend’s Dan Olien Invite.

Behind Theis and Aidan Gallagher, the Bucks look for a fourth straight PAC championship. The team finished fourth at the Icebreaker. Fairview won that meet, but the Bucks topped won at the J.B. Firestone Invite on Sep. 21. Keystone’s Shannon Wargo returns to defend her PAC girls title. With four runners in the top 15 at the Icebreaker, the Wildcats look to be the team to beat. Lutheran West will challenge with Michaela Bierly battling Wargo.

Contact Jonathan Huff at sports@medina-gazette.com.

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