Led by junior Ryan Avers, the Woodmore boys cross country team is hoping for big things.
Twice this season, Woodmore has finished second as a team, doing so at the Cardinal Stritch Invititational and the Lakota Invite.
At the Stritch meet, competing in a race featuring 155 runners, Avers was seventh (17:27), followed by Joey McTague (17th in 17:51), Jordan Buck (18th in 17:53), Grant Matweijwzyk (23rd in 18:14) and Nick Emerine (48th in 18:58).
At the Lakota Invite (192 runners), Avers finished fourth in 17:02, followed by Buck (10th in 17:17), McTague, (14th in 17:29), Matweijwzyk, (29th in 17:57) and Emerine (42nd in 18:24).
Avers has consistently been Woodmore's top runner, followed by the tandem of Buck and McTague and Matweijwzyk and Emerine. Freshmen Jacob Amstutz and Noah Cable are the other varsity runners. Should Amstutz and Cable continue to improve, they'll be in line to replace Buck and McTague next season.
“I feel pretty good (about where we are),” Avers said. “We’re working together, pushing our limits, doing hard workouts and the hard work pays off. We’re trying to get a team to regionals and compete with Lake for third place in the Northern Buckeye Conference. And we’re trying to get into regionals and hopefully get to state.”
Success is nothing new to the Wildcats. The team finished third at the NBC championships last year and fourth at the Division III district meet, earning a spot at regionals.
Avers says that coach Mike Moreno has the team doing a number of training exercises to build speed and endurance. Practice consists of an array of work exercises, among them speed workouts, hill workouts, 800-meter runs and long-distance runs.
“(Coach Moreno) pushes us, but he doesn’t want to push us too hard for it. You've got to be careful and hope you don't have injuries,” Ayers said.
The Wildcats did lose two key runners from last season, Kaleb Perez, a regional qualifier, and Matt Robleski. Perez, who earned first-team NBC honors after finishing seventh last year, was also a regional qualifier. It's a credit to Buck, a senior, and Emerine, a sophomore, that they've been able to step up and fill the roles filled by Perez and Robleski's graduation.
Avers credits his teammates for the job they've done this year.
“Grant started kicking it in this year. He’s been putting a lot of effort in,” said Avers, who's been running cross country since he was in seventh grade. “Jordan stepped up and is doing pretty well. Jordan and Joey go back and forth as our second and third runners and Nick is doing well as our No. 5.”
The cross country runners train extensively in the summer, too. During the winter, Avers plays basketball, where he saw varsity action last season and is considering running track in the spring.
“We had a running camp this summer,” Avers said. “We ran around parks and did some hill workouts. We pushed ourselves running about nine miles per day during the summer to get our endurance up and get ready for the meets.”