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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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Building a program requires hard work and patience, and most of all, a telling moment that indicates things are headed in the right direction.

For Coach Lee Mitchell's Cardinal Stritch boys’ cross country team, that moment came last month when they won their first Toledo Area Athletic Conference title in nearly 15 years.

Mitchell, a veteran cross country coach, his Cardinals finished with 51 points, just ahead of Toledo Christian (52) and Gibsonburg (57).

Tim Lynn led the way with a second place finish in 18 minutes, 15.2 seconds, and teammate Nick Korducki was right behind him in third, running a time of 18:17.4, earning both of them first-team league honors.

StritchCC1 StritchCC2 StritchCC3
Stritch runner Kyle Killian.
(Press photo by Doug Karns
/KateriSchools.org)
Stritch runner Robert Johnson.
(Press photo by Doug Karns
/KateriSchools.org)
Stritch runner Zach Matthews.
(Press photo by Doug Karns
/KateriSchools.org)

Nathaniel Kuhn was eighth (18:42), Robert Johnson 17th (20:41) and Tyler Gawrych finished in 22nd (21:36) to round out the top five with Kyle Killian (23rd) Zach Matthews (30th) and Casey Flowers (35th) also competing.

Lynn qualified for regionals as a freshman and sophomore but failed to do this year because of injuries. Mitchell is hopeful that Lynn will be able to rebound next season.

"It was the first time Stritch has won the boys title since 1999, that was a really big accomplishment for (the athletes)," said Mitchell, now in his third year at Stritch. "Tim Lynn was a consistent No. 1 for us this season. He got some tendonitis in the Achilles' tendon and towards the end of the season we had to sit him out of a few meets. He never fully recovered or completely bounced back."

Korducki and Kuhn, both of whom are sophomores, rotated between the No. 2 and 3 positions this season and Mitchell says they have bright futures.

"They're hard-working kids that get the most out of their talent," Mitchell said. "They did a lot of good things for us this season."

Mitchell also credits Gawrych and Johnson, both of whom are seniors, with helping to provide a solid top five rotation that finished ninth at the district meet.

"Hopefully, we'll get out of districts someday," Mitchell said. "We went to districts and were ninth; we wanted to get into the top four. It's not good enough to just be good in your league. You're always trying to get to that next level."

Mitchell also has high hopes for Zach Matthews.

"He'll be back for us next year," Mitchell said. "We're hoping he can have a great junior year in track. He went to regionals in track in the 400 meters as a freshman. He's a good athlete and we're still hoping we can make him a better cross country runner."

Mitchell says he is trying to make his program increasingly more competitive, not just in the TAAC, but in the district and regional meets.

"If you want to be above a third- or fourth-place team, you're going to have to work your tail off," he said. "We'd like to be more consistent. We want to do things the right way.

"It's good because the parents are involved (and) the administration is involved. I'm happy to be at Strich and we're trying to get things better and be more consistent. We're still trying to figure out how to accomplish those things here. The parents want the kids to do well and the kids know that they're expected to do something with themselves.

"There are schools like Liberty-Benton and Hopewell-Loudon, those schools are good at everything. How do you get kids to buy into that kind of culture? Right now, most of the sports are doing a lot better now."

Much of Mitchell's philosophy comes from the guidance he received during his days at Lakota from football coach Jerry Wasserman and cross country coach Myron Cline, both of whom are in the Ohio High School Coaches Hall of Fame in their respective sports. While competing for Cline, Mitchell led the Raiders to an eighth place finish at state in 1967.

Mitchell, who has coached for 31 seasons at eight different schools, says the year-round commitment is necessary to keep runners in tip-top shape and ensure that they'll have a chance to compete at a high level each fall.

"For cross country, we start running by the middle of June," Mitchell said. "We go all summer and the season ends the first Saturday in November. And there's also indoor track — there is a huge commitment for any sport."

DK-StritchCC1
Stritch runner Kyle Killian. (Press photo by Doug Karns/KateriSchools.org)

DK-StritchCC2
Stritch runner Robert Johnson. (Press photo by Doug Karns/KateriSchools.org)

DK-StritchCC3
Stritch runner Zach Matthews. (Press photo by Doug Karns/KateriSchools.org)

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