Comet harriers get first-ever league championship

J. Patrick Eaken

The Woodmore girls cross country team took the first three places, but Genoa used its depth to the school’s first ever league championship at the Northern Buckeye Conference meet.
        “This is the first high school girls cross country league title for Genoa since the girls cross country program started in 1986,” Genoa coach Brett Strickland said.
        “This particular group of girls has been raising the bar for cross country at Genoa for the past few years. They've been runner-up in the NBC for the past three years. In 2017, they lost on a tie breaker.
        “Our motto this year was ‘One More,’ which means pass one more person and get one more point for the team, and we definitely had 2017 in mind when we came up with it. That's what happened on Saturday. The girls were able to overcome a state-ranked squad because they ran as a team, and every girl fought to get one more point,” Strickland continued.
Genoa narrowly defeated Woodmore 37-39, followed by Eastwood (63), Elmwood (95), Otsego (124) and Rossford (176).
        “We knew it was going to come down to Genoa and Woodmore, and that the winner would probably be decided by only five points, so every runner mattered and the girls knew that going in. Woodmore has some very fast girls up front, and (Woodmore coach) Mike Moreno always gets the best out of his runners, but we have a lot of depth.
        “We won by two points, so every girl had to do her job or we would have lost. It really was a true team win, and people who say cross country isn't a team sport have never seen a race like Saturday’s.” 
Woodmore’s top three NBC placers were freshman Olivia Vogelpohl, the individual champion (19:53), followed by juniors Ava Beam (19:53) and Olivia Thatcher (20:21).
Fostoria junior Haili Oneal (21:17) took fourth, and Genoa took five of the next 10 spots, led by senior Marainna Heninger (21:24) and sophomore Sophie Richards (21:28), who finished fifth and sixth.
Woodmore freshman Jordan Beam (21:30) was seventh, followed by Genoa junior Sara Partin (21:34), Eastwood freshman Kelly Veryser (21:58), Genoa sophomore Jordyn Bronowski (22:24), Eastwood junior Noelle Hayes (22:33), Otsego senior Isabella Mancuso (22:35) and Genoa senior Keerstin Pelow (22:36).
Strickland said the league title was especially sweet for the seniors — Heninger, Pelow and Natalee Cooper.
“Especially for our senior girls who have been trying to bring the school its first league title for four years now, Saturday meant a lot,” Strickland said.
Now the Comets and Wildcats will look toward the district and regional meets, with both schools looking to get runners to state. It won’t be easy, says Strickland.
        “As far as the state tournament, our girls have a tough district,” Strickland said. “They need to be top five of 21 teams to advance to the regional meet in Tiffin. We’re right on the edge of that top five, but Saturday was a big confidence booster and all the girls know they have more to go. They’re excited to get out and compete.”
        At the boys NBC meet, Eastwood senior Luke Coffman stole the show, taking the individual title in 16:40.
        “Luke has run great all year,” Eastwood coach Stephanie Sims said. “He put in his summer miles and spent many hours in the weight room in the summer also.  He has continues to spend time in the weight room since our season has started trying to get stronger.”
        Coffman beat out second place Ashton Serrato (16:57), an Otsego junior.
        “He knew what he had to do to win the NBC meet.  Ashton Serrato is a great runner.  Luke knew he had to go out with him and stay with him in order to win NBC,” Sims said.  
        Sims says there has been some tweaking in his racing style, which has paid dividends.
        “We have worked on changing his race strategy a little this year with trying to get him to go out a little faster in each race. It has seemed to work,” Sims said. 
        Coffman had a top 10 finish at the Galion Invitation, top five at the Malone College Invite and Fostoria Invite, and also won NBC Jamboree No. 2 and the Clay Invitational.
        “Luke's goals are to repeat as district champion and qualify for states once again,” Sims said.
        Woodmore sophomore C.J. Buchanen (17:11) finished third, followed by Genoa junior Tyson Lesher (17:12) and Woodmore senior Paul Koenig (17:24) in fourth and fifth place. Eastwood sophomore Cory Jay and Genoa junior Darin Muir were eighth and ninth, both timing in at 17:36.
        Otsego won the team title, scoring 47 points, followed by runner-up Eastwood (56), Woodmore (65), Genoa (71), Rossford (1360, Elmwood (155) and Fostoria (194). Strickland had hoped his Comets would fare better.
        “The league meet was a gut punch for the boys,” Strickland said. “Taking fourth hurt, and they’re looking forward to districts and a chance at redemption.
        “The top three teams out of 11 advance, and just like the girls it’s a tough district. We’ll be competing with Eastwood again, which has a great program and beat us at league, so we really need to bring it if we want to advance. That being said, both teams have an excellent chance of advancing to the regional meet at Tiffin.”


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