Despite tough efforts from conference newcomers Buckeye and Fairview, the Bay Rockets and Rocky River Pirates cross country teams continued their successes at the Great Lakes Conference Preview race Saturday at Cahoon Park in Bay Village.
For the fifth consecutive year, the Rockets (26 points) and Pirates (72) boys teams finished first and second at the Preview. Bay was paced by Will Warren and Khalid Hamil who finished first and second individually. Warren (16:50.1) beat Hamil (16:50.3) by .2 seconds.
Behind Bay and Rocky River in the boys race were Fairview (84), Elyria Catholic (121), Normandy (123), Valley Forge (163), Buckeye (177), Holy Name (178) and Parma (251).
Through the first time around the course, Warren, Hamil and three Fairview runners trailed Valley Forge’s Nicholas Hakimian. Then, before going into the woods for the second time, Warren and Hamil were two of three Bay runners in the lead. The third, Ezra Fleeman (17:00.9), finished fourth overall behind Fairview’s Nolan Krumhansl (17:00.7). Rocky River junior Luke Kishna rounded out the top five (17:01.2).
“We felt really comfortable the whole way and we were like, ‘Let’s just finish this out together. Let’s do this,’” Warren said. Hamil added that he and Warren “pulled the team together through the race and toward the end, we just wanted to pass the last few guys from the other teams and stay together.”
Bay boys coach Steve Babson praised the work that the duo did in the offseason and said that went a long way to getting them ready for the Preview.
“The spot that they’re in now is because of their training. They’ve both been really dedicated,” he said. “They’re serious about running smart races to try to keep their teammates close by to them.”
On the girls side, Bay took its second Preview title – its first coming in 2017 – with 25 points. The Pirates, who won the Preview in 2015, 2016 and 2018, finished second (45). Rocky River sophomore Sam Coleman won the race for the second consecutive year with a time of 19:52.1.
Third through ninth were Buckeye (89), Holy Name (115), Fairview (126), Valley Forge (193), Normandy (198), Elyria Catholic (227) and Parma, which finished without a score because it only ran four runners.
“I felt really good. It was a really good race,” Coleman said. “I think my goal was to win again because I did last year. I wasn’t sure whether to try to get (Buckeye’s Sandra Dolata) or if she was going to fall back, but I’m glad that I did because otherwise I’m not sure if I would have caught her. I felt really good today.”
Coleman made a late push to pull ahead and stay ahead. Coming out of the woods for the second and final time in the race, Coleman sprinted past Dolata, who had led for most of the race, and finished more than 20 seconds ahead of Bay’s Olivia Bird in second place (20:14.6) and more than 30 seconds better than Dolata in third (20:23.7).
“I think I turned it on a little bit,” Coleman said. “Up the hill, she did not do well on the hill and I just kept pushing the pace.”
Rockets girls assistant coach EJ Gorman said this race sets up his team, which is loaded with young talent, for a great 2019 season and beyond. And despite saying that winning the Preview will “put a target on our backs” he said the key to staying focused and composed the rest of this season will be to “trust in Snydes” (head coach Scott Snyder).
“The returning sophomore class and the incoming ninth-graders, at all levels, are really just injecting a level of low-stress competition,” Gorman said. “They’re naturally pushing themselves and they support each other. I (attribute) a lot of that to the senior leadership too.”
For Bay, runners and coaches alike admitted that home-course advantage played a part in both teams’ victories.
“They know the course, they know where the hill is coming,” Babson said. “I heard some kids from another team that, when they walked over there, they said, ‘Oh my god, it’s so steep.’ Knowing the course and having that advantage, it’s good for us.”
Fairview head coach for both the boys and girls team, Jennifer Dahler, said her teams performed to her expectations Saturday. Last season, in the final year of the Patriot Athletic Conference, the Warriors boys team won the PAC championship.
Krumhansl was the highest finisher among both teams with junior Lily Palisin finishing 13th (21:56.7) in the girls race.
“(Our) three, four and five racers need to close the gap a little bit,” Dahler said. “They were close to each other, but they need to get a little closer to one and two. From the conference standpoint, I would love both (teams) to be in the top three. Coming from the PAC, we didn’t have the same level of competition. It’s a different level, we’re going to have to up our game.”
All nine teams now go into their regular season of dual meets and invitationals, until the GLC Championship meet back at Cahoon Park on Oct. 12.
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