HEBRON — Woodridge’s form over the past decade at the Division II state cross country meet almost makes expectations unfair for the Bulldogs.

The defending state champions returned to the state meet Saturday at National Trail Raceway in Hebron looking to win their eighth state title in the last 11 years.

According to coach Jeff Howard, the Bulldogs ran well, but the competition level was just a bit stronger.

Woodridge finished in fourth place in the Division II boys race with 158 points. After losing to Woodridge in 2016, Lexington took back the title with 97 points, followed by Thornville Sheridan (101 points) and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (144).

Howard noted he preferred not finish behind SVSM, due to a "friendly rivalry" between the two programs. However, the Bulldogs beat fifth-place Rocky River (160) after the Pirates had beaten Woodridge at the district and regional level.

"I think the boys did well," Howard said. "We’re competed as well as we could. Lexington was very good."

"I’m a pattern guy," he added. "If Lexington won it two years ago, we won last year and they won this year, hopefully it’s our turn to win next year."

Lexington won in part because they had three All-Ohio placers, but the Bulldogs put up two All-Ohio runners as well. The top 25 racers earned All-Ohio honors.

Sophomore Micah Blair set a new personal record, as he finished in sixth place in a time of 16:03.8, despite running a soft, soggy course.

"I’m very happy. I was surprised I was able to run down guys late," Blair said, noting he passed about seven runners in the last mile. "I just think I went out and ran my pace and ran my race."

"He’s a talent. He’s probably the best performer we’ve had at Woodridge at his age," Howard said.

Senior Noah Perrin also earned All-Ohio honors, but his finish evoked bad memories from last year when he nearly crashed at the finish. Perrin lost ground in the final mile, but was able to hold on to 21st place in 16:23.4.

"I seemed to be on pace in the first two miles, but then I started falling back," Perrin said. "I was very worried about finishing like last year. I knew I had to have something for the last 100 meters."

Sophomore Sam Dutt just missed All-Ohio honors, as he finished 27th in 16:34.2.

Freshman Ryan Champa (87th, 17:11.8) and sophomore Riley Galehouse (107th, 17:24.8) rounded out the scoring runs for Woodridge.

The Bulldogs also had junior Nedal Elkurd (117th, 17:34.6) and senior Jack Willet (151st, 18:12.8) run at the state meet. 

Howard said he felt the future should be bright for the Bulldogs with five varsity runners returning.

"We were relying on a lot of sophomores and freshmen this year," Howard said. "Running down here will only help."

Blair admitted he wanted to see the Bulldogs atop the podium again.

"I feel we could have done a lot better, but I think we tried the best that we can," Blair said. "We would talk about it in practice that, if we don’t win the state title, we’re going to be upset."

While Blair was disappointed for his team, Garfield junior Tyler Klouda felt the same way about his performance in his first state meet at the Division II level.

After finishing fifth last season at the Division III level, Klouda was able repeat as an All-Ohioan. However, he settled for 18th place in a time of 16:18.9, which was off his pace from last year at states.

Klouda was holding steady in the top 10 through the race’s first two miles, but then fell off a bit.

"I definitely didn’t perform to what I hope to do," Klouda said. "It was kind of slow and muddy, but I thought I was doing OK. I cramped up pretty bad in the woods. I was fighting just to stay on my feet at the end."

G-Men coach John Bennett said, despite the off-day, he was not worried about his star.

"I wondered what happened to him in the woods. He was in good shape going in and then fell back," Bennett said. "He puts the work in. He’ll be fine."

Meanwhile in the Division I race, Aurora junior Robert Taylor said he also was dealing with some physical issues in his first trip to states.

"It was cold in the morning and then it started to heat up," Taylor said. "It felt like I couldn’t fill my lungs up with air. I’ve been feeling a bit sick."

Despite these issues, Taylor was not unhappy with how he ran his first state meet. Taylor finished 64th in the Division I boys race in a time of 16:37.2.

"I’m happy with my performance," Taylor said. "It’s not a personal record, but time were not fast at all today."

Taylor said said he’s targeting an All-Ohio finish for next season.

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9442