Opening their seasons at the Suburban League Super Duals meant the Stow-Munroe Falls cross country teams were dealing with a huge test right off the bat.
Stow’s boys ended up going 3-4 at duals Saturday at Silver Creek Metro Park in Norton, but the Bulldog girls ended up going 0-7. As expected, Hudson went 7-0 in both races to win the National Conference titles.
The Bulldog boys beat North Royalton 21-36, beat Twinsburg 24-33 and edged Cuyahoga Falls 26-29. Stow lost to Brecksville-Broadview Heights 24-33, was routed by Hudson 16-47, was edged by Wadsworth 26-29 and lost to Nordonia by a single point 27-28.
Stow boys coach J.K. LeSeure said the race with Nordonia was even closer than the score indicated.
"Their fifth runner (Louis Hover) and our fifth runner (Seth Macure) came in with the same time, but our guy was behind him," LeSeure said. "So, we were three feet away from beating Nordonia. We went 3-4 there, which is the best we’ve done in a while.
LeSeure said he believes Stow could have finished as high as second if Matt Duffy weren’t sidelined with a knee injury. LeSeure expected Duffy to be back this week.
Meanwhile, the Bulldog girls lost to Brecksville 24-32, North Royalton 21-35, Twinsburg 20-37, Hudson 16-47, Cuyahoga Falls 25-30, Wadsworth 18-43 and Nordonia 23-36.
Noting that Stow had participated in the OHSAA preseason meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, Stow girls coach Aaron Morris said he didn’t believe his team suffered first-race jitters.
"This was really their second go around," Morris said. "It’s not like the course was going to give them any tricks.
The Stow boys top three seniors all had solid races. Cole Shawala continued to lead the Bulldogs, finishing 12th in 17 minutes, 12 seconds, while Patrick Bunnell finished 19th in 17:38 and Jason Anzaldi was 29th in 17:51.
"Patrick actually had a big day," LeSeure said. "He ran about 20 seconds faster than he did at Hebron on a more difficult course. Cole ran pretty much the same time, which means he was moving at bit faster. Jason was a little bit sick, so he ran well."
Junior Cooper LeSeure ran 58th in 18:37, while Macura rounded out the scoring runs, taking 61st in 18:40. Freshman Zack Duffy just missed scoring in his first varsity race, taking 63rd in 18:47.
"That’s where the big opportunity is: Between our third and fourth runners," coach LeSeure said. "If we want to be successful, we have to be able to narrow that gap."
Senior Matt Mergen (100th, 19:39); freshman Luke Cimera (105th, 19:43); senior Josh Blakso (111th, 20:01) and junior Andrew Monroe (122nd, 20:44) also ran the varsity race.
Meanwhile, the revamped girls squad showed it has a lot of work to do.
"We didn’t have a very good day," said Morris. "Our younger kids looked pretty good. Our older ones has some rough goes. That wasn’t exactly what we had in mind."
"It’s on the faster side," Morris said of the course at Silver Creek. "It’s nowhere near what the National Trail course is. We think it runs about 20 seconds slower. We didn’t have that in a lot of cases."
The Cassiday sisters led Stow, but Morris noted senior Mackenzie Cassiday had an off day, as she finished 17th in 21:09,
"She’s fighting a little bit of a hip injury," Morris said. "She was about 30 seconds slower than she was at Hebron. It wasn’t what we expected."
By contrast, Morrris said freshman Kendra Cassiday, who finished 37th in 21:57, had an excellent day in her first high school race.
"She was actually under where she ran at National Trail," Morris said. " She had a big day. She was a full minute and a half below where she ran (at Silver Creek) in the summer."
Sophomore Madison Hedrick finished 67th in 23:12, sophomore Caitlyn O’Brien was 73rd in 23:22 and junior Abi Kuhns was 90th in 23:58 to round out the scoring runs.
Freshmen Bella Baker (94th, 24:06), Andrea Perrotta (99th, 24:16), Anna Brosch (101st, 24:19), senior Bailey Dillow (106th, 24:42) and freshman Hannah Hartenberg (120th, 25:53) also ran varsity for the Bulldogs.
Morris said training for Stow has been a bit subdued this week due to the weather conditions.
"As far as training, we’ve had to back off a little bit. We’ve been under restriction because of all the heat," Morris said. "They might be a little more rested going into Saturday."
"You’ve just got to manage it," LeSeure said. "We didn’t do everything we’re capable of doing, but we did what we needed to do."
Stow was set to participate in the Pat Richie Invitational Saturday 9 a.m.
Up next for Stow is the Spartan Invitational at Boardman Sept. 15. First race is set for 9 a.m.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_RPC