The Cuyahoga Falls boys cross country team has made a stellar return to respectability since the beginning of the 2017 season.
Last Saturday, on the other hand, was a rare step backward for the Black Tigers.
Falls finished 10th with 222 points in the 13-team Division I race at the Pat Ritchie Cross Country Invitational at Walsh Jesuit High School.
Louisville won the competition with 58 points and Hunting Valley University’s Justin Iler took the top spot out of 105 runners with a time of 17 minutes.
In the Black Tigers’ defense, they were missing their top runner, Jack Wilcoxson, who did not run because of a leg injury.
Falls also missed a couple of days of practice due to unseasonably warm temperatures.
And due to much rainfall, the conditions weren’t exactly ideal.
Nonetheless, it was a forgettable performance for the Black Tigers.
"It was a bad week," longtime Falls head coach Bob Koch said. "Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. We had days off and the course was a muddy mess.
"It seemed to affect us more than everybody else. We tap-danced around the corners and then we would try to accelerate. A lot of things went bad."
Fortunately, not all was lost for the Black Tigers.
Junior Eric Czetli had a stellar race despite the conditions with a team-leading 16th-place clocking of 18:08.
"Eric ran very well," Koch said. "He ran 11 seconds faster than he ran last year."
Rounding out the top five for Falls were junior Anthony Nichols (29th, 18:29), freshman Stanley Shuck (43rd, 18:54), junior Joey Sondles (72nd, 19:24) and sophomore Lukas Keverkamp (87th, 20:18).
"Lukas ran very well," Koch said. "Lukas was 28 seconds faster than last year. [Junior] Tony [Sondles] lost his shoe 100 meters into the race and ran the rest of the way with one shoe.
"Joey ran a pretty good race. Stanley ran a great race. He’s back to running the way he ran at middle school."
In the open race, junior Sterling Hanselman ran a time of 22:19, which was 22 seconds faster than his clocking at the Suburban League Super Duals the previous week.
The Black Tigers are scheduled to run at the Galion Cross Country Festival Saturday at 3 p.m.
"Jack is going to be back," Koch said. "I expect us to do much better at Galion. Hopefully, we learn something from this race. With Eric and Stanley staying up and Lukas running well, we hope that will make us stronger down the road."
Falls is set to run at the Malone Invitational Sept. 22 at GlenOak High School in Canton.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.