NORTON — Compared to their performances earlier this season at the Suburban League Super Duals, the Suburban League Championships marked a step backwards for both Cuyahoga Falls cross country teams in teams of placing.
That’s not to say the effort wasn’t there for the Black Tigers, but circumstances and injuries conspired against Falls.
After taking fourth place at the Super Duals, a much-depleted Falls boys squad finished eighth with 221 points at the championship meet, which took place Oct. 11 at Silver Creek Metro Park. Hudson won the National Conference boys crown with 21 points.
In the girls race, Falls girls coach Dan Scourfield lamented that his team was just two points behind seventh-place Nordonia. The Falls girls finished eighth with 177 points. Wadsworth won the title with 37 points.
Falls boys coach Bob Koch could only smily ruefully after the race, noting the source of the Black Tigers’ troubles wasn’t hard to find.
"Most of the guys who ran today were first-year varsity runners," Koch said. "I think the performance was pretty good from the guys who were out there."
The problem was, Falls didn’t have close to its top lineup available, as Koch noted No. 1 runner Jack Wilcoxson is out for the season with a hip injury. Varsity runners Eric Czetli and Tony Sondles also did not run.
Falls’ top finisher at the league meet was junior Anthony Nichols, who earned second-team all-conference honors by finishing 17th in 17:24. However, Koch noted Nichols was missing Wilcoxson, as his time was a bit off from his Super Duals run.
"They feed off each other," Koch said. "The first time we ran here, Anthony was a bit faster."
Freshman Stanley Shuck was Falls’ next finisher, taking 52nd place in 18:34, followed by junior Joey Sondles finishing 58th in 18:40.
Freshman Koby Dunford (65th, 19:06) and junior Logan Urich (66th, 19:12) rounded out the scoring runs, while sophomore Lukas Keverkamp (67th, 19:17) and junior Matt Pavinger (72nd, 20:26) also ran the boys varsity race.
In the girls race, Scourfield noted the Black Tigers had a simple strategy: Go out at a measured pace and turn on the jets in the second half of the race.
While he joked Falls may been the final 10 girls in the race after the first 1,000 meters, the Black Tigers were able to run past a ton of runners in the last mile.
"I was thrilled," Scourfield said. "I was so excited when I saw what they were doing. They executed our game plan perfectly."
Junior Meredith Gallagher was the chief chaser for Falls, as Scourfield noted she passed 50 runners after the first mile. Gallagher finished 21st in a time of 21:05, which was a 32-second improvement over her time from the Super Duals.
Senior Melody Lewis also had a solid race, finishing 33rd in 21:33. Freshman Ana Crangle finished 39th in 21:48, while freshman Elsa Lowry took 44th place in 22:01.
Senior Valerie Dighton (52nd, 22:17) rounded out the scoring runs. Junior Chelsea Huffman (53rd, 22:20), Zoe King (64th, 22:53), Kristica Barnett (67th, 23:02), Nadia Luksza (72nd, 23:22) and Olivia Smith (73rd, 23:27) also ran the varsity race.
Falls was set to open its postseason run at the Division I district meet at Canton GlenOak Saturday. The top five teams and top 20 individuals advance to regionals Oct. 27 at Boardman.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_RPC