A return to the regional meet is something 15th-year head coach Jeremy Huth believes his Tallmadge boys cross country team can accomplish this season.
A state berth?
"That’s going to be a difficult task, but that’s our goal every year," Huth said. "We lost Zach Brown to graduation, but we finally have a veteran group of four juniors who were key contributors last year."
Those four juniors are Tommy Naiman, Ben Jurkowski, Jackson Queen and Dawson Ansley.
"This team has the experience," Huth said. "We want to try to be in the top two or three in the [Suburban League] American Conference. We’re trying to fill our fifth, sixth and seventh spots."
The Blue Devils finished fourth in the American Conference at last year’s Suburban League meet. Tallmadge took third in the conference at the 2018 Suburban League Super Duals.
According to the coach, Naiman will be the Blue Devils’ top runner this season.
"Tommy definitely has another year under his belt and he can make a good run to try to make it down to Columbus for the state meet as an individual," Huth said. "He’s developing through our program. Each year, he gets better.
"He definitely had some highlights last year and has just had a tremendous summer of running. Already, if I look at the great runners who have run for me, he’s on track to be right there with a lot of them."
Huth said that Queen has made major strides in the last couple of years.
"Jackson is the most improved runner from his freshman year to now," Huth said. "He’s really taken on the identity of just being a good runner and being a key contributor to this group, which is a testament to him and his work ethic."
The coach said that Ansley and Jurkowski are excellent runners.
"With another year of experience and having a good track season last spring, I think Dawson is definitely going to be up there," Huth said. "He could be our No. 2 runner at any given meet.
"Ben, by far, has the most potential out of any of these guys other than Tommy. He definitely has the potential to be a top-caliber runner right behind Tommy.
"For spots five through seven, we have some guys who are working really hard and could step up, including juniors Jake Becks and Reid Gibson and maybe one of our sophomores or freshmen."
Huth’s assistant coach is Karyn Loveless.
Tallmadge is scheduled to open its season at the Canton GlenOak Golden Eagle Invitational Aug. 24 at 9 a.m.