Running at Kenston’s Frank Gibas Invitational Saturday was a new experience for the Stow-Munroe Falls cross country teams.

If results were any indication, the Bulldogs will be back.

Stow’s boys squad finished seventh in the 25-team boys field with 197 points, finishing just behind Aurora (191). Kenston dominated on its home course with 61 points. 

In the girls race, Stow just missed a top-10 finish, taking 11th place with 275 points. The Kenston girls also won the team title, finishing with 82 points.

"We were really pleased with how we ran," said Stow boys coach J.K. LeSeure. "We were still a ways off from where we wanted to be. We had vision of being closer to [third-place] Brecksville than we were this week."

"The course was fast. The competition was fast and big," said Stow girls coach Aaron Morris. "There were a lot of teams. I think we ran 34 girls and 19 of them had [personal records]. On our varsity squad, I believe six of the 10 had PRs."

"One of the reasons that we went to this meet was to the see some teams at sectionals that we don’t normally see," Morris added. "We won’t really know until we get to Boardman how good we really are.

LeSeure noted the Stow boys were "way ahead" of last year’s position in week two of the season, noting his top four varsity runners all finished with personal records.

Junior Seth Macura again led the Bulldog boys, taking 14th place in 16 minutes, 44 seconds. Boardman’s Mitchel Dunham (15:30) edged University School’s Justin Iler for the boys individual title by one-tenth of a second.

"Seth was about 10 seconds faster than last week," LeSeure said. "He went out very aggressive and was able to maintain in the second and third miles. That spells good things to come."

Freshman Micah Bentley came in next for Stow, taking 32nd place in a time of 17:17.3, with senior Cooper LeSeure right behind, as he took 35th place in 17:20. Coach LeSeure said Bentley is still rounding into form after playing baseball this summer.

"He still has some conditioning work to do," coach LeSeure said. "He’s got an unlimited ceiling, but Cooper is not going to let him get away."

Freshman Zach Shawala took 49th in 17:38.4, while junior Henry Brosch took 71st in 17:58.9 to round out the scoring runs.

Sophomore Luke Cimera (77th, 18:05.3); sophomore Zach Duffy (79th, 18:06.1); junior Zach Rude (132nd, 18:50.9); senior Alex Virostek (142nd, 19:01.1) and senior Matt Duffy (145th, 19:06.8) also competed.

There was plenty of speed on the girls side as well. 

For starters, Kendra Cassiday broke the 20-minute barrier. The sophomore finished 20th in 19:59.8. Beaumont senior Mia Mlynek won the girls varsity race in 18:44.

"She’s way ahead of where she was last year," Morris said of Cassiday. "I don’t think she broke 20 last year until Madison … so two weeks before the postseason. I think she’s still kind of figuring out where she belongs with those established runners. She just needs confidence." 

Sophomore Sydney Pitcovich finished in 45th place in 20:55.9, while senior Abi Kuhns finished 63rd in 21:23.5. 

"I think Sydney ran the exact same time she ran the first week," Morris said. "The best race of the day for us was Abi Kunhs. She ran 30 seconds faster than she ever has. With the loss of Anne Perrotta, she’s really answered the bell."

Sophomore Isabella Baker took 69th in 21:34.1, while junior Madi Hedrick rounded out the scoring runs, taking 84th in the 21:51.5.

Sophomore Sarah Staudt (104th, 22:10.1); freshman Grace Decker (114th, 22:23.3); sophomore Hannah Hartenberg (132nd, 22:51.2); sophomore Samantha Fobean (137th, 22:59.1) and sophomore Emily Garfield (160th, 23:57.8) also ran the varsity race for the Bulldogs.

Stow also made a splash in the open race at Kenston, as freshman Josie Jones won the girls open race in the 22:16. Morris noted that time ran Jones right onto the varsity team for this week’s race at Walsh.

"We pretty much expected this. We knew we’re going to be very young," Morris said.  "This year, you’re witnessing the upswing of the girls cross country program at Stow for a good while."

Stow was set to run at the Pat Ritchie Invitational at Walsh Jesuit Saturday. The Division I boys race is at 8:30 a.m. with girls running at 9 a.m.

LeSeure was certain this year’s run at Walsh would be faster than last year’s — noting the course was so rain-soaked in 2018 that several runners lost shoes.

Up next, Stow will run at the Spartan Invitational at Boardman Sept. 14, which runs the same course at the Northeast Ohio regional meet. 

Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, mleonard@recordpub.com or @MLeonard_GHO