With short grass and cool fall-like conditions, it was a great day to succeed for Woodridge cross country in their first appearance at the Medina Cross Country Festival.
Competing in both the Division I team race as well as the Division II-III field, the boys and girls Bulldog teams excelled with a slew of season best times.
"The program added the Medina Cross Country Festival to their schedule this fall and the boys ran two teams at the meet and the girls team made their first trip to Medina a memorable one," pointed out head coach Jeff Howard.
It was a potent effort that Howard was hoping his clubs would produce for the Portage Trail Conference Championships Saturday at the Randolph Fairgrounds.
"The first eight boys raced in the Division I competition and grabbed victory," observed Howard. "The rest of the Dawgs joined their Division II counterparts and grabbed a third-place finish."
Howard’s boys are hungry to repeat as Division II state champs while an improving girl’s unit had plenty of headlines in Medina.
"The top seven girls raced in the Division I meet and grabbed a third-place team finish," he said. "The remainder of the girls competed in their usual Division II field and grabbed victory."
Out of 251 total runners in the boys Division I race, Micah Blair captured the individual crown with a swift clocking of 15 minutes, and 42.2 seconds.
"Micah ran 15:42 to steal victory with the first team," said Howard. "He was joined in the top ten by Ryan Champa, Zayd Elkurd, Aaron Dutt, and Andrew Lauck."
Champa raced third overall with a time of 15:53.4.
Elkurd ran close behind as he was fourth as he authored a finish of 15:55. Dutt ran seventh in 16:13.1 and Lauck was eighth with a time of 16:13.9.
"Sam Dutt, Ryan Lauck, and Caden Hibbs all ran season bests to round out the Bulldog top eight," noted Howard. "The entire crew finished in the top twenty-percent of the field."
Placing 19th, Sam Dutt sped to a time of 16:42.2. Ryan Lauck crossed in 17:00.3 for 33rd-place, and Hibbs was 55th in 17:16.9.
The Division I team scores saw Woodridge dominate the bigger schools with an 81-point victory (23-104) over second-place North Canton Hoover, out of the loaded Federal League.
Woodridge, the top-ranked club in Division II, also beat Ohio’s 18th-ranked Division I unit Medina (145), plus Brecksville, Green, and Hilliard Bradley.
"In the Division II race, Andrew Shaheen paced the Bulldog crew with a strong 13th place finish (17:34.4)," said Howard. "He was followed by Seth Singer, Will Holland, and Liam Kiley in the top 21. Augustus Neitenbach, Peter LeMay, and Conrad Haas completed the varsity seven."
In the Division II-III race, Woodridge’s top subs held their own against Bay Village, ranked third in Ohio in Division II, Chesterland West Geauga (22nd), and Columbia (14th in Division III).
"Most of the Bulldogs ran season bests as the conditions were ideal for racing," said the coach. Bay won with 65 points over West Geauga (72), Woodridge (99), and Columbia (125).
"Colin Galehouse, Nathan Brenneman, Owen Kline, Jason Thompson, and Alex Bentley enjoyed strong performances," added Howard.
Ranked 16th in the latest Division II poll, the Woodridge girls competed well to place third in Division I behind team champ Medina (41) and Green (95), the seventh and 21st-ranked clubs in the latest Division I Ohio poll, respectively.
Woodridge (136) also bested strong programs from Wadsworth, Chardon, and Medina Highland in the 27th annual Medina meet.
"In the big-school race, Izzy Best bounced back and led the Bulldogs with a 16th place finish," offered Howard.
Finishing 16th out of 227 girls, Best was timed at 19:33.6.
"Anastasia Bakuhn, Libby Howard, Elise Carey, and Leighton Kline all packed in between 26th and 36th place to complete the scoring five," said the coach. "Rosie Sterling and Anna Wojcik each ran season bests to complete the team."
With a time of 19:56, Bakuhn ran 26th, followed by Libby Howard, who was 27th in 19:56.4.
Carey crossed 21st in 20:08.5 and Kline was 36th in 20:14.1. Sterling (51st) was clocked at 20:42.0 and Wojcik (67th) at 21:06.5.
Woodridge won the Division II-III team crown 87-92 over Hathaway Brown and Lodi Cloverleaf (103).
"In Division II competition, freshman Joy McFarland ran a crazy race to pace this group to victory," said Howard. "Joy’s seventh-place finish combined with Leah Stanfield, Leah Ziegler, Thalia Johnston, and Kathryn Kiley completed the scoring."
Behind a sensational time of 20:34.8, McFarland led the pack.
Stanfield posted a 20:53.7 to place 16th while Ziegler was 20th in 21:12.1, Johnston ran 24th in 21:27.1, and Kiley, 31st in 21:44.2.
"Evelyn Willett and Ellie Kleinhenz raced well to complete the team finish," said the coach. "Catie Meehan, Allison Palm, Chloe Rado, Betty Sterling, and Avery Dutt joined a slew of other Bulldogs with season and/or lifetime bests."
Woodridge is set to compete at the Elyria Division II District Championships Oct. 19 at the Lorain County Community College to collect qualification to the Oct. 26 Boardman Regional meet.
The top five teams and individuals not on qualifying teams that finish in the top 20 will advance to Boardman.