NORTON — After two straight Division I state titles, the Hudson boys cross country team has set quite a bar for itself.
"A lot of people were writing us off this year because we lost so many guys to graduation," Explorers head coach Mark McConnell said. "One of our mottos is, ‘Tradition doesn’t graduate.’"
Hudson’s recent tradition of dominating the Suburban League National Conference continued Thursday — and this year, the Explorer girls joined them atop the podium.
Hudson swept the National Conference titles Thursday at the Suburban League Championship meet at Silver Creek Metro Park in Norton.
The Explorer boys won with 34 points, holding off a challenge from Brecksville-Broadview Heights (47 points). Stow-Munroe Falls was third with 102 points, followed by North Royalton (124), Nordonia (135), Wadsworth (144) Cuyahoga Falls (158) and Twinsburg (186).
Meanwhile, the Hudson girls got the title back with 40 points, getting past defending champion Wadsworth (63 points). Twinsburg ran third with 84 points, followed by Stow and Brecksville with 127 points each, North Royalton (152), Cuyahoga Falls (167) and Nordonia (195).
In the National Conference boys’ race, a tight lead pack of about 10 runners held together for the first mile before Brecksville’s Adam Jones took off. Jones led by nearly 100 yards at the two-mile marker and held on to win the race in 16 minutes, 35 seconds, though Hudson senior Andrew Goldslager was running down Jones in the last 100 meters.
Goldslager finished second in 16:40.
"It was important for us to win," Goldslager said. "There were a lot of guys who finished one through 11 last year on the JV [junior varsity] team. We wanted to show want we can do."
"He was unbelievable," McConnell said of Goldslager. "He set the tone for us. He’s a great leader for us as a senior. He’s what you want to see in a student athlete.
The Explorers clinched the title by getting four of their scoring runs in the top 10. Junior Jack Root (fourth, 16:49), sophomore Titan Casey (fifth 16:52) and senior Luke Good (eighth, 17:13) all finished in the top 10, while junior Kyle Betz (15th, 17:29) wasn’t far behind.
Nordonia senior Jayden Wimbush was among the leaders until Jones’ breakout. Wimbush finished sixth in 16:56.
"It was OK," Winbush said, noting he had big goals for the postseason. "I wish [I’d] pushed it harder in the first two miles. I want to PR [get a personal record] at all three meets."
After injuries hobbled him the previous two years at the league meet, Cuyahoga Falls’ senior Jack Wilcoxson decided to go for it. Despite dealing with cramps, Wilcoxson finished ninth in 17:13.
"I wish I would have run a little better," Wilcoxson said. "I did run better than last week. I think I competed well. I was trying to win the race even though it looked like anything but."
The individual competition in the National Conference girls’ race wasn’t much of one.
Wadsworth sophomore Clare Nichols took off early and was never challenged, as she won the girls race in 19:26. Twinsburg senior Alyssa Deeds finished second in 19:49.
"I haven’t raced her yet this year," Deeds said of Nichols. "Normally, I know she goes out hard. I took it out a bit conservative. I feel like I did well."
Like their male counterparts, Hudson was able to claim the title by coming in together. While junior Brenna Beucler led the Explorers by taking fourth place in 20:05, there was only a 39-second gap between Hudson’s top five.
Explorers’ juniors Emmaline Hannan (seventh, 20:17), Sydney Gallagher (eight, 20:18) and Sarah Weldon (ninth, 20:22) came in together, with junior Jordyn Hopgood right behind (13th 20:49).
"We always treat the conference meet as a chance to run against some the best teams," Hudson head girls coach Megan Petraska said. "The strength of our team really lies in us running as a pack."
Twinsburg senior Rebecca Mold finished fifth in 20:08, while Stow-Munroe Falls sophomore Kendra Cassiday took 10th place in 20:35.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_GHO.