Back-to-back trips to the regional competition are what the Tallmadge boys cross country team clinched when it finished fifth in a Division II district meet last Saturday at Lorain Community College in Elyria.
The Blue Devils scored 149 points to barely hold off LaGrange Keystone, which finished with 152 points.
Woodridge easily won the 15-team competition with 18 points. Also advancing were Bay Village Bay (66), Lodi Cloverleaf (125) and Fairview Park Fairview (129).
"To do it two years in a row, I’m definitely proud of those guys," Tallmadge head coach Jeremy Huth said. "Going into the meet, we felt we were on the border of making it or not making it to regionals. We knew that Woodridge and Bay would definitely be one-two and that Cloverleaf was a top-five team. We knew Fairview had a lot of kids coming back.
"Basically, there were one or two spots open and our guys ran good enough to qualify for regionals. I knew that if we ran what we’re capable of running, we’d make it out. We don’t have enough depth for anybody to have a bad day and still advance. If one of those guys had a bad day, we’re not making it out. I think everybody ran about what they’re capable of running. They all did what they needed to do."
Woodridge took five of the first six spots individually. The Bulldogs’ Micah Blair won the 109-member race with a time of 16 minutes, 7.94 seconds.
Junior Tommy Naiman led the way for Tallmadge with a 12th-place time of 17:04.48.
"For Tommy, he ran a safe race, but when you’re trying to advance your team out, you want as few points as possible," Huth said. "He knew he’d advance individually, but he was definitely worried toward the end about whether we’d advance as a team."
Junior Dawson Ansley finished 21st with a time of 17:31.39.
"The thing with Dawson is that he finished 21st, so if our team doesn’t make it out, he misses qualifying by one place since the top 20 individuals advanced to regionals," Huth said. "He was very, very nervous. He always starts off conservatively but moved his way up, advanced through the race and put himself right on the border of being in the top 20. He had a great performance."
Rounding out the top five for Tallmadge were juniors Jackson Queen (27th, 17:50.89), Ben Jurkowski (43rd, 18:25.55) and Jake Becks (47th, 18:38.39).
"Jackson, Ben and Jake have been consistent all season for us," Huth said. "It really comes down to those three. They’ve produced all year and have been a huge asset to the team and the success we’ve had."
The regional competition is scheduled to take this Saturday at Boardman High School in Boardman Township. Racing for the Blue Devils is set to begin at 2:15 p.m.
The top six teams advance to the state meet in Hebron. The top 24 individuals qualify for state.
"Tommy has a great shot of making it to the state meet," Huth said. "He just has to run a smart race. I told him, ‘You don’t have to win this, you don’t have to be in the top 10, but when it comes down to the last 800 meters, you better be in position to make it out.’
"We return all five guys next year, so this is a great experience for them to get out there and race against some great competition and see what they can do."