Tallmadge head girls cross country coach Jeremy Huth says that a team’s No. 4 and No. 5 runners are the key to becoming a great team.
"Our goal all season was to get everybody under the 21-minute mark," he said.
Mission accomplished Oct. 26 at the Youngstown Division II regional meet at Boardman High School.
Seniors Kenna Loveless and Ravyn Edge, junior Mackenzie Moran, sophomore Ana Crangle and freshman Kat Carter all broke the 21-minute barrier.
The Blue Devils finished third at the 20-team meet with 114 points to qualify for the state meet for the first time in school history. The state competition is scheduled to take place Saturday at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. The Division II girls’ race is set to begin at 11:45 a.m.
Cleveland Heights Beaumont won the regional competition with 108 points and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary was the runner-up (112). Also advancing were Poland Seminary (126), Woodridge (138) and Chagrin Falls (192).
"It has just been an unbelievable season," Huth said. "There’s no one word to sum this up. This is a goal we set out for last year when we missed qualifying for the state meet by seven points.
"I remember talking to the girls at the end of that regional meet saying, ‘We’re going to do this next year and we’re all going to make sacrifices and make this happen, make this dream come true.’ And it came true."
Besides this being the first time Tallmadge has ever qualified for the state meet, it is the first time in Huth’s 17-year high school coaching career that one of his teams advanced to state.
"This is a goal that I set out for when I started coaching," he said. "It’s just awesome that this group has made this happen. We knew going in that the top four spots could be interchangeable. I mean, the week before at districts, we beat Beaumont and they won this meet.
"Honestly, about midway through the race, I told our girls, ‘When you come around the second loop and you see me, if I’m telling you ‘run to win.’ That means we have a chance to win this race. And I was screaming to every girl who came by, ‘Run to win! We’re racing to win!’
"That let them know that we were safe, that we were going to make it out. The pressure was off in terms of making it to state, so now the pressure was ‘let’s try to win this.’ They gave it their all. It was just a remarkable performance as a team."
Gates Mills Hawken’s Ella Gilson won the 151-person race by more than 40 seconds. The defending Division II state champion crossed the finish line in 18 minutes, 19.43 seconds.
Loveless, a four-time state qualifier, led Tallmadge with a fifth-place time of 19:15.4. Two of her teammates also finished in the top 10. Edge placed ninth with a time of 19:29.8 and Carter captured 10th in 19:32.3. Edge is a three-time state qualifier. (She did not attend Tallmadge her freshman year.)
"Words can’t really describe what Kenna has meant to this team," Huth said. "She has just been a solid No. 1 runner all season long. She always runs a smart race and everybody can dictate their race off her. She fought all the way through and tried to give it a late push to catch a couple girls.
"Ravyn pretty much stayed around 10th place the entire race. She was back and forth. She got off to a good start and just kind of maintained that spot the whole time.
"Kat is a girl who, every week continues to surprise me and this week did not disappoint. It was an absolutely unbelievable performance at this meet for a freshman. At one point, right after the mile, she was in 20th place. She moved up and I remember coming by the mile mark telling her, ‘Hey, you can see Ravyn up there. She’s in 10th place, right around there. Try to go get her.’ And for two miles, she worked her way up.
"Probably out of anybody in that race, she moved up the most. Kat is definitely going to be a girl who will lead this team into the future and somebody who we can continue to build around."
Rounding out the top five for the Blue Devils were Moran (50th, 20:53.8) and Crangle (53rd, 20:56.4).
"Mackenzie had not been in our top five the past couple weeks, but in the postseason, she always steps it up and she did just that this year," Huth said. "Ana has just been a huge addition to this team. She was at Cuyahoga Falls last year and her family moved into Tallmadge. So for her to be a key contributor to our top five definitely helped us out."
At the state meet, the top 25 runners will earn All-Ohio honors and the top 18 runners will stand on the podium. Loveless has stood on the podium for three years and Edge has stood on the podium for two years.
"Finish" is Tallmadge’s motto heading into the state meet.
"Our goal going into this week is ‘finish the race,’ ‘finish the year out,’" Huth said. "Our goal is to beat Beaumont and St. V and maybe be a top-five team in the state. There are three outstanding teams out there in Lexington, Ontario and Granville. But you never know. With our top three running so well, we could be in the mix.
"The goal individually is for Kenna, Ravyn and Kat to get into the top 20. If Kat could get on the podium, that would be a humongous accomplishment. That’s what we’re shooting for."