According to Tallmadge head boys cross country coach Jeremy Huth, if a competitor is able to run a time less than 17 minutes on the course at the Youngstown Division II regional meet at Boardman High School, you have a great runner.
Tommy Naiman is a great runner.
The Blue Devils’ junior turned in a time of 16 minutes, 51.6 seconds Oct. 26, good enough for 19th place. More importantly, Naiman qualified for the state meet, which is scheduled for Saturday at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. The top 24 runners from the Youngstown region advanced.
Naiman is scheduled to run at 2:15 p.m.
"Tommy did exactly what was needed for him to make it to the state meet," Huth said. "I thought he ran an extremely smart race. Midway through the race, he definitely put himself in a spot. He was around 16th and just fought on until the end.
"It’s a challenging course. The start is gradually uphill. You have to go out so fast to get into position. You have to be ready for it because it can eat people up. Tommy’s state berth is definitely well deserved. He earned it."
Overall, Tallmadge finished 14th at the 19-team meet with 340 points. Woodridge easily won the competition with 22 points. Bay Village Bay was the runner-up with 95 points.
Also qualifying for the state meet were Poland Seminary (128), Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (180), Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin (212) and Lodi Cloverleaf (228).
"This was the second year in a row that we’ve competed at the regional meet, so that’s a huge accomplishment," Huth said. "I’m super proud of the boys for that. This was another year to just gain experience. I didn’t think we had a shot at making it out, but I thought we could be in the top 10. I was a little disappointed in the standings, but we had some individuals who definitely stepped up and had great performances."
Woodridge had five runners in the top eight. Micah Blair led the way with a first-place time of 15:58.97. A total of 155 runners participated.
Rounding out the top five for Tallmadge were juniors Dawson Ansley (62nd, 17:47.02), Jake Becks (97th, 18:16.5), Jackson Queen (113th, 18:32.86) and Ben Jurkowski (124th, 18:42.97).
"Dawson probably didn’t get out to the best start, but he moved up throughout the race," Huth said. "Our goal as a team was to get five guys under 18 minutes on that course, so he definitely lived up to his end and did what was needed for the team. We just didn’t have enough guys in that 17-minute range.
"That was probably the best meet Jake had all season. It was a breakthrough performance for him. He was a little under the weather, so for him to come out not feeling great and get that time, I was stunned.
"Jackson and Ben probably didn’t have great races, but they’ve been solid for us all year long and got us to this meet."
At the state meet, the top 25 runners will earn All-Ohio honors and the top 18 runners will stand on the podium.
As for Naiman’s chances in Hebron, Huth is confident he can have a fine showing.
"Being his first time down there, the course it definitely set up to run fast, so I think he can run a fast time," Huth said. "But the competition up front will be pretty great. If he can be in the top 50, I think that would be a huge success for him. It will be great experience for him."