BOARDMAN TWP. — It’s easy to take what Matthew Singleton has accomplished in his young running career for granted.
Make state as a freshman? Sure, why not.
Make state again as a sophomore? Everyone would be shocked if he didn’t.
Finish in the top five of a grueling Boardman regional run? Of course.
Sometimes, the Aurora sophomore makes it look so simple, it’s easy to forget how incredible what he has done is.
Or to forget that no matter how natural Singleton makes it look, what he has done is hard — and takes endless work.
"He doesn’t get as much recognition for the hard work that he does put in," Greenmen coach Laura Bell-Peters said. "Sure, he’s talented and gifted, but he has a lot of hard work that backs that up."
Singleton making state — again — isn’t the only thing that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Though Singleton was Aurora’s lone state qualifier in 2019, the fact that both Greenmen teams, boys and girls, made it to the regional meet is an impressive achievement.
"I think qualifying to regionals as a team is huge," Bell-Peters said. "I think it is expected that we do that and it is taken for granted."
But it shouldn’t be — especially for a boys program that once struggled with the transition from Division II to Division I.
"When we were in Division II, the boys team was very strong and they really struggled in that mindset of Division I, like they didn’t think they were capable of competing at the Division I level," Bell-Peters said of the critical change that took place roughly a decade ago. "I think having that qualification last year and then this qualification this year allows for that to kind of grow and blossom to know that, ‘Yeah, you’re working hard and you deserve to be here.’"
While Singleton was the only runner to qualify, the boys made a jump, from 17th place to 14th and from 397 points to 351, including two runners scoring in the top 50 instead of one and four runners scoring in the top 100 instead of three.
The eight qualifying boys teams were Chagrin Falls Township Kenston (126), Hudson (134), Cleveland St. Ignatius (178), Solon (179), Louisville (194), University School (223), Medina (262) and Jackson (287).
After Singleton, sophomore Andrew Ploskunak scored 41st (48th including individuals) with a 17:01.57, with juniors Max Manderbach (95th/118th, 17:38.36) and Justin Hartland (99th/122nd, 17:40.06) also scoring in the top 100.
Senior Samuel Siedel (112th/137th, 17:49.12) rounded out the scoring for the Greenmen, while freshman Zachary Zabell (164th/193rd, 18:59.25) and senior Jack Deptola (165th/194th, 19:20.75) also finished Saturday.
While the Greenmen girls didn’t have as big a rise from last year to this year, going from 17th to 16th in the region, the potential for future jumps is unlimited, exemplified by the fact that they were led by a freshman Saturday: Grace Barto, who was the 50th runner across the line (20:13.19).
"She obviously is disappointed, but she ran in the low 20s and [had] a phenomenal race here at Boardman," Bell-Peters said. "She is a freshman; she’s inexperienced; she didn’t come in with a huge base. I think she has a lot of room for growth and I think this little bit of adversity will be a springboard for her for the following season."
Three underclassmen followed Barto: junior Victoria Blechschmid (80th/97th, 20:52.94), sophomore Morgan Schmitt (84th/101st, 20:56.54) and junior Mikayla Jones (88th/106th, 20:58.97). Another underclassman, sophomore Stephanie Lubin, was the sixth runner across for Aurora Saturday, crossing the line in 21:48.73.
The Greenmen will have to replace seniors Karsen Zabell, a state qualifier in 2018 who scored 98th (117th overall) with a 21:12.86, and Dylynn Lasky (136th/157th, 22:05.86).
Overall, the Aurora girls finished 16th with 392 points. The eight qualifying teams were St. Joseph Academy (130), Medina (138), Hudson (152), Shaker Heights (155), Brunswick (209), Mentor (248), Jackson (258) and Howland (261).
While a number of young Aurora runners hope to turn lessons learned from Boardman Saturday into that elusive state bid, Singleton has already done so — twice.
"I think he learned his lesson his freshman year here at Boardman from the invite," Bell-Peters said. "Knowing that you have to get out is really a crucial part and then just making sure you have a solid warm-up and getting out to that front. We definitely wanted to be in that top five and that’s what he did [Saturday]."
Singleton did so from the jump, taking off with a lead group of four or five runners that finished well ahead of the pack, ultimately taking fifth with a time of 16:13.66. University School senior Justin Iler won in 15:47, while Medina senior Juliette Keller won the girls race in 18:12.53.
"I know he’s going to be disappointed, but I think he ran phenomenally," Bell-Peters said. "I think he ran smart and I couldn’t be more proud of him. He did a great job."