Twinsburg cross country pushing for results amid uncertainty

Tigers to open season Aug. 28 vs. Nordonia

STEVE BATKO Correpondent
Twinsburg senior Katie Vasiliauskas will be the Tiger girls' top returning runner this fall.

There are still some things to be ironed out, but the Twinsburg cross country team will proceed with a lot of positive energy – plus an exciting youth movement – under veteran coach Sarah Kmet.

“The uncertainty is the greatest challenge,” offered Kmet, alluding to a season kicking off amidst COVID-19.

“It’s very difficult to design an effective training program when we don’t know when exactly we are racing. However, I’ve been very impressed with how our kids have handled things thus far.”

Scheduling changes and logistics are happening at a fast pace as athletic directors across Ohio confirm meet dates, sites and event officials.

“All I know for sure now is that we open up with a dual meet against Nordonia on Aug. 28,” said Kmet, who enters her 12th season.

“Many of the kids - more than usual - logged consistent miles all summer long and showed up August 1 very fit and excited to get started.”

Twinsburg’s girls qualified for the regional meet as a team after placing third in the Suburban League National Conference and fifth in the districts.

The Tiger boys placed eighth in the Division I district and eighth in the loaded National Conference.

Despite some graduation losses, the Tiger boys and girls teams are looking to improve this season.

“The girls team looks to continue their streak of regional qualifying team appearances, which is currently, seven years in a row,” said Kmet, as the Lady Tigers were 19th overall at regionals.

Kmet admitted this fall may be tough to make the cut with graduation losses.

“With the loss of state qualifier Alyssa Deeds, Rebecca Mold, April Dale and Annabelle Dolney, this will be no easy feat.”

Deeds was a state qualifier as she placed 25th overall at the Boardman Division I Regional championships. She reached states as a freshman as well and has ran in four regional meets.

A silver medalist in the Suburban League, Deeds is now running at High Point University in North Carolina.

Katie Vasiliauskas enters her senior season as the most-tested runner for the girls. She was the Tigers’ second finisher at the regional as she was 98th and also ran a strong district race, where she was 19th.

“Katie is a three-time regional qualifier and looks to make it four this fall,” said Kmet. “Katie will be our No. 1 runner after having been a very solid three for us last year behind Deeds and Mold,” said the coach.

Junior returnee Jessica Abrams is also back after running in regionals along with classmate Bella Genovese. A year ago, Abrams ran 34th in districts.

For the Tiger boys, junior Aiden Cain is a talented returning runner, who should have a solid season.

Last fall, Cain was 55th at regionals and 16th in districts.

A cast of veteran runners, who ran at districts, has graduated and will be missed — Mitchell Suder, Christian Harsa, Will Corbin and Hunter Bennage.

“Aiden was our top runner last year and will continue to be a very solid number one runner for us this year,” Kmet said. “Last year Aiden was a regional qualifier and an all-league performer.”

Veteran senior Brian Nesic has been through the races as well.

Nesic ran 75th in the 2019 district race while Vince Sciarabba made his freshman district debut and was 77th.

“The boys are looking to climb out of the league cellar this year and based on the summer alone, they show a willingness and ability to do so,” said Kmet. “We are a young team with only two upperclassmen in the top seven.”

For the girls’ team, Vasiliauskas will head a unit that will get immediate impact from some newcomers.

The Tigers will also rely on newcomers like junior Sophie Besett and freshman Emma Sweeney.

“I think the additions of Sophie and Emma gives us a big boost,” Kmet said. “Sophie joins our team after having played volleyball the last two years and she is a great 400-meter runner on our track team, and is tremendously talented. She is a valuable addition.”

“Emma (Sweeney) is very dedicated to the sport and has shown great promise early,” added Kmet. “She will be in the top seven.”

Kmet will need a strong effort by a deep junior class.

“Our junior girls are a deep class, and five of them look to make major contributions on the course — Gunita Sran, Jessica Abrams, Ava Turner, Bella Genovese and Isabel Dickson.”

Athletes are competing for depth.

“Sophomore Meredith Bartel looks to contribute once she returns to form,” said Kmet. “Freshman Lauren McClung has had a great summer and has the potential to race in some varsity events.”

The Twinsburg boy’s lineup will also likely see a host of variations.

“Aiden Cain will lead our team, followed by Sam Wales-McGrath,” said Kmet. “Sophomores Vince Sciarabba, Aiden Bennage, Max Howard and Haridu Peiris have already shown impressive improvement from last year.”

“Freshmen Jos Jenyk and Will Linson and senior Mason Dickson will be looking to crack into the varsity seven and I expect the boys to improve on last year’s league performance.”

Wales-McGrath is a promising freshman prospect who will continue to get better.

“Sam is a very gifted runner who was one of the top eight graders in the area last year,” said Kmet. “He will make and an immediate impact on our team and should be a very solid number two runner for us, behind Aiden Cain.”

“Freshmen Jos Jenyk and Will Linson also had a great summer of training and I expect them to challenge for a varsity spot.”

Another senior for Twinsburg is Evan Bunker.

According to Kmet, Twinsburg will only be competing in dual meets against other Suburban League schools.

In addition, the OHSAA has implemented a host of safety guidelines for courses this fall.

“Courses need to be at least six feet wide at their narrowest point and the starting line needs to be more spread out,” said Kmet. “The finishing chute that is typical of cross-country races will not exist this year and athletes will be encouraged to immediately leave the finish area after crossing the line.”