Tallmadge boys runners take second at GlenOak district meet

Roger Gordon
Correspondent

Going into the Division II district meet Oct. 24 at GlenOak High School in Canton, head coach Jeremy Huth felt his Tallmadge boys cross country team could finish as high as second place.

“But that was if everybody showed up and had a good day and a couple guys ran great,” he said.

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Mission accomplished.

The Blue Devils finished second out of 16 teams with 89 points. They advanced to the regional meet Oct. 31 at Boardman as the top seven teams qualified. Alliance Marlington won the meet with 56 points, while Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary was third with 132 points.

“We could’ve been anywhere from second to fourth. We knew Marlington was the favorite,” said Huth. “I knew we were comfortable making it out to regionals as a team, so we tried to talk throughout the week about just being relaxed but execute the plan. The guys did exactly that and more, and we ended up a clear-cut second place.

“First place and second place got district trophies, so to bring home a district runner-up trophy … I was super-proud of the kids. We accomplished our goal, which was not easy to do.”

Leading the way for Tallmadge was senior Tommy Naiman, who finished third out of 130 runners with a time of 16 minutes, 43.10 seconds.

“We knew Tommy was going to be in the top five, and I think he ran a solid race,” Huth said. “He kind of sat back a little bit. He didn’t want to make any mistakes. He ran a solid, safe race. This was a big step for him for this week coming up.”

Senior Dawson Ansley finished eighth with a time of 17:02.13.

“Dawson has been right where he needs to be all season long,” said the coach. “There’s nothing more I could ask from him. He’s doing everything he needs to do for the team. To be right around 17 flat is an unbelievable time on that course at this time of the year.”

Two freshmen, Joey Naiman, Tommy’s brother, and Colin Adams, were next for the Blue Devils. Naiman finished 24th with a time of 17:39.85, while Adams placed 26th with a clocking of 17:44.38.

“Joey did not have the greatest race the week before at the Suburban League Championship but bounced right back, didn’t dwell on it,” Huth said. “He refocused and was stellar, absolutely awesome. He handled the pressure extremely well. He ran a great time.

“Colin has been right there all season long, and he continues to close the gap. He just keeps inching closer and closer to Joey. If we can get those two guys to run together this week, we’re going to be a pretty tough team. I’m really excited to see what they can do. What we’re getting out of Joey and Colin this year I would’ve never expected. For me, this is more about the future of our program. These two kids are getting experience as freshmen in big-time meets.”

Senior Jackson Queen finished 32nd with a time of 18:03.39.

“I’m super-proud of Jackson,” said Huth. “He was struggling early on but came on late. He’s had three weeks where he’s put it together, and we need the number five guy. The number five guy is the most important guy on any team, and he’s doing exactly what he needs to do.”

According to Huth, his team is on a roll.

“We’ve talked about great teams that I’ve coached in the past, and you get this momentum going, and it’s hard to stop,” he said. “They’ve run well two weekends in a row. And that momentum … we just want to carry it over. The key word here is confidence and don’t let your teammates down.”

The top six teams at the regional meet will advance to the state meet. If Tallmadge does not qualify as a team, the top 24 individuals will advance to the state meet.

“Right now, as a team, we’re right around that sixth-place spot, so we’re going to be fighting tooth-and-nail to try to make it out of there as a team,” said Huth. “The last time Tallmadge made it to state was 1979.