Hudson girls runners edge Kenston to take regional title

Steve Batko
Correspondent

As the Hudson girls cross country squad returns again to the state championships, you can add a regional team championship to the team’s resume.

For the fifth consecutive season, the Explorers have earned a team state berth in rugged Division I action as Hudson captured the Boardman Division I regional championship Oct. 31.

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In the regional team standings, Hudson captured the crown by edging Kenston 143-145 and Shaker Heights (149) in a tight team race.

Red-hot Kenston had just won its first-ever Division I district title in Madison the week before, edging Shaker and Mentor.

The Explorers also finished ahead of state-qualifying teams (the top eight moved on) like Westlake (180), Mentor (186), Cleveland St. Joseph Academy (210), Green (239), and Wadsworth (246).

Hudson beat 10 state-ranked teams in the regional field as the crew improved on last year’s third-place regional showing.

“The girls ran very well to win their second regional championship in four years against a tough field with some class-act teams, many of whom were ranked in the state,” commented head coach Megan Petraska.

“To name a few, Kenston, Shaker, Mentor, and Westlake have been very impressive to follow all season long and were certainly benchmarks for our success in the race,” added the mentor.

Hudson held its own against Ohio’s finest in a quality regional event.

In the Pre-Regional and 9th weekly OATCCC Division I poll, Hudson was ranked 14th in Ohio and beat Kenston (ranked fifth), Mentor (eighth), Shaker (10th), Massillon Jackson (11th), Medina (17th), St. Joe’s (19th), Chardon (20th), Westlake (23rd), Green (25th), and Wadsworth (26th).

“Our team has always been invested in pack running and yesterday, our packs came through in what was a big test for us, as it was just our third non-dual race of the season,” pointed out Petraska.

Petraska senior leadership continues to be a big key in the post season.

“For seniors Brenna Beucler, Sydney Gallagher, and Emmaline Hannan, they were able to close their regional racing careers the same way they started them which was a great full-circle moment and one we are thrilled to have had,” the coach said.

It’s not easy to keep repeating as a state qualifier.

Pacing Hudson at regionals was Gallagher, who registered a time of 20 minutes and 15.8 seconds at Spartan Stadium.

Gallagher finished 17th overall in regional action.

Petraska was pleased with Gallagher’s race along with senior classmates Beucler and Hannan.

“Both Brenna (Beucler) and Emma (Hannan) also accomplished the impressive feat of qualifying for the state meet as individuals all four years of their high school careers, a testament to the high level they have been competing at and their continued dedication and relentless effort,” explained the coach.

“During their careers, we have advanced as a team to the state meet all four years and fellow senior Sydney Gallagher has been an integral member of our state team each of those years, as well,” added Petraska.

“Sydney’s competitive spirit continues to impress us week after week.”

Running 23rd overall, Beucler crossed in 20:28.6.

Hannan was clocked at 20:29.4 as she placed 25th overall as the time gave Hudson a top-three gap time of just 13.6 ticks!

Yet another Explorer senior had a major contribution as Jordyn Hopgood placed next for Hudson at 38th-place with a time of 20:54.9.

“Our coaching staff has had the pleasure of watching Brenna, Emma, and Sydney's classmates Riley Gaynor, Jordyn Hopgood, and Sarah Weldon develop into fantastic runners over their careers to join our state team,” commented Petraska.

“This will be Sarah's (Weldon) third trip to the state meet, Jordyn's second, and Riley's first,” she added. “All three of these ladies have bought into our program goals over their careers and have grown exponentially, both as runners and as human beings.”

Racing to 61st-place finish out 183 runners, Weldon was timed at 21:14.1 to aid the Explorers’ cause.

“Additionally, we have senior Emily Ritenour on our state team for the first time after a tremendous season for her and we have valued her determination all season long,” remarked Petraska.

“With Emily, Riley, Jordyn, Sarah, Sydney, Emma, and Brenna we are very lucky to have seven senior leaders on our team,” added Petraska.

Hudson is more than just senior athletes.

“We also have a very talented and hardworking junior, Story Jones, who is such an asset to our team,” said Petraska. “Her competitive fire and consistent work ethic make her a force and we are excited to see her make her second straight trip to the state meet.”

“Story, along with standout sophomore Lena Clemens, our second state alternate, will provide us with valuable leadership in years to come,” added the coach.

At the Boardman regional, Jones finished 105th overall with a time of 21:58.8.

Gaynor crossed 137th for the Explorers at the regional as the veteran performer was clocked at 22:42.0.

What encourages Petraska is the fact that the regional champion Explorers still have some wiggle room to get better.

“We still have some gaps to close and some targets we need to hit in order to be successful at the state meet, but we are very excited going into the final week of what has been a season we will never forget,” explained the coach.

Hudson hopes to use balance, solid groupings, and good gap times to in the final event of a remarkable fall season.