Three Portage County runners earn All-Ohio honors at state cross country meet

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Owen Roberts Field heads to the finish line at the Division II state cross country meet, held Saturday  at Fortress Obetz and Memorial Park in Obetz, Ohio. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]
Katie Lane of Mogadore (center) runs at the start of the Division III race at the 2020 Cross Country State Championship, held Saturday at Fortress Obetz and Memorial Park in Obetz, Ohio. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]
Mogadore's Katie Lane races to the finish line during the Division III race at the 2020 Cross Country State Championship, held Saturday at Fortress Obetz and Memorial Park in Obetz, Ohio.

OBETZ — Running at the state cross country meet for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience.

Four Portage County runners got their baptism at the state meet Saturday at Fortress Obertz. 

On an unseasonably warm day, the flat, dry course offered the chance for some fast times, and the locals took full advance.

Mogadore freshman Katie Lane, Field junior Owen Roberts and Streetsboro sophomore Zachary Vales each earned All-Ohio honors at the state meet, while Aurora junior Andrew Ploskunak also ran well.

The top 30 finishers earn All-Ohio honors. 

In the Division II boys competition, Roberts and Vales were close to each other throughout the race. 

Roberts earned 23rd place in a time of 16:23.5, slicing nearly 30 seconds off his personal best. 

"It was beautiful, man," Owens said of the course. "It was way better than last week, which was like running in a swamp."

Field coach Ed Conroy said a personal record and All-Ohio were Roberts' top goals for the meet.

"We're excited for him," Conroy said. "We knew Owen could have a season like this. He's only a junior, so he has an opportunity to do even more."

Vales became the first Streetsboro boy to run at states since 2003. He secured the final All-Ohio place by taking 30th, and set a new school record in a time of 16:34.6.

The race exhausted Vales, but he was smiling afterwards, noting that his target was to keep Roberts in his sights for the entire race.

Streetsboro coach Jon Hannan has coached Vales since his middle school days, 

"I think he can do a lot more," Hannan said.

The Metro Athletic Conference had a huge day, as Woodridge won its second straight Division II boys title and 10th since 2006 — winning with 113 points.

Bulldogs senior Ryan Champa won the individual Division II title in a personal-record time of 15:42.9.

In the Division III girls race, Lane didn't look like  a state meet rookie. 

Lane went out just behind the lead back and stayed consistently in the mid-20s. She finished 24th in in 19:28.8, shattering her personal record by about 20 seconds and earning All-Ohio honors.

"It was super nice out there," Lane said of the course. "It was really flat, so I knew that I could go and get a PR [personal record]. My strategy was to keep a positive attitude and know that God was with me the whole race."

Lane said she was aiming for an All-Ohio spot, and that her ultimate goal was to break Mogadore's school record.

Wildcats coach Tim Baker sported purple hair at states, thanks to his freshman's request. Baker noted he expects a lot more from Lane in the future. 

"There's not a better day to run a PR than at states," Baker said. "She did everything that we asked of her this year. She puts in the work. The sky is the limit with her."

In the Division I boys race, Ploskunak carried the banner for Aurora after his good friend — All-Ohio Matt Singleton — had his season cut short due to COVID-19 protocol.

Ploskunak ended up giving a solid effort, finished 38th in a personal-record time of 16:15.8.

"It's different," Ploskunak said of running without his friend. "I was hoping for All-Ohio, but that was a big goal."

Ploskunak said, "it's happening," when asked if the Greenmen will advance as a team next year.