Heat takes toll on Division I runners at state cross country meet

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Titan Casey Hudson sprints to the finish in the Div. I 2020 Cross Country State Championship at Fortress Obetz and Memorial park in Obetz, Ohio  on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.  [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]
Jayla Atkinson Stow competes in the Div. I 2020 Cross Country State Championship at Fortress Obetz and Memorial park in Obetz, Ohio  on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.  [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]
Seth Macura Stow competes in the Div. I 2020 Cross Country State Championship at Fortress Obetz and Memorial park in Obetz, Ohio  on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.  [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]
Alex Zuckett Jackson and Clay Peets Firestone compete in the Div. I 2020 Cross Country State Championship at Fortress Obetz and Memorial park in Obetz, Ohio  on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.  [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]

OBETZ — In early November, one would imagine it would be past the time of year when heat issues would be a major factor.

At the Division I state cross country meet, however, that's exactly what happened. 

When the Division I race began Saturday afternoon on the new course at Fortress Obetz, temperatures were in the mid-70s. That was a dramatic change from the cold weather at regionals.

As a result, numerous athletes were unable to cope with the unseasonal warmth — and the Hudson boys were among the hardest hit.

Hudson was in the top three team in boys race for the first two miles, but then saw seniors Elliott Durkee and Jack Root felled by heat illness. Durkee was able to finish the race, but Root did not.

As a result, the Explorers finished in ninth place with 273 points. Lakota West won the Division I boys title with 73 points.

Hudson's top finisher was senior Kyle Betz, who finished 37th in 16:15.9.

"It was different out there," Hudson junior Titan Casey said. "Our team was not prepared for the heat today. We gave it our all though."

"The heat knocked out two of our guys," Hudson coach Mark McConnell said. "That happens every year to people. This year, it happened to us. 

"I think the the other five guys ran phenomenal races," he added. "There was no doubt we were a top three in the first two miles. With a quarter of a mile to go, that's when the fatigue really hits and it hit us. I can't be disappointed with a top 10 finish at the state meet."

Firestone's Clay Peets was another runner who looked wiped out after the race — but it was worth it.

Peets became the first Firestone runner to earn All-Ohio honers in 41 years, as he finished 17th in a time of 15:55.5.

"It's all I could ask for," Peets said. "It's the state meet and I left it all out there." 

Firestone coach Aaron Varner had to help Peets leave the facility, but he was all smiles after the race.

"This kid worked his butt off to do what he did," Varner said. "He's been finishing stronger recently and he did tonight."

Another local runner happy with this performance was Stow-Munroe Falls senior Seth Macura.

Macura just missed an All-Ohio spot by finishing 37th, but his time of 16:15.8 was a personal record.

"That was my goal coming down here," Macura said. "All that training and work was for this. I was trying hard to stay with Elliot [Durkee] like glue."

"He ran a really good race," Stow boys coach JK LeSeure said. "The key for Seth was keep racing the way he had been racing. The challenge was not to try anything new down here."

Walsh Jesuit junior Luke Ondracek was 49th in 16:23.3. Green's sophomore due of Theo Papas (60th,. 16:30.6) and Spiro Papas (77th, 16:41.3) also ran well.

The heat seemed to hit the Division I girls field even harder. 

Hudson was able to navigate the heat into a sixth-place finish with 183 points. Centerville won the Division I girls title with 78 points.

The Explorers' top two runners narrowly missed getting All-Ohio honers. Senior Emmaline Hanna finished 32nd in 19:03.4, and senior Jordyn Hopgood was 35th in 19:06.

"Everybody deals with it," Hudson coach Megan Pestraska said of the heat. "You've got to find a way to deal with it. It's been a very good season for us. I'm so proud of all the girls. They've worked hard and they're a great group of human beings."

The heat took a toll on Stow-Munroe Falls freshman Jayla Atkinson, who had hoped for a top 20 finish. After cramping up early in the race, Atkinson was able to finish, but faded to 116th place in 20:18.9.

Atkinson had to be attended to by medical staff after the race.

"I think no one is going to be satisfied with this," Stow girls coach Aaron Morris said. "It was a tough day."