The West Holmes Knights’ boys cross country team has shown some great consistency this season. Now head coach Kevin Beachy wants it to be a faster consistency.
Wooster High School hosted its annual Wooster Invitational cross country meet on Saturday, Sept. 8, and some area runners looked awfully good in producing some top finishes, both as individuals and as teams.
For West Holmes the boys ran well again while the girls struggled a bit to keep pace.
A trio of local talents fared very well in the Div. II meet. Waynedale standout Johnathan Varner recorded a runner-up finish in 16:47.9, one spot in front of Smithville’s Noah Navratil, who ran a 16:57.3. Placing fourth was Orrville’s Stuart Kirkbride, who ran a 17:07.1.
Orrville’s James Shupp (sixth/17:28.1), Caleb Endicott (eighth/17:31.3) and Tyler McFarren (14th/18:05.0) helped the Red Riders to a runner-up finish, just one spot behind Div. II champion Cloverleaf.
West Holmes didn’t place anyone in the top 15, but a solid core of runners in the top third helped the Knights place fifth as a team.
While the Knights continue to show consistency, Beachy is looking for more.
“We’ve become consistent. Now we need to start showing improvement from week to week,” Beachy said. “I want us to be faster. We have a golden opportunity at Galion to do just that. I thought the guys responded well to the challenge this week in practice. Now they have to go out and do it in a race.”
Leading the way was sophomore Caiden Carter, who placed 16th in 18:12.0, while senior Jonathan Kandel was right on his heels, placing 17th in 18:12.3. Cade Wagers ended up 20th by charting an 18:34.4 while Haeden Wolfe was 32nd in 19:17.3.
Other top boys West Holmes runners included Caden Zigler (49th/20:42.7), Jarek Snow (54th/20:59.3), Ian Jones (56th/21:11.7), Cruz Alexander (65th/21:56.2) and Haden Tenney (69th/22:05.2).
The large sophomore contingent of runners has seen steady growth since its junior high days, where Beachy said they were running last as a team in events as seventh-graders, moved up to near the middle of the pack as eighth-graders and continued to grow as freshmen.
“We kept telling them that they could do some really good things even though the results weren’t great,” Beachy said of the sophomores. “They are starting to show some of that promise.”
Smithville ended the day in third place as Ben Melkey (10th/17:40.9), Steven Lessiter (26th/18:50.3), Braden Young (27th/18:56.6) and Israel Balas (31st/19:16.6) led the way for the Smithies.
Triway earned a fourth-place finish with Ian Speicher’s seventh-place finish in 17:29.3, the top on the team for the Titans. Aaron Saari (15th/18:11.9) and Isaiah Styer (22nd/18:42.9) rounded out Triway’s top-25 placers.
Wooster had a sensational day in Div. I, where Breydan Hann’s 16:45.4 placed him seventh as he paced the Generals to a team runner-up finish.
Ashton Dunlap (13th/16:55.3), Evan Miller (19th/17:13.9) and Lucas Lindemuth (23rd/17:23.8) rounded out an inspiring group of Generals who ran in the top 25 of the 124 Div. I runners.
In girls Div. II racing, Orrville’s Maya Hamsher had her way with the field and ran away from the field to win in a time of 19:28.7. Her teammate Alyssa Plumley placed fifth in 20:28.4, and the Red Riders finished sixth.
Smithville ran second as a team, led by Kate Larson’s ninth-place effort in 21:08.7. Ashleigh Clabaugh (15th/21:41.5) and Kenzie Brookover (25th/23:08.0) were in the top 25 for Smithville.
The Triway Titans ran third, led by sophomore Shari Ritchey’s 14th-place finish in 21:38.8. Teammate Miriam Starner was 19th in 22:03.7 while Riley Oberly placed 23rd in 22:48.3.
West Holmes was led in scoring by sophomore Katie Sprang’s 21st-place finish in a time of 22:38.9. Other Lady Knights top placers included Morgan Allen (26th/23:09.5), Ashly Phillips (40th/25:07.1), Eleah Crayton (48th/25:39.7) and Erin Norman (51st/25:52.5).
Beachy was pleased with the overall effort of his Lady Knights, noting they improved their times across the board, unlike the boys, who remained on par with their previous times.
“I thought the girls ran a strong race,” Beachy said. “What hurt us was that Katie wasn’t feeling well, and it showed in her time, but she is such a fierce competitor that she is going to go out and give it all she has anyway. I really can’t say there were any highlight performances, just a really strong effort to improve across the board, which a coach loves to see in his team.”
Beachy said with a rigorous schedule of events this fall, the goal is not to win but to compete against great competition and get better. He said while they all would love to win, they understand the end goal at hand.
“Winning would be nice, but it’s all about getting ready for October and staying healthy and getting in the best shape we can be in for the survive-and-advance part of the season,” Beachy said.
The Knights middle school teams competed in the middle school portion of the event, and there was a very impressive performance for the boys, who placed ninth of 16 teams.
Camden Doty ran with the front pack and eventually settled in at third place, but more impressively he cranked out a time of 11:08.2, good enough to surpass Knights standout Vinny DeFelice’s middle school record time of 11:17.
“Camden ran an incredible race, and he is a terrific runner with huge potential,” Beachy said.
Brenna Myers fired off a time of 13:07.3, good for a ninth-place finish for the girls, which helped them earn a seventh-place finish out of 11 teams. Araceli Kandel finished in 27th place in 13:51.4.