Usually when the end of the high school cross country season rolls around, runners are prepared to wear gloves, caps and headbands and enjoy the brisk October weather that accompanies the district meet, but runners were greeted with unusually hot temperatures and bright sunshine on Saturday, Oct. 21 at Cambridge High School. Mother Nature was going to make this day a brutally tough one on the competitors.
By the end of the day, the weather had taken its toll, sending a number of runners to the hospital, forcing many others to pull out and causing others to pass out on the course.
“It was flat-out stinking hot,” West Holmes coach Kevin Beachy said. “Thank goodness none of our kids had to be taken to the hospital, but we did have a number of runners who failed to finish.”
On the boys side, top runner Jonathan Kandel was easily in position to finish among the top 24 runners to advance to regionals. In addition the Knights were running so well as a team that they were on the verge of qualifying for regionals, something Beachy said he would have never imagined coming into the season. Then the heat simply overcame Kandel, and he passed out a mere 300 yards from the finish line, unable to finish.
“We were qualified out, and Jon was running a great race. Then the heat just took him out of it,” Beachy said of Kandel. “He was just giving everything he had.”
The heat also took a toll on a pair of Lady Knights as top runner Katie Sprang and senior Kaylor Perone both pulled out due to heat exhaustion.
It wasn’t our best weekend in terms of finishes but don’t confuse that with a lack of effort,” Beachy said. “These kids gave everything they had. It just didn’t quite work out the way we had hoped coming in.”
The Knights boys ended up in 11th place in the field of 23 teams, totaling 258 points. River View grabbed the top spot and a district title with 75 points, followed by Minerva at 92, Carrollton at 136, John Glenn at 148 and Indian Valley with 160.
West Holmes didn’t get through to regionals as a team, but the Knights did get one runner through, and that runner came out of nowhere.
Freshman Caiden Carter ran a 17:33.2, placing him 15th overall. With the top-16 runners qualifying for regionals, Carter’s effort snuck him into the field of runners moving on. He edged out JayTyler McConkey of Cambridge, who placed 16th in 17:35.1, while Harrison Central’s Keishi Arnold (17:36) and Trevor Kirkpatrick (17:37) of Minerva were unable to track down Carter in the end game.
“Caiden has gotten better and better as the season has gone on, and it was awesome to see him run a smart race,” Beachy said. “But the scary thing is I think he has more in him. I really think he is starting to figure things out mentally. I told him early in the year that he could run an 18:10, and he didn’t believe it. Then something seemed to click at the Wayne-Holmes run, and now his confidence is sky-high.”
Carter was far from the lone Knight to experience some big success. West Holmes senior Brayden Bender placed 30th overall, finishing in 18:03, giving himself a PR in his final race, while Knights classmate Jackson Iamarino ended up 49th in 18:37. That time was pushing his PR.
Beachy had huge praise for his two seniors who ran their final race. “Both of them ran their hearts out,” Beachy said of Bender and Iamarino. “They put in a ton of time and effort, and they have been especially good examples for all of our young kids.”
Junior Travett Boughman finished 52nd in 18:40, a PR for him, and freshman Caden Zeigler finished 112th in 20:24.
The Lady Knights finished the day in 14th place overall in the field of 23 teams, scoring 383 points. Tusky Valley took the top team honor, earning a district championship with 63 points. Close behind was Minerva, which was runner-up with 78, while Dover was a single point back at 79. New Philadelphia was fourth with 136 while River View rounded out the top five with 185.
Leading the way for the Lady Knights was sophomore Allen Morgan, who placed 57th in 22:30. Junior Erin Norman was 71st in 23:06, Daybria Yerian took 81st in 23:32, Megan Morrison was 87th in 23:42 and Brogan Steimel ran a 24:11 to place 94th in the field of 160 runners.
“I thought Daybria ran an incredible race, the best time of her career on a day like that,” Beachy said. “She really stepped up big at a big moment.”
As for the rest of the young Lady Knights, Beachy said some good comes from any event that challenges kids.
“It was a good learning experience, and the kids got some good exposure to what it takes to compete at this level,” Beachy said. “Hopefully next year both our boys and girls come back here and qualify as a team. That is the silver lining with a young team.”
Beachy added that this year’s group was one of the closest he has had. He noted that the team had a very family-like feel, and the bond they shared made the season one that was truly fun to coach.