For Kevin Beachy’s West Holmes cross country crew, it is a new era and a new approach to racing this fall.
Gone is Michelle Hostettler, the most highly decorated West Holmes runner in school history. Gone too is Vinny DeFelice, the face of the boys program for the past four seasons. Both came to the West Holmes cross country scene and made a huge instant impact as freshmen, and both had great careers.
Over the past several years Beachy has produced a number of state-qualifying kids including the likes of Emily Molnar, Sam Boyd, Cully Gordon and Alexis Kandel, to name a few.
However, the Knights came into the 2017 season with a new look, plenty of new faces and a team that didn’t carry the huge expectations the Knights have had the past decade.
For Beachy it has been a breath of fresh air that he has enjoyed immensely.
“It has been very refreshing coming into a season with no expectations other than to continue to improve every single day,” Beachy said. “There are no boundaries. Just go to practice and meets and watch us get better. It has been fun, and the kids have done a good job of working hard.”
The Knights’ most recent trek took them to Newark, where they participated in the Newark Cross County Invitational.
The Knights’ boys team placed 10th out of 15 teams and was led by a superb performance by senior Jackson Iamarino, who led all Knights with his time of 19:02.8, good for 29th place overall in the meet of 184 runners. Hot on Iamarino’s heels was junior Travett Boughman, who rolled home in 34th place in 19:24.0. Jonathan Kandel was third for the Knights, finishing in 38th place in 19:32.6 while Brayden Bender was 48th in 19:48.8. Caiden Carter ended up fifth for the Knights for their final counting score, placing 62nd in a time of 20:10.1.
Freshman Carl Uhink ran well, finishing 72nd in 20:38.6, while classmates Caden Zigler and Haeden Wolfe were right with him, placing 78th in 20.46.4 and 81st in 20:54.9, respectively. Sophomore Jarek Snow was 91st in 21:29.7, and freshman Cade Wagers placed 108th in 22:19.3. Senior Joshua Mellor ended up 114th in 22:33.3 with junior Zedrick Clark placing 152nd in 24:51.2.
Overall it was a very solid team effort for a young Knights team that Beachy said is getting better and better as they learn on the fly.
“It seemed like it was a long course because everyone’s times were about a minute slower than usual, and that wasn’t just us but everyone,” Beachy said. “But I thought despite the times we ran a smart race and gave a good effort.”
Beachy said Kandel is still a relative youngster, having begun cross country just three seasons ago, and he said like the rest of the boys, he simply needs to gain some consistency.
As for Iamarino’s effort, Beachy said he was extremely satisfied watching his senior put forth such a wonderful performance.
“I was thrilled for him,” Beachy said of Iamarino. “He really stepped up. He has worked so hard, and he ran a great race. While everyone else’s times were about a minute off of what they normally run, his was right on par with his usual times.”
Beachy said Boughman has already shown some amazing ability, and he started running just last year. In addition Beachy noted that the four freshmen have picked up their game tremendously and should provide quality depth for the next four years.
The Lady Knights ended the day in fifth place out of the 11-team field, getting a strong effort across the board.
On the girls side of the ledger, freshman Katie Sprang continued her impressive debut season, churning out a time of 21:15.0, good for sixth place overall in a field of 148 runners.
“She is a really good runner already, but she is going to get better,” Beachy said of his freshman. “She is still learning.”
Sophomore Morgan Allen ran 16th overall in a time of 22:50.9 while junior Erin Norman was 27th in 23:49.6. Senior Kaylor Perone placed 38th overall in 24:42.6 while freshman Brogan Steimel ended up 47th in 25:26.3, just edging senior teammate Megan Morrison, who placed 49th in 25:37.5.
Sophomore Ashly Phillips finished 73rd in 26:52.9, Aleah Crayton was 53rd in 25:40.3, senior Alexis Hunter was 91st in 28:40.4, Kasey Judson and Carolyn Rohr placed 107th and 108th, and Becca Kashuba and Brooklyn Adams were 117th and 118th.
Much like the boys, the young Lady Knights are trending in the right direction.
“We are definitely young, both boys and girls,” Beachy said. “Morgan has to be the most improved runner this season. A year ago she was running 24s, and her first race this year she was in the 23s and has since dropped into the 22s. She has been a woman on a mission.”
Steimel, another freshman with potential, has stepped into a varsity role and competed well too.
“I told her she is starting to look like a real runner now,” Beachy said of Steimel. “She’s getting it.”
While the youngsters are performing, Beachy said what he has really enjoyed is watching his seniors step up and lead. According to the head coach, Morrison, Perone and Iamarino have all done an excellent job of making sure everyone is accepted and having fun.
“Our seniors have really gone to great lengths to make sure everyone feels included and important,” Beachy said. “They have shown great leadership, and they have worked really hard to set a good example. That has been exciting to watch that take place.”
With plenty more opportunities to gain some consistency and improve, the West Holmes cross country team’s new look appears to be headed in a very nice direction.