Every runner is different, but for the young West Holmes Knights boys group, the stories to get where they are now are as varied as the runners themselves.
For West Holmes coaches Kevin Beachy and Michael Ewing, shaping those various styles and runners together into a team is the challenge, and so far, the challenge has been a fun one.
Last year as a freshman, Jonathan Kandel burst on to the scene as a promising newcomer. At the Wayne-Holmes Cross Country Invite Saturday, Oct. 8 in Orrville, Kandel ran a PR time of 18:30. During the race, he was paced by injured veteran Knights senior runner Vinny DeFelice. Defelice unselfishly volunteered to run as a pacer for Kandel to help spur him along.
Kandel’s quickly improving game has him excited about the possibilities that lie ahead, and he said the hops is that by his senior year, he is running in the high 15s.
He was brought into cross country by his sister Alexis Kandel, an All-Ohio track and cross country runner who helped encourage her brother to get involved with both sports.
He said the goal now is to keep working at this and keep PR’ing every time out, and he gave credit to his coaching staff for their dedication and faith in not just him, but in all the runners.
“I think we all get better because Coach Beachy and Coach Ewing are always pushing us to get better,” Clark said. He added that there is another fairly talented runner serving as a catalyst, that being All-Ohioan Michelle Hostettler. He also credited DeFelice with working with him to improve his game.
“It’s like a big family, and we all want to push each other to do the best we can,” said Kandel.
Jackson Iamarino is a junior, but this marks his first year of running cross country. Beachy said Iamarino continues to get better with each passing week, and with every competition, and he has begun to become an integral part of the team’s success.
“Basically my friends got me to join,” Iamarino said. “I always wanted to but I never had the motivation to do it until this year. I finally decided why not, and it has been fun.”
Iamarino carves off time every meet West Holmes attends, and while he continues to improve, he does have one overriding goal each event.
“Just beat Bender, that’s all,” Iamarino said with a laugh. “That’s good enough for me, as long as I can have bragging rights over him.”
Bender would be Brayden Bender, who was once himself a promising rookie freshman. However, a knee injury shelves him for the entire 2015 campaign, and now he is working his way back into running shape after the lengthy lay-off.
“I’m still working my way back, and it has been tough getting back into running shape,” said Bender. “But I am now just two seconds off of my freshman PR, so that has been encouraging.”
Bender said running as part of the Knights cross country program has brought he and his friends closer together, and he noted that they feel like a big family.
He said that while the pain and doubts of the knee still linger, but lessen with each day, he enjoys having the camaraderie of his teammates to help him get through it.
“That definitely helps having them around,” Bender said.
From experienced talents like DeFelice to young runners like Kandel, and older yet inexperienced runners like Iamarino and those coming back from injury like Bender, this West Holmes boys team runs the gamete in personalities and abilities, but Beachy said the challenge of getting his team to improve and run together has been a good experience.
“It’s been a fun year because it is a great group of kids,” Beachy said. “We have seen a lot of these guys come a long way and get a lot better, and there aren’t any egos here. They just want to work and keep having a good time doing this together.”