By WARREN DILLAWAY - firstname.lastname@example.org
PERRY TOWNSHIP —
The Hilltoppers hit their stride at just the right time with the boys and girls teams repeating as Premier Athletic Conference cross country champions Friday at the Perry Outdoor YMCA.
Chardon boys got set the stage, winning with 24 points to Riverside’s 73, followed by North with 75.
The meet was closer than it would have been as two runners from North, second- and third-place finishers, were disqualified for missing the final flag on the course.
Chardon boys coach Mark Shafer said his team has an excellent mental attitude and it paid off with a championship. He also feels like he has caught lightning in a bottle twice.
Shafer coached Hilltopper great Emil Heineking, 2007 graduate, during his run to excellence that eventually included a top 30 finish in the NCAA Division I meet and a spot on the American junior championship team that competed at the world championships.
“Quite honestly, when Emil went throug,h we thought we’d never see those times again,” Shafer said.
Well those times are back as Chardon junior Nick Elswick won the race in a time of 15:46. He will enter the Division I district meet at Lakeland Community College on Saturday undefeated for the year.
“This is pretty fun,” Shafer said. He said they are two totally different people but have similar results.
Riverside coach Phillip Baioni was happy with the team’s second-place finish.
“My guys did well. It’s been a tough season,” he said of replacing two quality runners off of last year’s team.
“They were both 16:20 or faster, so that’s hard to replace,” he said. He said the team has a really tight pack and have worked hard.
Madison and Lakeside had their annual battle, with the Blue Streaks beating the Dragons by two points.
Madison boys coach Jeremy Verdi said he was happy with his squad.
“I had literally 15 (personal records) today and we know that we need to run the way we ran today to make it to the regional,” he said.
Lakeside coach Greg Zannelli said he felt his team could have done a little better, but also had 10 runners beat their personal-best performances Friday.
“I felt we could have done better as a team,” Zannelli said.
He said Lakeside has a strong, friendly rivalry with Madison and hope to compete well with them next week at the district meet.
The Chardon girls squad ran to victory putting three runners in the top five, and five in the top 14, led by senior Corinne Kule who won the race for the second time in two years with a time of 19:34.
“That’s a great run for us today,” Chardon girls coach Mike Combs said. “I keep telling these girls we’re as good as we were last year and I think they are starting to believe it.
The Hilttoppers finished 5th at the Division I regional meet at Boardman last year. “We were 18 points out of going to state,” he said.
Combs said the team ran with a lot of effort and passion and hopes to get back to the regional meet and take a shot at qualifying for the state meet.
Madison finished second with 76 points, followed by Lakeside with 98.
Madison girls coach Kelly Chandler said the girls ran well, especially seniors Katarina Funk and Annette Brickman. She said the Blue Streaks expected to be in second place and are looking forward to the district meet next week.
Lakeside girls coach Christina Powers was happy to step up a spot from last year’s fourth place finish.
“That was the goal going into the race,” she said. “We knew we were close to them early in the year.”
Geneva girls coach Matt Deering at the pleasure of leading his team to a fifth-place finish and watching his daughter, Emily, finished third overall with a time of 20:07 during her first year in the sport.
“The kids all had personal records,” Deering said. “He said the runners all had strong finishes and he couldn’t be more proud.”
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