If one watching the Poland girls cross country feels as if they are seeing mirror images passing them by, it’s completely understandable. That’s probably because they’re at least partially correct.
The top six runners for the Bulldogs are two groups of sisters. When it really gets confusing is when the Klim sisters go running past, because three of them are triplets and the other looks remarkably like them. Then there’s the Rogenski sisters, who start and often finish things off for Poland.
They may even confuse coach Kim Grisdale, but she’s wearing a big smile in the midst of her confusion. It was just like that Monday at the War on the Shore hosted by Lakeside High School as the Bulldogs stormed the beach at Lake Shore Park to win the girls team title in impressive fashion by a 32-42 margin over Mentor that was even more convincing than the point spread might indicate.
Actually, only four schools were able to field a complete team. Madison also looked good with 64 points, while Edgewood finished with 101 points. Lakeside and Geneva did not have full teams.
Sophomore Libby Rogenski covered the course, revised to the high-school standard 3.1 miles by Lakeside boys coach Greg Zannelli, in 21:09. That’s quite a hike from the old two-mile setup SS. John and Paul coach Bob Dulak had established when the event was known as the Hill and Dale Sprint.
Rogenski handled it like a champ, finishing exactly 40 seconds ahead of sophomore teammate McKinsie Klim, one of the three Klim triplets. Melissa Klim, another triplet, finished fourth in 23:02, while the third triplet, Michelle, finished 12th overall and Victoria Klim, the junior member of the family, rounded out the scoring in 15th place. For good measure, Rogenski’s sister, Ellie, was the sixth finisher for the Bulldogs.
Many coaches preach the value of family to their teams, but the Poland girls take it to extremes. That’s just fine with their coach.
“That’s absolutely one of our goals this year, to treat each other like sisters,” Grisdale said. “We still want them to push each other, but in a friendly way. We still want them to love each other and still want them to work together.
“I’m excited about what I saw today. The girls have worked very hard this summer. I’m excited about the way they performed and what could happen as we go along.”
Rogenski was pretty pleased with her race.
“I feel pretty good about it,” she said. “It was a tough course, but I think I did pretty well for my first race.”
It was left to Edgewood junior Juliana Simmons to break up Poland’s sister act. She was the top area finisher, placing third in 22:13. It was left to her, Madison’s Erin Hord in sixth place and Allison Rothlisburger in ninth and Geneva’s Alyssa Nieset in 10th, to break up some of the packs Poland and Mentor formed.
“I guess I’m pretty satisfied,” Simmons said. “It wasn’t the time I was looking for, but it’s only the first race. I wanted to be at least down around 21:30, but the course was pretty tough and the wind was pretty strong.”
First-year Madison coach Kelly Chandler was quite pleased with the Blue Streaks’ maiden voyage under her direction.
“I was impressed with the girls for their first race of the year,” she said. “I think the future looks pretty good. My lead girl is a sophomore, my second, third and fourth runners are all juniors and our No. 5 today is a sophomore. And our senior (Jillanne Mackey) wasn’t able to be here today, so I think things look good.”
For the most part, the girls coaches liked the new course, which continued to utilize Lake Shore Park’s monster hills and added opening and closing the race across its beach to the mix. Heavy winds added to the challenge.
“This is definitely a difficult course,” Chandler said. “But we put in a lot of work on hills to get ready. I think off a race like today, we’re going to see some major drops in time after this.”
“I was impressed with how hard this course was,” Grisdale said. “It definitely was a challenge. After today, any other course should be a lot easier.”