Half the field included state-ranked programs, as both the Kenston boys and girls cross-country teams were supposedly underdogs during a 10-team invitational on Saturday at their home 5-kilometer course in Bainbridge Township.
But that didn’t stop the Bombers and the Lady Bombers from defending their trails for a pair of team victories.
The Kenston boys, who graduated two seniors from their 2019 squad that finished sixth at the Division I state championship, entered Saturday’s meet ranked eighth in the big-school coaches poll, but ended up scoring 42 points to defeat Division II favorite Woodridge, 88 points, and Division I No. 4-ranked Mentor, 91 points.
The Division II No. 4-ranked Bay Rockets took fourth with 104 points, while Division I No. 13-ranked Solon was fifth with 133 points in the 93-runner race.
The Kenston girls, who returned their entire 2019 postseason squad that finished 10th in the Division I Youngtown Region, entered Saturday’s home meet ranked 13th in the coaches poll, but the Lady Bombers scored 49 points defeated No. 9-ranked Mentor, 64 points, and No. 22-ranked Chardon, 82.
The Division II No. 5-ranked Woodridge girls were fourth with 97 points in the 99-runner race.
To say that the Kenston boys and girls did anything else beside outperform their expectations would be a false statement.
The Bombers were led by a senior quartet who appeared in postseason form: Dennis Princic took third in 16:17.5; Jack Turk was fourth in 16:23.2; Garrett McConnell finished fifth in 16:31.4; and Nathan Bertman took eighth in 16:37.5.
Princic was bested only by Woodridge senior Ryan Champa, 15:54.7, who took sixth at the 2019 Division II state meet, and Boardman senior Frank Bero, 16:02.8.
Also scoring for Kenston was junior Braden Hunt, who finished 22nd in 17:06.7, while seniors Maxwell Reardon, 17:15.7, and Tyler McMahan, 17:24.9, rounded out the Bombers’ front seven, and junior Luke Dunnam, 17:25.2, was right there.
Scoring for the Solon boys, senior Johnny Ciccero took 11th in 16:42.4; senior Nathan Close finished 13th in 16:46.5; senior Josh Baker was 30th in 17:17.5; junior Ryan Goldfeder took 36th in 17:28.4; and sophomore James Howell was 43rd in 17:45.6.
The Chardon boys, who finished seventh, had four guys break the 18-minute mark: junior Luke Danison finished 15th in 16:52.9; freshman Karl Dietz took 19th in 17:02.4; senior Jack Sweet was 40th in 17:40.9; and freshman Thomas Nelson finished 44th in 17:50.9.
In the girls race, two-time defending Division II state champion Ella Gilson, a Hawken School senior, took gold in 18:43.7, while Chardon senior Andrea Mann was runner-up in 19:03.1 and Green senior Olivia Gang finished third in 19:14.6. Mann was a Division I state qualifier a year ago.
Scoring for Kenston, sophomore Cece Paglia finished fourth in 19:21; sophomore Paige Masson took seventh in 19:31.5; freshman Emerson Greene was eighth in 19:34.7; senior Ellie Pleune, a returning state qualifier, finished 13th in 20:05.2; and junior Jenny Kapcio was 17th in 20:10.9. Displacing other team’s runners in Kenston’s front seven, junior Jocelyn Van Skyhock finished 26th in 20:35.2 and freshman Madelyn Pleune took 30th in 20:48.5.
Joining runner-up Mann in scoring for the third-place Chardon girls, senior Brianna Nieset finished 15th in 20:08.0; freshman Rae Kawalec took 16th in 20:08.3; freshman Giada Dagostino was 24th in 20:31; and junior Katie Snyder finished 25th in 20:32.7. Providing additional depth in the Lady Hilltoppers’ front seven, junior Morgan Fisher finished 27th in 20:35.5, and freshman Cate Dawson took 29th in 20:40.6.
Scoring for the Solon girls, who were ninth in the team standings, junior Ellie Radis finished 19th in 20:17.4; junior Jessie Kwiatkowski took 34th in 20:59.2; junior Jada Freeman was 38th in 21:08.9; senior Emily Schneider finished 64th in 22:46.7; and sophomore Sarah Baker was 65th in 23:05.1.
And joining meet champion Gilson in scoring for the Hawken School girls, who were 10th as a team, freshman Camilla Mari finished 54th in 22:05.7; freshman Elana Padley took 55th in 22:06.7; junior Amanda Lee was 58th in 22:21.6; and senior Lena Sylvan finished 66th in 23:10.5.
Up next, Kenston, Chardon, Solon and Hawken will compete in the 35th annual Spartan Invitational beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday at Boardman High School.