A program that had no name recognition five years ago, the Kenston boys cross-country team now has a target on its back – not just in Northeast Ohio, but throughout the state.
The Bomber harriers won their first Division I region title in 2019 and went on to finish sixth during their fourth straight trip to the state championship meet.
On Saturday, the 2020 Kenston boys captured their first team title in the Division I race of the 35th annual Spartan Invitational at Boardman.
Ranked No. 4 among Division I teams in the state, according to the coaches poll, Kenston scored 127 points to best Louisville, 149 points, St. Ignatius, 169 points, Mentor, 184 points, and all of the 25-team field.
Uniontown Lake senior Nathan Moore, the reigning state runner-up, won the 5-kilometer race in 15:48, besting Louisville junior Bobby Ganser, 15:59.4, and Aurora junior Matthew Singleton, 16:13.2, in the 256-runner field.
The Kenston boys were paced by seniors Garrett McConnell, who finished 12th in 16:34.1, and Dennis Princic, who took 15th in 16:37.7.
Also scoring for the Bombers, senior Nathan Bertman was 22nd in 16:51.7, senior Tyler McMahan finished 38th in 17:09.2 and junior Braden Hunt took 40th in 17:09.7, while senior Jack Turk was 66th in 17:40 and senior Maxwell Reardon was right behind him in 17:41.8.
Hardly outdone by their male counterparts, meanwhile, the Kenston girls recorded their best team finish at the Spartan Invitational by taking runner-up by just one point.
Ranked No. 9 in the state poll, the Lady Bombers scored 87 points and were bested only by Shaker Heights, 86 points, in the 27-school field. The Mentor girls took third with 98 points and Chardon was fourth with 151 points.
Stow-Munroe Falls freshman Jayla Atkinson won the individual title in 18:54.5, besting Uniontown Lake senior Alex Bauer, 18:58.9, and Mentor sophomore Savannah Dennison, 19:07.7, while Chardon senior Andrea Mann was fourth in 19:13.4 in the 249-runner field.
Scoring for the Kenston girls, sophomore Cece Paglia finished seventh in 19:31, sophomore Paige Masson took 11th in 19:49, senior Ellie Pleune was 19th in 20:03.1, freshman Emerson Greene took 22nd in 20:15.3, and junior Jenny Kapcio finished 28th in 20:28.5.
Providing solid depth in the Lady Bombers’ front seven, junior Jocelyn Van Skyhock finished 38th in 20:40.1 and freshman Madelyn Pleune took 44th in 20:55.5.
Joining Mann as scorers for Chardon, freshman Giada Dagostino finished 23rd in 20:17.3, junior Katie Snyder was 33rd in 20:33.1, junior Morgan Fisher took 45th in 20:57.4 and freshman Rae Kawalec was 46th in 20:58.3. Providing depth, freshman Cate Dawson finished 48th in 21:00.4 and senior Brianna Nieset took 58th in 21:09.
The Solon girls, meanwhile, finished 18th in the team standings with a trio of Lady Comets cracking 22 minutes: junior Ellie Radis finished 27th in 20:27.6, junior Jada Freeman took 64th in 21:18.5 and junior Kessie Kwiatkowski was 76th in 21:28.5. Also scoring for Solon, senior Emily Schneider finished 121st in 22:37.3 and junior Natalie Miller was 147th in 23:18.9.
Back in the Division I boys competition, state No. 15-ranked Solon took ninth with 265 points. Scoring for the Comets, senior Nathan Close finished 25th in 16:54.1, senior Johnny Ciccero took 44th in 17:15.4, senior Josh Baker was 61st in 17:37, junior Ryan Goldfeder finished 64th in 17:39 and sophomore James Howell took 71st in 17:42.6.
Rounding out Solon’s front seven, junior Adam Yousef finished 92nd in 17:54.6 and sophomore Charles Kasper was 111th in 18:12.7.
The Chardon boys were 19th in the team standings with freshman Karl Dietz finishing 46th in 17:17.2. Also scoring for the Hilltoppers, junior Luke Danison finished 55th in 17:28.7, freshman Thomas Nelson was 98th in 17:56.4, senior Jack Sweet finished 106th in 18:06.6 and freshman Makoto Gumph took 126th in 18:28.3.
In the Division II girls competition, meanwhile, Hawken School finished fifth, bested only by state No. 3-ranked St. Vincent-St. Marry, No. 5 Woodridge, No. 13 Hathaway Brown and No. 21 Poland Seminary in the 27-team field.
Hawken senior Ella Gilson won the individual crown in 18:52, besting Alliance Marlington sophomore Bella Graham, 19:11.1, and Woodridge junior Izzy Best, 19:20.5, in the 238-runner field.
Also scoring for the Lady Hawks, senior Juliana Metz finished 18th in 20:45.3, freshman Elana Padley took 40th in 21:48.4, freshman Camilla Mari was 49th in 21:59 and senior Lena Sylvan finished 85th in 23:10.9.
Three days earlier, the No. 8-ranked Gilmour Academy girls scored 50 points to finish runners-up in the Division III race of the Spartan Invitational, while No. 7-ranked Maplewood won the team banner with 41 points with 29 schools – only 17 with full five-member squads – in the field.
Maplewood freshman Caleigh Richards won the individual title in 19:12, while Gilmour freshman Amy Weybrecht was runner-up in 19:39.4 and Gilmour Caitrina Barton was third in 19:50.6 in the 164-runner field.
Also scoring for the Lady Lancers, junior Mary Lombardo finished 10th in 20:53.1, freshman Giovanna Rosko took 12th in 21:10.6 and junior Mia Polisena was 23rd in 21:53.6, while freshman Anna Grossner finished 29th in 22:30.0 and junior Ava Moe was 51st in 23:17.4.