Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
October 22, 2020
Kenston boys captures sixth straight conference banner
The Chardon girls’ dynasty ended, but the Kenston boys’ dynasty continued during the eight-team Western Reserve Conference cross-country meet on Saturday at the trails in Bainbridge Township.
Behind a two-four-five-six-seven finish, no one could touch the Kenston girls’ pack, as the Lady Bombers scored 24 points to dethrone five-time defending champion Chardon, 40 points, which had run the show every season since the league resurrected in 2015.
“Chardon’s always going to be good this time of year,” Kenston head coach Chris Ickes said. “They’re currently ranked in the top 20 of the state. So, they’re definitely a good team, very well-coached and they really seem to bring it on this weekend.
“Our girls had a pretty good strategy. They wanted to stick together as a pack. They were able to execute on that really well. Cece Paglia is starting to become more confident and really start to grasp what her potential is.”
While Chardon senior Andrea Mann defended her individual title in 18:45.5 on the 5-kilometer course, Kenston sophomore Cece Paglia led her Lady Bombers with a runner-up finish in 18:51.8 – the second-fastest time in school history.
Vonnie Downing holds the Kenston school record in an 18:46, which she clocked her sophomore year with the Lady Bombers in 1996. She finished 12th at the Division II state meet that year, before transferring to reigning state champion Beaumont. Downing went on to finish state runner-up in 18:37 as a junior, and then fifth in 18:46 as a senior.
But it wasn’t just all about Chardon’s Mann and Kenston’s Paglia on Saturday.
The Lady Bombers had five harriers finished ahead of Chardon’s two runner. In addition to Paglia, Kenston freshman Emerson Greene took fourth in 19:07.2, senior Ellie Pleune took fifth in 19:22.2, sophomore Paige Masson was sixth in 19:34.8 and junior Jenny Kapcio finished seventh in 19:54.3.
“Cece set the tone for us,” Ickes said. “She led a pack of four of our girls through the mile mark and then tried to push away in the race. And Cece and Emerson Greene and Ellie Pleune and Paige Masson made a really big surge as they entered back into the woods at a mile and half. That pack just stuck together and kept helping each other.
“But, in reality, that championship was won due to our fifth person, and that was Jenny Kapcio. She races really confidently and was probably about 16th or 18th at the mile mark, and whenever she came back out of the woods, she was sitting in the seventh spot.”
Also running in Kenston’s top seven, juniors Jocelyn Van Skyhock, 20:31, and Kathryn Klotz, 20:32.8, finished 17th and 18th.
The last time the Lady Bombers’ cross-country team secured a league banner was during back-to-back titles in the Chagrin Valley Conference in 2011 and 2012.
And the last time the Kenston girls won a WRC title was in 1999, when the late Greg Lusk was at the helm during a previous incarnation of the league.
In addition to Paglia’s record-book run, Kenston’s Greene and Pleune are tied with 2007 graduate Taryn Surtees for the fifth-best time in their program history in 19:07.
“Emerson (Greene) has really impressed me with her strength,” Ickes said of his rookie. “She’s a very strong second-half runner. She made a decision two weeks ago in our dual meet against Solon that she was going to try and stick with our front pack to the mile mark. And she stuck in there with them and had a strong second half, and I think that showed her what she’s capable of.”
Through their success so far this season, the Kenston girls are ranked seventh in the Division I coaches poll, while the Chardon girls are 18th.
Joining Mann as scorers for Chardon at the WRC meet, freshman Giada Dagostino finished eighth in 19:59.8, freshman Rae Kawalec took ninth in 20:01, junior Katie Snyder was 10th in 20:06.1 and senior Brianna Nieset took 12th in 20:20.1. while junior Morgan Fisher was 13th in 20:20.9 and freshman Cate Dawson took 14th in 20:21.7.
Kenston boys win title
The Kenston boys cross-country team wasn’t going to outdo its performance from a year ago, but the Bomber harriers came pretty darn close during the WRC meet on Saturday on their home trails.
The 2019 Bombers recorded a perfect 15 points for their fifth consecutive league crown.
On Saturday, the Kenston boys posted a one-two-five-six-seven finish to score 21 points, besting runner-up Chardon, 70 points, for their sixth straight WRC banner under 14th-year head coach Chris Ickes.
Not to mention, the Bombers also took eighth and ninth – their front seven all broke 17 minutes and all finished in the top 10.
“I think these boys were driven from the moment they became freshmen,” Ickes said. “You look at how much they’ve improved and how much they’ve worked to get better, it wouldn’t matter what the situation is, they’re all hungry, competitive and very team-oriented.”
With five returning senior harriers from their sixth-place finish at the Division I state meet last season, there’s no question as to why the Kenston boys are now ranked fourth in the big-school division of the state coaches poll with two first-place votes this past week.
Leading the Bombers on Saturday, senior Dennis Princic won the individual title in 16:05.6, while senior Garrett McConnell was runner-up in 16:28.5, senior Nathan Bertman was fifth in 16:38.8, senior Jack Turk finished sixth in 16:44.1 and junior Braden Hunt took seventh in 16:46.8, while senior Owen Orlowski was eighth in 16:48.1 and senior Tyler McMahan finished ninth in 16:58.0.
“They didn’t lose a single meet in the regular season,” Ickes said. “They just swept through conference. They’re going to have the toughest district in Northeast Ohio (this week). They’re going to have a crazy regional down at Boardman, which we know is always stacked. But I think their goal is to always beat anyone that’s put in front of them.”
Just for a little reference as to how deep the Bombers are, McMahan would have been an individual state qualifier last season, had Kenston not advanced as a team. Hunt and Orlowski, meanwhile, are primed to take the two postseason lineup vacancies from a year ago.
But coach Ickes said all of his senior-laden group – only Hunt is a junior – has made tremendous strides from past years to earn their roles on varsity. Princic, for example, was clocking north of 20 minutes as a freshman. On Saturday, he won the WRC title.
“All of them work truly hard, and I think you see that,” Ickes said. “They’ve just responded to whatever course they’ve been given and to whatever competition they’ve been given. I just really am excited to see their hard work pay off.”
The only guys who could hang with Kenston on Saturday, Chardon junior Luke Danison took third in 16:37.5 and Chardon freshman Karl Dietz was fourth in 16:38.6.
Also racing in the Hilltoppers’ front seven, freshman Thomas Nelson was 18th in 17:32.7, freshman Makoto Gumpf took 22nd in 17:51.7, senior Jack Sweet finished 23rd in 17:52.9, sophomore Colin Snider took 25th in 17:55.9 and senior Anthony Zampino was 28th in 18:08.9.
Up next, Kenston and Chardon will compete in Division I district competition on Saturday at Madison. The boys gun is at 1:30 p.m. and the girls is 2:10 p.m.