The girls’ cross country teams from Hawken and Chagrin Falls both finished among the top six at Saturday’s Division II regional meet to earn a spot in next weekend’s state cross country championships.
Hawken finished third overall in returning to the state meet after qualifying last year and previously in 2001.
“The team had high hopes entering the meet,” Hawken coach Chris Farroni said. “The girls knew if they ran their best they would win a trophy and if they ran what they were capable of running they would make it to states as a team.”
Sophomore Ella Gilson became Hawken’s second individual regional champion after winning the race with a time of 18:55. Ally Markovich was the first Hawk to win a regional title when she did it in 2010 and again in 2012.
“I was really motivated to go out and win regionals,” Gilson said. “I wanted my team and myself to advance to states next weekend, which really drove me to perform well. My time was not the best, but for the conditions we had I was satisfied with it. The mud made the footing hard on the course and everyone seemed to have had a hard time hitting paces.”
Gilson finished 15th at state last year as a freshman. She has loftier goals for her second trip to National Trail Raceway.
“My individual goal is to win states this year,” she said. “I am going to give it my all and hope for the best. My team’s goal is the same as mine and trust our training from the season and place as well as we can.”
Sophomore Juliana Metz, junior Julia Newman and sophomore Lena Sylvan also placed among the top 50 for the Hawks.
Metz was seventh (19:41), Newman finished 15th (20:21) and Sylvan placed 50th (21:27).
“Juliana Metz and Julia Newman ran solid races,” Farroni said. “They started out a little slow but kept working race to earn themselves a trip to states as well. Lena and Adele (Metres) have been there for the team throughout the season and they did what was needed to earn a third-place finish.”
Junior Hannah Clark finished 24th overall in 20:33 to lead Chagrin Falls to a sixth-place finish. The Tigers earned the final team bid to the state meet.
“It is great to see another (Chagrin Valley Conference0 team, Chagrin Falls, make it to states as well,” Farroni said. “They have run very well over the last few weeks. (Chagrin Falls coach) Clay (Burnett) repeatedly pulls the team together at the end of the season. I may have to buy him a cup of coffee so we can talk and I can hear what his secret is. We wish the Tigers the best of luck.”
Freshmen Azzurra Opperman and Rose Hoelzel and senior Katarina Lechman all finished among the top 50 for the Tigers.
Opperman placed 38th (21:10), Hoelzel was 41st (21:14) and Lechman finished 45th (21:16).
Perry senior Hailey Vitolo just missed qualifying for the state meet as she finished 27th in 20:42. Only the top 24 individuals earned a state berth.
Orange senior Eddie Harrell and Chagrin Falls senior Marshall Sadowski both finished among the top 24 in the boys’ Division II race to punch their tickets to state.
Harrell ran a time of 17:24 while Sadowski came in at 17:27.
“I am beyond happy that I was able to finally make the state meet in cross country,” Harrell said. “I trained harder than ever all summer and during this fall and I’m glad it paid off. Time-wise, on paper, it’s not the greatest, but considering the course and just how muddy it was out there, I’m really happy with my time. I didn’t even wear my watch during my race today because I knew it wasn’t about time, it was all about placing in that top 24.”
Harrell, a two-time state qualifier in track who placed sixth in the 800-meter run last spring, is eager to compete at National Trail next weekend.
“To go even faster at the state meet, I just need to have another solid week of practice and preparation which I’m confident I can do,” Harrell said. “I believe in my coaches and know they will have me ready for Saturday. I think my state track meet experience will help me tremendously for the cross country state meet because I’ve experienced that type of environment, and honestly I have no pressure on me. It’s going to be my last cross country race of high school and I plan to just give it all I got one last time.”
Other state qualifiers from the CVC include Cuyahoga Heights sophomore’ Darien Tillet and Independence junior Emily Skoczen.
Tillet finished 15th in the Division III race with a time of 17:39.
“I’m completely mind-blown,” Tillet said. “I went into that race not knowing what to expect. My goal this season was to just get to regionals, let alone states. Making it to states is a dream come true and I couldn’t be happier.”
Cuyahoga Heights coach Chadwick Robinson couldn’t have been prouder of Tillet and his performance.
“”Usually, I’m nervous about my runners like in year’s past because they typically have all been seniors and the pressure is tremendous to make it out, but today felt different,” Robinson said. “Darien had nothing to lose as a first-year cross country runner as a sophomore and he runs well in inclement weather. He stayed with a leading pack and never let up on the gas pedal.”
Skoczen finished 11th in 20:52.
“After three years of high school cross country, it’s really exciting to finally have made it to the state meet,” Skoczen said. “I was more focused on having my whole team make it together and even though we missed it by four points I am so proud of how hard they all fought.”
The state meet will give Skoczen the opportunity to push herself harder than ever before to finish near the front of the pack.
“I wasn’t very focused on time for this meet, especially with the course in bad condition and the weather. I was more focused on placing and I’m proud of my 11th place finish,” she said. “Next week is all about staying healthy and training hard. I’m excited to be able to run on the state course and have the opportunity to set a PR.”