Amherst’s Hill second in crazy finish
Amherst junior Josh Hill had a finish he will remember for a while at the 32nd annual Spartan Invitational at Boardman High School on Sept. 16.
Luckily for him, though, it wasn’t the Division I regional race, which will also take place at Boardman next month.
That’s because as Hill was approaching the finish line, he quickly glanced over his shoulder and didn’t see anyone. So from there, he eased up as he was about to cross, when suddenly Chardon’s Nate Kawalec burst hip-tohip with him for a thrilling finish.
It was impossible to determine with a naked eye who won, and officials needed to review a
photo finish before declaring Kawalec the winner (15:59.0), just slithering past Hill (15:59.3). Hill ran at a 5:09 pace. “I didn’t see him coming,” Hill said. “I regret it. I took the lead with about 150 meters to go. I honestly didn’t expect to win it, but I wanted to put myself out there to give myself a chance to win. But it’s still regional competition and it gives me a lot of confidence because we don’t have a lot of fast courses. It’s a good gauge for next month.”
The Comets finished 21st overall (616) out of 44 teams, with an average time of 17:53.3, and head coach Rob Glatz was pleased with Hill’s performance.
“It’s pretty rare for a 3.1 mile race to come down to three thousandth of a second,” Glatz said. “We’ve taken the last two weeks off so we can improve our training. We were hungry for this race.
“We love coming here because we want to get all the experience we can on this course. Our conference championship season won’t start for another three weeks now, so this is a good springboard heading into that. But we still have a lot of work to do.”
When Hill returns next month for regional competition, better bet he will have this race etched in his mind.
“I’m never doing that again,” he added.
North Ridgeville’s Milan Sieber finished a strong 19th (16:45.7) and ran a 5:24 pace.
In the Division II boys race, No. 14 state-ranked Fairview placed sixth (330), while No. 2-ranked NDCL won the title (143). Senior Connor Kilbane put forth another strong performance. taking seventh ( 16:48.8). Woodridge’s Noah Perrin won with a 16:23.6, and Black River’s Russell Schultz (16:32.2) was second.
Kilbane ran a 17:53 at the regional meet last year and knows he’s a better runner now.
“I learned how hard this
course is and when to start pushing earlier,” he said. “But this was a good test for us. Our second runner wasn’t here and we still ended up sixth. We lost to Poland, Jefferson, NDCL, Woodridge and St. Vincent St. Mary, who are all in our region. But I think if our second runner is here we finish ahead of Poland and Jefferson Area.”
Open Door senior Grant Duffy placed 19th (17:28.8) in the Division-III race, while Columbia sophomore Matt Pettegrew finished 20th (17:34.4).
Lutheran West was 12th (378) in the D-III race and was led by Kristin Groppe’s fifth place (19:49.9), who ran a 6:24 pace. Open Door’s Maggie Eck was 73rd overall (22:54.6).
In the Division-I girls race, Westlake finished as the highest local team, taking 15th (424), while Avon Lake placed 19th (449) and Amherst 21st (537).
Demons junior Erica Francesconi was 12th, clocking in at 19:35.1 for a PR.
“That was my third race ever competing,” the first-year runner said. “My coach told me at this meet it’s all about placement because we come here for regionals and we want to come here as a team for regionals. But for this meet, we wanted to focus on the first mile.”
Francesconi ran a 5:54 for the first mile.
“I never knew they posted the time after the mile and I was kind of petrified,” she added. “That was the fastest I’ve ever done for a mile.”
Bay placed 11th (381) in the D-II race, and Brookside took 27th (645) while Fairview was 29th (716).
The Rockets were led by freshman Olivia Bird taking 34th with a 20:55.3. Bird was recently the Morning Journal Player of the Week and has been Bay’s No. 1 runner all year.
“I felt good and I just love running,” Bird said. “My coach told me to just do my best. When I come back next month, I’m going to drink way more water because I felt dehydrated. I just hope to go as far as I can this year.”