Trip to Hebron a lifetime in the making for some
It’s been said that cross country is the only true sport and everything else is just a game. Fuad Shalhout provides his thoughts on the journey to the state meet, which takes place on Nov. 10.
Covering the Youngstown Regional two weeks ago, two things stood out to me:
• The look of joy seeing the athletes accomplish their goal of advancing to state.
• Some of those athletes had tough roads to get there.
It’s been said that cross country is the only true sport and everything else is just a game.
For most of these athletes, training begins in mid June in steaming hot weather. And the challenges that come with it are hard enough.
Let’s take Westlake senior Erica Francesconi, who suffered a concussion at last season’s regional meet, dealt with PTSD, and didn’t begin training until the end of July.
The regional meet was a final hump she needed to get over. And she did, finishing 12th in Division I.
Immediately after crossing the finish line, Francesconi started crying. Last season, she cried at the regional, but for a far different reason.
These were tears of joy knowing the long road she’s taken.
Amherst senior Josh Hill is the best runner Lorain County has ever had, and will prepare for the final high school race of his career. Last season at the state meet, he broke the Lorain County record in an OHSAA race with a 15:34.70, finishing seventh in D-I.
But this season hasn’t been easy. He had to nurse patellar tendinitis to his left leg to start the year and suffered a mild concussion Sept. 29 at the Hilliard Midwest Meet of Champions.
Hill is coming off a second place finish at regional (16:04.64). Seeing him push through his obstacles and hopefully cap off an illustrious career will be a joy.
“This means a lot because I started the season slow with all kinds of injuries and so much adversity,” Hill said. “To come back and get my redemption means a lot.”
Columbia’s Matt Pettegrew and Madeline Finton both made program history.
Pettegrew, a junior, is the first Raiders boy to make it to state since Michael Griffiths in 1991, after taking second (17:09.43) in D-III.
Finton, a freshman, ran a 20:42.56 to finish seventh out 12 individual qualifiers. She’s the first Raiders girl to make state since Karin Coyne, who made it in 2004 and 2005.
Both of their faces showed the look of hard work paying off — especially for Finton, who was motivated after seeing Pettegrew clinch a state berth.
Bay senior Ivan Slyepkan was the Rockets’ No. 2 runner at the state meet last year, finishing 47th (16:52.7). He’s their No. 1 runner now — and has them primed for a top three finish in D-II if they execute their race.
These aren’t the only athletes that have worked hard and achieved an amazing goal, just an example of a few.
The Morning Journal coverage area has one team (Bay) and nine individuals across all three divisions in the state meet.
I look forward to seeing more joyous faces on Nov. 10 at the National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
And yes, even though the race was delayed by a week, there will still be joyous faces. Why? Because these athletes have worked fro this moment their entire lives.
One more week is nothing compared to that.
Early in the girls’ Division I LCCC District race, Westlake senior Erica Francesconi took a substantial lead.