Trip to He­bron a life­time in the mak­ing for some

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - SPORTS - Fuad Shal­hout Colum­nist Shal­hout can be reached at FShal­hout@Morn­ingJour­nal.com; on Twit­ter: @shal­houtf

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.

JEN FORBUS — THE MORN­ING JOUR­NAL

Early in the girls’ Divi­sion I LCCC Dis­trict race, Westlake se­nior Erica Francesconi took a sub­stan­tial lead.

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