Cross Country: Canal Winchester pushing hard to improve

DAVE PURPURA
dpurpura@thisweeknews.com
Senior Ian Lewis is among the top returnees for the Canal Winchester boys cross country team.

Knowing who is in the top seven for both her boys and girls teams is one thing for Canal Winchester cross country coach Michelle Klamorick.

Predicting where they might finish within those groups at a given meet is a different story, one Klamorick looks forward to seeing her runners write as the season progresses.

While both teams return most of their main contributors, including several underclassmen, the competition early this season has the second-year coach encouraged about her team's prospects.

"We have a lot of depth that we haven't had in the past, (including) a lot of younger kids who have really bought in and stepped up," Klamorick said. "They're seeing that the work they're putting in at practice is paying off and they're believing in themselves. They're putting in their best effort at every single practice, not skipping workouts and putting the work in.

"Sometimes in cross country, you have the runners who are out more just to have fun and the ones who are there to compete. These teams want to get better. They're competitive with each other in a good way."

Seniors Bonnie Butler and Allena Klamorick return to lead the girls after qualifying for the Division I regional meet the past two years. They are the only two upperclassmen in a top seven rounded out by sophomores Alyssa Condrac, Marissa Klamorick, Brooklyne Redmon and Alyssa Weller and freshman Lauren Crissinger.

Allena Klamorick, Butler and Redmon were the top three runners for the Indians at their first two meets, the Pickerington Classic on Aug. 29 at Pickerington North and the Canal Winchester Invitational on Sept. 2.

There has been less order on the boys side, where senior Michael McKeon was the top finisher at North but freshman Josh Fearing took that honor at the Canal Winchester Invitational.

Fearing was fourth at North behind McKeon, senior Ian Lewis and sophomore Logan Hajes.

Coach Klamorick said she expected big things from Fearing, but not necessarily this quickly.

"He's learning to race 3.1 miles. It's different than middle school, where he was the second runner most of the time," she said. "The more he learns race strategy, the more he'll pull out front."

Seniors Dominic Babusci, Nate Hoffman and Brett Smithers and junior Will Keiser also were in the boys' top seven early this season.

"They all work great together and that makes a big difference," Klamorick said. "The older runners are excited to have depth with them and runners who are younger helping them. You need seven to score as a team and a solid group to do some things together."

Veterans return to lead Cruisers

The majority of the boys and girls lineups returned for first-year Groveport Madison coach Nicole Schmidt, as five of the top eight boys to end last season are back as well as four of the top seven girls.

All five boys to compete in the season-opening New Albany Invitational on Aug. 24 were seniors, led by Eli Jackson and followed, respectively, by Fabian Vazquez, David Neal, Kahari Davis and Ezra Ayele.

The girls did not run for the first time until Aug. 29 in the Pickerington Classic. Their race at New Albany was canceled because of bad weather.

The girls' top returnees include senior Crystal Russell and sophomores Agi Jobe, Nijah Montgomery and Grace White.

"I've seen a lot of hard work and dedication over the last few weeks both with our new and veteran athletes," Schmidt said. "Students set personal goals and as a team we would like to focus on personal growth. For example, focusing on how many (personal-best times) can be set by each athlete throughout the season."

Schmidt succeeds Vincent Gay, who coached the team for four seasons.

Both teams lost their usual top runners in Illyaas Haji for the boys and Brianna Chan for the girls.

Chan led the Cruisers in their first nine races and was second behind Wilson at district, and Haji led the boys in all but two races, including district, which he missed because of illness.

According to Schmidt, seniors Annie Byerly and Gracia Musa will round out the varsity girls contributors.

"Groveport traditionally has a smaller team and this year appears to be even smaller without the recruitment opportunities in the spring," Schmidt said. "My plan is to support the athletes that are participating this year and help them feel like they have a really great season no matter what."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

At a glance

CANAL WINCHESTER

*Coach: Michelle Klamorick, second season

*Top athletes: Boys -- Josh Fearing, Ian Lewis, Michael McKeon and Brett Smithers; Girls -- Bonnie Butler, Allena Klamorick, Marissa Klamorick and Brooklyne Redmon

*Key losses: Boys -- Reece Klamorick and Drew Kotwis; Girls -- Merideth McFarland

*2019 OCC-Capital standings: Boys -- New Albany (23), Canal Winchester (60), Newark (67), Groveport (103), Big Walnut (134); Girls -- New Albany (36), Big Walnut (38), Canal Winchester (63), Newark (99), Groveport (145)

*2019 postseason: Boys -- 10th at district; Girls -- Seventh at district

GROVEPORT MADISON

*Coach: Nicole Schmidt, first season

*Top athletes: Boys -- Kahari Davis, Eli Jackson, David Neal and Fabian Vazquez; Girls -- Agi Jobe, Nijah Montgomery, Crystal Russell and Grace White

*Key losses: Boys -- Illyaas Haji, Rafael Soler and Jacob Williams; Girls -- Brianna Chan

*2019 postseason: Boys -- 13th at district; Girls -- 13th at district