STRONGSVILLE — If anyone was looking for Medina’s girls cross country team Saturday, the Bees weren’t too hard to find.
Practically running side-by-side behind leader Juliette Keller was more than enough to help them cruise to victory at the Greater Cleveland Conference Championships.
“Everybody has that all-together attitude,” Medina coach Scott VanFleet said. “They’re starting to buy in, and we got a little closer today, so hopefully that’s a good sign.”
How close were the Bees?
After Keller took position in front with eventual champion Emily Bardwell of Brunswick, the rest of the green and white followed. Olivia Roberts, Ava Tenaglia and Maddie Miller also finished in top 10, while the entire nine-runner Medina roster finished 29th or better.
The pack running helped the Bees capture their second league title in four years, recording an impressive 37 points to hold off reigning champion Shaker Heights (79 points). Brunswick (92) took third thanks to a tiebreaker.
“It worked out for us today,” VanFleet said. “Olivia really ran great today and Ava, after a couple of hard weeks, we just told her to run with Maddie, Carmele (Henning) and Olivia and just have some fun.”
Keller placed second in 18:43.24, but the Bees’ next six runners — Roberts, Tenaglia, Miller, Dobson, Henning and Savannah Kole — were together after the first and second miles and within steps for the rest of the race.
The result was Roberts (5th, 19:50.2) coming in just after Keller, followed by Tenaglia, Miller, Dobson and Henning sweeping ninth through 12th. Kole placed 18th.
Keller was pleased with the team’s performance and made sure she did her part.
“I was a little bit afraid of taking a risk,” the junior said. “I was worried about, ‘What if I take the lead and what if I can’t keep it?’ So I think if I work on that, I will become faster.”
While Medina dominated, Bardwell was in full control.
The All-Gazette selection left little doubt as she led start to finish and clocked an 18:35.02. Her start was impressive on a rain-soaked course that turned into a muddy mess after the boys race earlier in the morning.
“I was surprised with how hard I went out,” Bardwell said. “From there, I just tried to keep my spot as much as I could.
“It was so muddy, though. There were so many times when my foot would just sink into the ground. If my spikes weren’t taped, I would’ve definitely lost one of them.”
Bardwell’s training partner, senior Alyssa Wolf, took fourth in 19:26.19 as the Blue Devils were third after a tiebreaker with Solon.
Medina’s boys were runners-up, compiling 57 points to finish eight shy of Solon (49). Brunswick was sixth in the seven-team field.
Despite a steady downpour, the Bees ran well with junior Harry Custer leading the charge. Logan Esper of Solon pulled away after the second mile, while Custer and Mentor’s Nicholas Kozlowski batted the rest of the way.
Kozlowski had a slight edge as they entered the finish at Pat Catan Stadium before Custer channeled his inner-sprinter and turned on the jets to pass in the final 50 meters.
“Once I saw how close it was, I knew I needed to close the gap on Nick really fast,” said Custer, who finished in 16:41.96. “It was really hard to catch Esper. He was making moves the entire race, but I knew I needed to get one more point in those last 30 meters. That’s what was going through my mind.”
Esper finished with an impressive 16:33.19 but was pushed by Kozlowski, Custer and the Bees’ Caleb Cummings.
“I didn’t feel like I slowed down at all,” Custer said. “Me, (Cummings), (Kozlowski) and (Esper) were all up there in the first mile, and in the second mile we were exchanging leads a lot. Then (Esper) took over, and me and Koz (Kozlowski) were working to catch up, but he’s just a great athlete.”
Cummings placed eighth in 17:24.42, followed by teammates Graham Hayden and Michael Palocko in 12th and 13th, respectively.
Brunswick’s Colton Uber also was in the lead pack and fought to stay within sight of the leaders before placing fourth in 17:08.97.
“I just wanted to stick with them,” Uber said. “I wanted to start off in front of them, and then they all caught up. I kept telling myself, ‘You’ve got to stay with them. Don’t let them get away from you.’ and eventually they kept spacing out, but I kept working my way back to them.”
Colin Murral also had a strong run for the Blue Devils, finishing 15th in 17:33.12.
STRONGSVILLE – Results Saturday from the Greater Cleveland Conference Championships held at Strongsville High School.
Team standings: 1. Solon 49, 2. Medina 57, 3. Mentor 72, 4. Shaker Heights 76, 5. Strongsville 118, 6. Brunswick 130, 7. Elyria 221.
Individual standings: 1. Logan Esper (So) 16:33.19, 2. Harry Custer (Med) 16:41.96, 3. Nicholas Kozlowski (Men) 16:42.27, 4. Colton Uber (B) 17:08.97, 5. Matt Burnard (SH) 17:13.04, 6. Nathan Close (So) 17:14.64, 7. Vivek Divakarla (SH) 17:16.36, 8. Caleb Cummings (Med) 17:24.42, 9. James Ferro (Men) 17:27.53, 10. Sam Young (So) 17:28.63.
Medina (57): 2. Custer 16:41.96, 8. Cummings 17:24.42, 12. Graham Hayden 17:30.81, 13. Michael Palocko 17:32.29, 22. Charlie Heidenger 17:45.62, 28. Cameron Schontzler 17:53.10, 32. Kevin Horrigan 17:54.67.
Brunswick (130): 4. Uber 17:08.97, 15. Colin Murral 17:33.12, 35. Evan Jarold 18:03.75, 43. Carter Almady 18:25.05, 46. Brandon Kraft 18:38.45, 50. Adam Hyde 18:50.60, 52. Ben Farnsworth 18:59.14.
Team standings: 1. Medina 37, 2. Shaker Heights 79, 3. Brunswick 92, 4. Solon 92, 5. Mentor 93, 6. Strongsville 146, 7. Elyria 203, 8. Euclid 239.
Individual standings: 1. Emily Bardwell (B) 18:35.02, 2. Juliette Keller (Med) 18:43.24, 3. Olivia Howell (So) 19:18.99, 4. Alyssa Wolf (B) 19:26.19, 5. Olivia Roberts (Med) 19:50.2, 6. Avery Blaszak (SH) 19:58.92, 7. Ellie Radis (So) 20:13.19, 8. Anna Evans (Men) 20:17.58, 9. Ava Tenaglia (Med) 20:20.30, 10. Maddie Miller (Med) 20:18.85.
Medina (37): 2. Keller 18:43.24, 5. Roberts 19:50.02, 9. Tenaglia 20:18.16, 10. Miller 20:18.85, 11. Angela Dobson 20:20.30, 12. Carmela Henning 20:20.34, 18. Savannah Kole 20:39.17.
Brunswick (92): 1. Bardwell 18:35.02, 4. Wolf 19:26.19, 25. Abby Bardwell 21:10.93, 31. Kaylee Latarewicz 21:35.92, 38. Mariah Skocic 22:21.40, 39. Devin Cannon 22:25.34, 43. Lexi Wallace 22:33.17.