by Roger Gordon
Diligent training over the last few months could be the difference this season for the Tallmadge boys cross country team.
"The kids worked much harder this past summer to prepare themselves for the upcoming season than they did last summer," 11th-year Blue Devils head coach Jeremy Huth said. "I think they're all anxious to see where they're at. I'm definitely anxious."
Tallmadge, which lost only two seniors, Sam Kirkbaumer and AJ Zesiger, to graduation, is full of underclassmen.
The Blue Devils finished fourth in their first year of the American Conference at the 2015 Suburban League Championships. Aurora won the conference meet.
Leading the way is junior captain Ryan Riter, the only Tallmadge runner who advanced to a Division II regional meet last season. Huth believes not only a return trip to regionals could lie in Riter's future but also a berth in the state meet.
"Ryan had a phenomenal summer," Huth said. "He's going to start off the season where he left off last year in terms of how good a shape he's in.
"He's a very, very strong kid. He should hit the ground running from the start. We look for him to be in the top 10 of every meet we compete in. He loves to compete individually. It's just a sport that he thrives in."
Two other runners who will play key roles are sophomore Zack Brown and senior Jordan Sapper.
"Zack loves the sport of running," Huth said. "He's committed to it. Jordan has been with the program for four years. He was a freshman on the JV [junior varsity] team when our varsity won the league championship.
"He got to watch and see what we did and how we did it. So he's kind of passing on to our younger runners what we accomplished back then."
Junior twins Vince Labosky and John Labosky are two more talented runners.
"We look for great things from both of them," Huth said. "Vince could actually be our No. 1 runner."
Sophomore Alex Krukemeyer is another Blue Devil who will be a contributor.
"Alex has a lot of endurance," Huth said. "He gets stronger the longer the distance. We just have to get him to run for a shorter period of time faster."
Other team members are senior Kent Hoang, junior Jacob Chionchio and sophomores Lucca Passarelli, Andrew Hopkins, Nick Sabetta, Jarod Schumacher and John Anicas.
"This group has grown so much in one year," Huth said. "I'm very proud of them. We have a handful of boys, besides Ryan, who have a shot at getting to regionals.
"We'd also like to make it to regionals as a team. It should be an exciting year."
Huth's assistant coach is Chris Miloscia.
Tallmadge is scheduled to open its 2016 season at the Berkshire Early Bird Invitational Aug. 27 at the Kent State University Geauga campus in Burton. The meet is set to begin at 8 a.m.