by Roger Gordon
Without a dominant No. 1 runner, 11th-year Tallmadge head girls cross country head coach Jeremy Huth is hoping his top five runners will stay together and run as a pack this season.
"That definitely would help our team," he said.
Last year, the Lady Blue Devils finished third in their first year of the Suburban League American Conference. Aurora won the conference title last season.
With Anna Bartlett, Amanda Peters and Victoria Murray lost to graduation, Huth, whose assistant coach is Chris Miloscia, is hoping his young, but talented team can improve on that this season.
"Our goal is to make it as a team to regionals," Huth said. "Individually, I think our top three runners have a legit shot of advancing to regionals."
Senior captain Vanessa Lane leads the way for Tallmadge.
"Vanessa has been in the program for four years and really knows the ins and outs of what we do," Huth said. "She's been phenomenal with this young team as a leader.
"She's a pretty tough kid. She likes to work hard and does what is asked of her. I think it's going to be a great season for her."
Two freshmen, Kenna Loveless and Morgan Moses, are battling for the second spot.
"Both of them are multi-sports athletes," Huth said. "That's always a positive when you can bring in someone who plays multiple sports because you know you're getting an athlete.
"Typically, our true athletes are our best runners and I think we have that in Morgan and Kenna. They both have the physical characteristics of a runner. They're built like a runner."
Junior Miranda Pyka and sophomore Autumn Wanchick round out the top five Lady Blue Devil runners.
"As Miranda becomes more confident with her running, it will definitely help her lower her times and improve," Huth said.
"Autumn has a lot of potential. She's at the beginning of her training right now, so we'll work with her slowly throughout the first part of the season to get her in shape.
"I think toward the middle of the season her times will start dropping. She's a hard worker, so I think she'll catch up to the rest of the girls."
Other team members are junior Karaniah Rolli; sophomores Samantha Hayward, Faith Catherine and Ashleigh Hughes; and freshmen Claire Cate and Mia Walsh.
Tallmadge is scheduled to open its season Aug. 27 at the Berkshire Early Bird Invitational at the Kent State University Geauga campus in Burton. The meet is set to begin at 8 a.m.