by Roger Gordon
Kenna Loveless was nervous, with serious butterflies in her stomach. She didn't feel good, either.
"It was her first cross country meet ever," Tallmadge head coach Jeremy Huth said. "She was not in any shape or form to run well."
So what did the freshman Lady Blue Devil do Aug. 27 at the Berkshire Early Bird Invitational at the Kent State University at Geauga in Burton?
Only a top-10 finish, that's all. Loveless finished in ninth place with a time of 21 minutes, 8.8 seconds.
"Kenna is talented, pure and simple," Huth said. "She battled the first mile because she was extremely weak. By the last mile, you could tell that everything before the race had taken a toll on her.
"Her performance was fantastic, considering the stiff competition and the conditions. For her to have made it through the race and on top of that, finish where she did, was definitely a lesson she'll learn -- that she can overcome probably the worst situation possible."
Overall, Tallmadge finished in sixth place with 185 points in the 12-team event.
Strongsville won the competition with 52 points. Solon was runner-up with 81 points and Parma Padua Franciscan took third with 83 points.
"This team is young, so finishing in the top half of any meet I'm happy with," Huth said. "We don't have a lot of depth. We're just trying to build to the point where we were a couple years ago. We're just trying to get better and I think we will."
On Aug. 31, the Lady Blue Devils defeated Field 26-29 at Wingfoot Lake State Park in Suffield.
In the Berkshire meet, Solon's Olivia Howell placed first out of 17 runners with a time of 19:04.7.
Loveless' classmate, Morgan Moses, was next for the Lady Blue Devils with a 35th-place time of 22:26.2.
"Morgan tried to maintain contact with Kenna," Huth said. "I think the gap will eventually close."
Senior Vanessa Lane finished 46th, clocking in at 23:28.3.
"Vanessa had a decent race, but her focus has to be on closing the gap with Kenna and Morgan," Huth said.
Sophomore Autumn Wanchick finished 51st with a time of 23:58.9 and junior Miranda Pyka was close behind, placing 55th with a time of 24:12.3.
"Autumn and Miranda need to stay together like they did for most of the race," Huth said. "One of these girls is going to have to step up and try to make a move and try to maintain with Vanessa. Hopefully, if one of them does, the other one will as well."
Against Field, Loveless finished first with a time of 21:16.
"Kenna was more relaxed than she was at the Berkshire meet," Huth said. "She laid back a bit during the first mile but then she ran by the leading Field girl and took a sizable lead."
Moses was runner-up with a time of 22:12.
"Morgan wound up catching the same Field girl during the last mile," Huth said. "She ran really well.
"It was exciting that two freshmen finished one-two. Both Kenna and Morgan are really going to help our team."
Lane placed fifth, clocking in at 22:43, closing the gap somewhat between her and Moses.
Pyka finished ninth with a time of 23:47 and Wanchick was right behind, finishing 10th with a time of 23:48.
Tallmadge was scheduled to compete in the Suburban League Super Duals Sept. 3 at Silver Creek Park in Norton. Results were not available at press time.
The Lady Blue Devils are set to run at the Bruce Lerch Brecksville Invitational Sept. 10 at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School.
Racing is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.