by Roger Gordon
Tallmadge junior cross country runner Ryan Riter is now a member of the "16-minute club" due to his exceptional performance in the Galion Cross Country Festival Sept. 17 at Amann Reservoir and Park.
Riter finished in 11th place out of 133 runners with a personal-best time of 16 minutes, 54.3 seconds.
Heath's Taylor Hopkins won the competition with a time of 15:39.1.
"In cross country, when you break 17 minutes, it separates you from other cross country runners," Blue Devils head coach Jeremy Huth said.
"That's where you want to be if you want to be considered a good cross country runner.
"Ryan did everything right and it paid off. I'm proud of him. He was also just five seconds off an all-time Tallmadge top-10 finish.
"Last year at the same event, he ran a 17:36, so he improved by more than 40 seconds, a very significant jump. It's due to maturity, experience and training."
Overall, Tallmadge finished ninth with 264 points.
Lexington won the 19-team Division II race with 53 points.
Heath finished second with 83 points and Shelby was third with 106 points.
"There were a lot of good teams at this meet, but I thought we could have done a little better, maybe around sixth," Huth said.
"When one or two of your top five finishers don't have a great performance, it really hurts your team score. And that's what happened. We didn't have five consistent runners.
"Our top two runners, Ryan and Zach Brown, ran phenomenal races. We did have a lot of kids who improved from the year before. But our third, fourth and fifth guys they're not getting good races in compared to their workouts.
"It's youth and inexperience. We've just got to get tougher."
Brown, a sophomore, finished 32nd with a personal-best time of 17:36.3.
"Zach was about 35 seconds faster than last year at the same event," Huth said. "That's good improvement for a freshman to a sophomore. He raced. He looked like he was competitive throughout the entire race, so we were happy with that. Finishing in the top 30 for a sophomore is pretty good."
Placing 48th with a time of 18:05.4 was junior Vince Labosky.
"Vince missed about a week of practice due to a family obligation and he had a little bit of a cold, so he didn't have the best race that he's capable of having," Huth said.
"He's one of those guys who, if he runs where he needs to be he should be right with Ryan.
"We've got to get him healthy and back up to where he needs to be and we'll be fine.
"If he had been healthy, we may have been able to finish as high as fifth."
Sophomore Alex Krukemeyer finished 84th with a personal-best time of 18:49.
"Alex had a big improvement from the year before, by a minute and 20 seconds," Huth said. "That's all we can ask for is an improvement like that.
"I'm proud of him, but he knows that he can still run better.
"Alex is a kid who's heading in the right direction. He needs more experience, but that will come in time."
Sophomore Lucca Passarelli placed 89th, clocking in at 19:04.2.
Tallmadge had a long layoff before its next race.
The Blue Devils are scheduled to run at the Woodridge Cuyahoga Valley National Park Invitational Oct. 1 at Kendall Hills.
Racing is set to begin at 9 a.m.