by Roger Gordon
The course at the Woodridge Cuyahoga Valley National Park Invitational Oct. 1 was a killer. It was anything but flat.
"It's so hilly and up and down," Tallmadge head boys cross country coach Jeremy Huth said. "It's basically how well can you hold on. You're racing more against the course than the competition.
"The course is definitely difficult for younger kids and we have a lot of younger runners. It's difficult for them because you've got to have so much strength to get up and down, up and down.
"It takes a toll on the younger kids who are inexperienced and not physically as strong as your juniors and seniors. There's a big difference between a sophomore runner and a senior runner."
As young as the Blue Devils are, Tallmadge was still able to finish in 11th place out of 26 teams with 319 points.
Woodridge finished first with 55 points. Brecksville-Broadview Heights was second with 68 points and Bainbridge Township Kenston took third with 80 points.
Huth said his team had an outstanding week of practice leading up to the meet.
"It was probably the best week of practice we've had this season," he said.
"We had a good start and the guys were all within a couple places where they needed to be."
As usual, junior Ryan Riter led the way for the Blue Devils.
He finished 30th out of 214 runners with a time of 19 minutes, eight seconds.
"Ryan faded during the second and third miles, but overall, he had a good race," Huth said.
Twinsburg's Ryan Adkins won the competition with a time of 17:13.
Tallmadge sophomore Zach Brown finished 61st with a time of 19:47.3.
"Zach was pretty consistent throughout the entire race," Huth said. "He held on and didn't fade too much during the second and third miles."
Vince Labosky, Alex Krukemeyer and Lucca Passarelli were the Blue Devils' final three scorers, pleasing their coach by finishing relatively close to one another.
Labosky, a junior, was 81st (20:22.7). Krukemeyer, a sophomore, finished 85th (20:29.5) and Lucca Passarelli, also a sophomore, placed 92nd (20:39.7).
"Vince is getting his legs back from when he missed a match due to family concerns a few weeks ago," Huth said. "Each week, he needs to continue to improve.
"This was probably not his best race overall. I think he knows he can do a little better. I think the hills got to him from lack of training. He's just got to keep working.
"Alex has definitely stepped up. He's a top five runner and that's awesome for him. Last year, he was fighting just to get on varsity.
"This year, he has held his own. He's not entirely over an injury from earlier in the season, but he's fighting through it very well.
"He's a great kid and has a great work ethic. He'll only get better every year.
"This was probably one of Lucca's better races this season. We need him in our top five, so I was glad he was up there."
Tallmadge was scheduled to compete in the Stow Bulldog Invitational Oct. 8 at Silver Springs Park, but results were not available at press time.
The Blue Devils are scheduled to take part in the Suburban League Championship Oct. 15 at Goodyear Metro Park in Akron. The meet is set to begin at 11 a.m.