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Boys Cross Country

WRC Champions!

10/15 WRC Champions!

Kenston boys punch first state ticket in 24 years

Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
November 3, 2016
Tony Lange

The Kenston harriers not only added a brilliant chapter to their program storybook, but they straight up rewrote the meaning of cross-country being a team sport during the Division I regional championship on Saturday at Boardman High School.

Twenty-five teams were competing for eight spots to make it to states, and 17 of those contenders in the field had their No. 1 runners crossing the finish line without a single Bomber turning in his chip.

Better yet, nine teams in the race had their first two guys crossing the finish line while all seven Kenston boys were still running their races. The opportunity to advance to the big dance as a top-32 individual had come and gone.

The last time Kenston qualified for states as a team was under former head coach Frank Gibas in 1992.

“I think one of the best things that happened to us last week is coach Gibas came out and talked to our team,” current head coach Chris Ickes said. “He has all the old records memorized and was just telling this team how good they were. And he said, ‘From a time standpoint, you’re the best team that’s ever come through Kenston.’

He told us we were ready, and his message was honest, heartfelt and very inspirational.”

While all those teams in the field had their one runners and two runners crossing the finish line ahead of the Kenston boys, once junior Sam Markel turned in a 17:04.72, the rest of the Bombers starting flying in like seven silver bullets.

Sophomore Jakob McConnell zoomed in at 17:09.10; senior Evan Sanders piloted a 17:19.36; junior Jacob Sandoval landed at 17:35.96; sophomore Kyle Silk stopped the clock at 17:46.05; junior Will Britton cleared the strip at 17:49.22; and junior Will Grendell emptied the barrel at 17:57.16.

They were by far and without a doubt the tightest pack in the field.

“I think it was the first time any of us felt truly ready to run that course,” Markel said. “In the past, we’ve been let down a few times and not run as well as we should have. But I think we all just wanted it so bad this year. No matter the pain during the race, it was just, tough it out for the end goal – states.”

With a 41.33-second gap between their top five runners, and a 52.44-second gap between their top seven, the Bombers finished sixth in the team standings with 245 points – bested only by teams ranked in the top seven of state – to punch their first Division I state berth in program history.

Thirteen previous team trips to the big dance all came in lower divisions for Kenston.

“I’ve never really had a great race at Boardman until now,” Markel said. “At around the second mile I was real tired. But pretty much in my mind I just wanted to pass one more person. And throughout the whole year, coach has just repeatedly been asking us why we want to be in Columbus. And he asked us that right before the gun went off. And that’s all I was thinking.”

Of the 20 Division I schools that will be represented in the boys state meet at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the National Trail Raceway, Kenston is the third smallest in enrollment figures.

“What makes this so special for us is that in our sport you can qualify as an individual,” Ickes said. “But, for us, it has never been about the individual. It’s always been about the program. It’s always been about the team. And there’s no better way for me as a coach to have it fulfilled than going as a team with zero individual qualifiers. Everybody had to do their part, run for each other and be selfless.”

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