CUYAHOGA FALLS: With friends and family cheering her on Saturday morning, Walsh Jesuit cross country ace Melinda Renuart won the Warriors’ annual Tomahawk Run.
“It feels great,” said the Walsh senior, who covered the 5,000-meter course around the high school property in 19:07. “There were so many people I know, and it’s my last time running here.”
Renuart fended off determined sophomores Rachel Wentworth of Garaway and Hannah Markel of Gilmour Academy. Despite Renuart’s victory, the Warriors (76 points) lost a second-place tiebreaker with GlenOak (76) and finished third in the team standings.
With four runners in the top 10, Gilmour (42) won the Division I (Gold) girls title in a field of 125 runners representing 16 schools.
“This is only our third year in Division I,” Walsh coach Rose Mathie said. “I’m happy. I’m not going to complain.”
Walsh Jesuit sophomores Molly Onders and Abby Lenz finished fifth (20:00) and 11th (20:07), respectively.
“I knew I had my whole team working hard behind me,” Renuart said.
About 2,000 meters into the race, Renuart, Wentworth and Markel were even. But, Renuart gradually pulled away, taking a 30-meter lead over Wentworth with 1,000 meters to go. Wentworth placed second (19:29) and Markel third (19:57).
GlenOak junior Hannah Thompson placed sixth (20:01) and Jackson senior Grace Taylor placed seventh (20:03).
Mathie said her team bonded over the summer and that togetherness played a major role in the team’s strong finish.
“These girls all get along really well,” she said. “They worked hard this summer and made it a little more fun. They ran during the mornings and then got together for brunch or went swimming afterward. They made it about team unity.”
Boardman senior Mark Hadley (15:25, 5,000 meters) ran away from the field in winning the Division I (Gold) boys race. The Spartans edged Louisville 62-68 to win the team title.
Jackson took third (107) and GlenOak fourth (124) among 21 teams, including 171 runners.
“I was a little nervous coming in,” Hadley said. “I had a stuffy nose, and I was sneezing and had a sore throat, but I got out there and it all disappeared.”
Senior Nick Thomas (fifth place, 16:41) and freshman Nick Chaplik (eighth, 16:43) paced the Leopards. Louisville won the Division I state title in 2010.
“The team ran well as a pack,” 10th-year Louisville coach Bob Sudomir said. “We pride ourselves on a strong cross country tradition.”
Gilmour’s John Brett (seventh, 16:42) saw his teammate “fall back because he was sick, so I kind of felt like I had to take over for him.”
Senior Paul Clifford was Jackson’s top finisher, placing ninth overall (16:47).
“I was sixth on the team last year, and to be first [on the team] in the last two races is an incredible feeling,” Clifford said. “I’m really blessed.”
Walsh Jesuit ranked 10th and was the top Summit County school.
The temperature shot up a few degrees for the afternoon races, but it did not seem to bother the teams from Lake County Perry.
Mentor Lake Catholic junior Frances Bull outkicked junior Marissa Sell of Perry to win the girls Division II/III (Maroon) race. Bull covered the 5,000-meter course in 21:27.
Perry (68) placed all five of its scoring runners in the top 25 and finished well ahead of runner-up Elyria Catholic (107). Rootstown (165, eighth place) and Buchtel (191, 10th) were in the mix.
“I wanted to win it because our school had a tragedy this year,” Bull said. “One of our seniors passed and I wanted to win for him.”
Buchtel senior Emani Griffin, with her hair dyed bright red, was among the leaders at the midway point of the race, but then fell and had to settle for 11th place (22:35). Rootstown freshman Emma Burns placed 14th (22:48) out of 80 runners.
In the Division II/III boys race, Perry senior Aaran Gessic embraced the hot weather and captured first place (17:00, 5,000 meters), leading his team to a championship.
The Pirates (54) had their entire top seven in the top 30. Cortland Lakeview (78) finished second.
Rootstown senior Will Morgan chased behind Gessic and placed second (17:22) among 95 competitors.
“I really didn’t do quite as well as I was hoping to do as far as time goes,” Morgan said. “I didn’t go out very fast. It was really hot and that takes a toll. I guess overall, I’m pretty pleased with my race today.”
The Rovers finished seventh (169) in the team race, while Buchtel came in 11th.
Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps.