The green and gold pack of runners that is the St. Vincent-St. Mary girls cross country team hopes to continue its victory tour Saturday in the biggest meet of the season — the state championship.
St. V-M is one of several area teams that will be vying for a state title when the best squads and individuals in each gender spread over three divisions and converge at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
The Fighting Irish girls are seeking their fourth consecutive Division II state championship. They come in confident after winning district and regional titles in Akron and Tiffin, respectively, during the past two weekends.
“They have to make sure they maintain and finish the job at hand,” St. V-M coach Dan Lancianese said. “They have one more journey to finish this Saturday. They are focused and ready to go.”
Freshman Rachel Iacofano and senior Marissa Rossetti are the Irish’s top two runners.
Rossetti contributed to the previous three St. V-M state title-winning teams.
“It is just so exciting because a lot has happened over the past four years,” Rossetti said. “It is not just about running. I have made so many friends and a lot of people have helped me. I have coaches and teammates who feel like family. It will be a bittersweet moment when we run together for the last time on Saturday.”
The Irish girls consistently run together by utilizing a “pack mentality.”
“I have to give credit to [assistant coach] Chris Miloscia for that,” Lancianese said. “We have had a lot of debates about this. I love the individual and he has perfected the team concept. His view of cross country is you look at your unit and what do they average? He thinks about what is the best way to get them in a position to win a championship.”
St. V-M won a girls regional title with 27 points last week. Woodridge was second with 92 points, CVCA took third with 103 points and Crestwood placed fourth with 107 points.
“The intensity of this team started in June,” Lancianese said. “We have had a fight for the seven spots all season.”
Junior Julia Mendiola consistently pushes the pace along with seniors Mary Bozsik, Amanda Sollenberger and Madison Buzek and sophomores Cynthia Haas and Shea O’Brien.
“They are in a comfort zone when they know that they have their comrades next to them, shoulder to shoulder,” Lancianese said. “It helps them compete, especially a freshman like Rachel Iacofano. It is like a mothering type of thing. We like to have the advanced runners on the outside and the novice runners in the inside.”
Sollenberger, Mendiola and O’Brien were also on last year’s state team.
“Marissa and I have seen so many seniors lead the team and now this year it is our turn to lead,” Sollenberger said. “We are just excited and I think our team will perform really well.”
Sollenberger rattled off names of past St. V-M runners Molly Miloscia, Emily Tomei, Maria Arnone, Anna Mion, Tessa Weigand, Annie Davis and Samantha Kirk who all have helped the Irish win state titles since 2009.
“Those are really big shoes to fill,” Sollenberger said. “Those girls are all amazing runners.”
Lancianese said each girl wears a watch and focuses on her time.
“They are robotic to the clock,” Lancianese said with a laugh.
Rossetti said nerves will exist prior to the race Saturday, but once the gun is fired she and her teammates will run accordingly.
“We are really good friends,” Rossetti said. “Amanda is my best friend. We are really excited because this is our last year. We met freshman year and became friends instantly. We both love running. That is what we talk about a lot.”
St. V-M will also have its boys team in the Division II state meet after the Irish finished in a tie for fourth with Defiance at regional with 105 points.
Coach Jeff Howard guided Woodridge to the regional title with 89 points and Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy coach Rick Lyons led his team to second with 96 points.
“When you look at the final results, we were 16 points from winning the regional,” Lancianese said. “All four of the teams from our regional can place in the top five and all of them are capable of winning a state title.”
Seniors Mick Iacofano and Matt Oswald lead the St. V-M boys team, which also features sophomores Nick Campbell, Marco Colant, Corey Large, Bryce Patrick and Joe Rossetti.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at https://ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.