Our 2009 season kicks off the end of August with the Berkshire Early Bird Invitational on the 29th. We always enjoy this meet as we aren't required to select our varsity or JV teams, but rather all of the girls run in one big race. The course is held at the Kent Geauga campus, right next to the Geauga County Fairgrounds in Burton. It is a pretty flat course and pretty wide open, so it's great for spectators to see a great deal of the race – but not necessarily very exciting for the runners. It is a nice way to ease into the season, and the race will establish the varsity team for the following week's races at Avon Lake, a new meet for us this year.
This year we are starting off with a rather new team. With only a handful of our varsity team members returning from last year, we have a great deal of new faces and competitors who will certainly vie for their position on that varsity team each week. Returning varsity runners include: Juniors Maygen Semall and Tam Surtees and Sophomores Sam Drees, Olivia Latimer, and Katie Robinson. Other returning members include: Seniors Lauren Pinkerton and Lauren Siler, Junior Morgan Phillips, and Sophomores Betsey Clark and Hannah Sellers. All of our returning runners look really solid. They have been really putting in the miles this summer and are ready to compete. We've got a great deal of talent and experience in these girls who are also very welcoming to our new runners.
The incredible element to this year's team is the number of newcomers we are adding to the team who are bringing a great deal of athleticism and competitiveness with them as well. Senior Audrey Roy joins us this year for the first time. As a strong swimmer, she certainly knows competition and is learning to translate that onto the trails instead of the water but definitely looks strong already. New juniors Alyssa Schabel, Kaitlin Faist, Kelsey Frey are no newcomers to competing and are going to be strong stand-outs early this season. They are going to step into key positions as the season progresses and they each get a little more experience with each meet. All three of them have shown great potential already, in just two weeks of practice, and will be exciting to watch this season.
I would be remiss not to mention a few key sophomore additions this season – Lindsey Clasen and Katie Ross. Katie Ross has returned this year to Kenston from Beaumont, and we are very excited to have her back. She is no newcomer to the running arena, and we are counting on her to step up early this season. Also Lindsey Clasen, although new to the 5K, has already established herself as a strong runner when she made it onto the varsity 4x800m relay team this past spring on the track team, along with returning runners Robinson and Semall. Other new sophomores who may not have the experience of the other two, but who should not be overlooked are Kailey Bricker, Emma Schlagbaum (who also joins us from the track team this past spring), and Alli Wittenberg. These three young ladies are working hard everyday and are showing unbelievable improvements with each practice. They've got great running form, drive, and dedication. I expect, with great certainty, we will see them breaking into the varsity line-up throughout the season. The cross country race is a tough one, but once they get a little experience and find their race, I know we will see times continue to drop all season. We can expect the same from the new freshmen as well. Brigitte Kolibab, Emily Latimer, Meaghan Miller, and Kelsey Taylor all join us from the Kenston Middle School program, where races are two miles compared to the high school's 3.1 mile race. Once they know that they can maintain that same pace for the additional mile, they are going to be a strong force. I see incredible potential there, and once they realize what they can accomplish, they will achieve great things this season.
With all this talent and potential, I am really looking forward to this season. It is going to be exciting watching each of them improve and push each other to be better together. We are running basically the same schedule as last year – except that we've dropped the Mentor and Medina Invitationals and added Avon Lake and the Legends Meet hosted by Maplewood High School at the Trumbull County Fairgrounds. Following the Berkshire Early Bird Invitational the first week, we have the Avon Lake Invitational, where we are expecting to see some challenging teams on a pretty challenging course. Then we head a few hours west to the Tiffin Invitational. There we will see one of the largest meets in the country with as many as 450 runners on the starting line. The whole meet is scored via computer chips in their shoes. It's a fun race! On September 19th, we head to Boardman for a preview of the Regional course. With any luck, it will be a dry course this year – but it rarely ever is. An all-time favorite, the Cloverleaf Invitational is one where we always bring home the hardware and also make the annual trip to Richfield for homemade ice cream from Mr. Torma. Then the girls head to Gilmour on Friday night, the night of the Homecoming football game, for a great, rolling course and tough local competition. We then fortunately have that Saturday off, which also happens to fall on Homecoming Night – a very rare occurrence. On October 10th then we head to Trumbull County for the Legends meet where awards are given out by previous top Ohio runners. It is a course that reminds me a great deal of the State meet in Scioto Downs in Columbus, except that the race takes them through the center of a barn. The next weekend we start our key meets – the CVC Meet, Districts, Regionals, and State.
Wish us luck often as we continue to work hard this entire season to have the best possible team in place by the end of the season. It's going to be an exciting one!