ELYRIA — Experience made all the difference for this year’s All-Lorain County Cross Country MVPs. When things were tough, they rolled with the punches and handled the adversity.
Senior Blake Pecoraro of Avon and Amherst sophomore Alexis Szivan are the MVPs in Division I for this year’s 12th annual awards. Seniors Michaela Foisy and Jake Amato of Elyria Catholic are the MVPs in Division II-III.
Pecoraro, Szivan and Foisy were individual state qualifiers. A regional qualifier this fall, Amato raced at the 2010 state meet as a team qualifier when EC finished fourth.
The MVPs were honored at a small ceremony Thursday, hosted by Schlather Insurance.
Pecoraro is believed to be the Avon boys’ first district champ since 1966, winning the Elyria district on Oct. 20. The Avon High senior won his first cross country race since eighth grade by outkicking Amherst sophomore Josh Park at Lorain County Community College. He won 16:49.28 to 16:52.60.
His efforts helped the Eagles win their second district championship in three years. A week earlier, he helped the Eagles to their second straight West Shore Conference title.
“Diet was key,” Pecoraro said. “Sticking to things like red meat and lots of green vegetables was very important. I always tried to stay on top of things and gave 120 percent at each practice.”
Pecoraro’s season started out on the rough side. He battled through bronchitis and low blood iron the first month of the season and was the team’s No. 7 runner at one point.
“I tried not to put the pressure on that this is my senior year, my last season,” he said. “I just approached each race that I was going to perform as hard as I could. Obviously, the beginning of the season I wasn’t able to perform at the level I wanted, but I knew that setting an example to the younger runners was still important. That was also a motivation to me.”
Pecoraro finished 45th at the state meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron with a career-record time of 16:05.72.
For Szivan, the season was all about staying poised for the stretch run.
“It came down to just staying positive,” Szivan said. “The repeat mile workouts we did were torture but I pushed through it and it paid off. The mental part is an obstacle. It would have been easy to quit and to say I don’t want to do it and give up.”
Szivan finished 49th at state in 19:00.41, a career-record mark by nearly 18 seconds.
“Without my coach and teammates I wouldn’t have been able to do it,” Szivan said. “It’s been my goal since freshman year to make it to state. It came true and I’m very happy about that.”
Szivan won the Southwestern Conference meet in 19:53.3, the first Amherst girl to win it since Britnee Barris in 2001, and helped the Comets take second. She was fourth in 20:02.62 at the Elyria district as the Comets earned their 23rd regional berthin 24 years with a third-place finish. Szivan advanced to state with a 13th place (19:18.36) finish at the Tiffin regional.
For the second straight year, Foisy qualified to the Division III state meet, but it wasn’t easy.
She qualified fourth out the 16 individual qualifiers at the Boardman regional (19:42.03) after being diagnosed four days earlier with a stress fracture in her left fibula.
Foisy placed 34th at the state meet in 19:28.93, her second fastest time of the season.
“Summer training was a huge success,” Foisy said. “I trained a lot this summer with the Hawks family. James Hawks runs for Elyria High, along with his dad and mom (Dan and Becky). We ran every day — long runs, easy runs and speed training. I don’t think people realize how important summer training can be. It was crucial. Without them, I don’t think I would have had such a great base.”
It was critical to her fall season. Foisy had a tough spring in track, first with an Achilles strain and then coming down with mono prior to districts.
“Getting back into the running (training) helped get me pumped for the season,” said Foisy, a cancer survivor who had a bone marrow transplant when she was only six months old.
Foisy set a school record Oct. 9 when she finished 10th in 19:00 at the Les Einsenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington High School.
Amato’s biggest concern was overtraining. He spent much of the 2011 summer working with Iowa State’s Marty Coolidge and Dan Kuhman of Memphis University, former EC teammates and All-Ohio runners.
“Marty and Dan are much more advanced,” Amato said. “The mileage they were hitting was much more than I should have been doing. This season I took a much more relaxed, less serious approach. Last year, I would always try to hit my pace. This year, if I felt good I would speed up. If I was feeling bad, I would take it easy. I would cut my mileage short. I wasn’t so obsessed with following my training plan exactly.”
Although he fell well short of making regionals last year (40th, 19:36.11), Amato came back strong this year to qualify sixth at the Elyria district (17:24.18). His efforts helped the Panthers finish fourth and qualify to regionals as a team after missing last year for the first time in seven years.
“I was much more relaxed this season,” Amato said. “That really helped pull me through at the end of the season with some good races and some good times. Without a strong base and strong foundation you can’t go anywhere. I really focused on building a strong base so that when the workouts came I was ready.”
Amato’s two fastest times of the season came at the WSC Preview (second, 16:46.86) and WSC (eighth, 16:46.80).
Runner of the Year: Blake Pecoraro, sr. (Avon)
First team: Devin Arora, jr. (Avon Lake); Josh Park, so. (Amherst); Tim Villari, jr. (Avon Lake); Tommy Parsons, jr. (Avon Lake); Austin Fasciana, jr. (Avon); Sean Kane, so. (Avon)
Second team: Joey Colon, jr. (Amherst); James Darkow, jr. (Avon Lake); Evan Sergent, so. (Amherst); Trent Glasser, so. (Avon Lake); Ben Smith, so. (Avon); Alex Shermak, jr. (Avon); James Hawks, so. (Elyria)
Honorable mention: Andre DelValle, sr. (Amherst); Matt Beltz, sr. (Avon); Noah Haramia, jr. (Amherst); Mike Callesen, sr. (Avon Lake); Kevin Burgett, sr. (Amherst); Joe Goetz, sr. (Avon); Nick Nix, jr. (Avon Lake)
Runner of the Year: Jake Amato, sr. (Elyria Catholic)
First team: Kevin McCaffrey, so. (Elyria Catholic); Brady Jeffers, sr. (Firelands); Cameron Rusnak, sr. (Open Door); Creighton Jensen, so. (Brookside); Mike Hollingsworth, sr. (Clearview); Greg Nagy, sr. (Elyria Catholic)
Second team: Matt Hollingsworth, sr. (Clearview); Ben Amato, so. (Elyria Catholic); Noah Parsons, fr. (Clearview); Dean Wasil, sr. (Open Door); Simon Perales, fr. (Oberlin); Dan Carmany, fr. (Open Door); Brennan Crawford, so. (Firelands)
Honorable mention: Shane Horstmann, sr. (Clearview); Manny Danao, so. (Elyria Catholic); Mike Adkins, so. (Firelands); Drew Zaborowski, so. (Open Door); Andrew Fox, jr. (Keystone); Cullen Grude, so. (Firelands); Marshal Farnsworth, sr. (Wellington); Dima Osch, sr. (Oberlin)
Runner of the Year: Alexis Szivan, so. (Amherst)
First team: Cassie Vince, sr. (Amherst); Alli Clark, so. (Avon); Emily Johnson, sr. (Amherst); Erin Laird, fr. (Avon); Linda Morales, sr. (Avon); Kaitlyn Robertson, sr. (Avon)
Second team: Julia Jantz, fr. (Avon Lake); Annie Bowen, fr. (Avon); Allie Spensley, fr. (Avon Lake); Megan Beal, sr. (Amherst); Kellie O’Keefe, jr. (Avon); Tasha Miller, so. (Elyria); Katey Faber, so. (Avon Lake)
Honorable mention: Megan Parker, fr. (Amherst)
Runner of the Year: Michaela Foisy, sr. (Elyria Catholic)
First team: Gabrielle Neubauer, jr. (Open Door); Shannon Wargo, fr. (Keystone); Anna Zemanek, so. (Elyria Catholic); Sarah Hoff, sr. (Open Door); Jillian Peters, jr. (Keystone); Sarah Ziegelmeyer, so. (Elyria Catholic)
Second team: Leslie Peterson, so. (Firelands); Emily Gil, jr. (Brookside); Danielle Nagy, so. (Elyria Catholic); Savannah Pliszka, jr. (Brookside); Tori Oeftering, fr. (Elyria Catholic); Tori Hritsko, fr. (Firelands); Marissa Ficociello, fr. (Keystone)
Honorable mention: Sydney Schmidt, sr. (Open Door); Ashley Martin, jr. (Wellington); Morgan McNulty, jr. (Keystone); Jessica Schrodt, fr. (Open Door); Skyler Tavis, fr. (Open Door); Sarah Koubek, jr. (Elyria Catholic)
Contact Paul Heyse at 440-329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.