ELYRIA — It’s usually extremely difficult to break or equal records at the Southwestern Conference cross country championship thanks to the rich tradition of top-fight teams.
Well, Avon Lake achieved a level of performance at Saturday’s 48th annual boys meet that places it among the league’s all-time best.
Avon Lake won its fifth straight title, second all time to Bay’s string of 12 straight between 1970-81. No other school has won more than three in a row.
It wasn’t only that Avon Lake made it five straight. It was how it did it.
The Shoremen impressively swept the top three spots and had four runners in the top five, a feat eclipsed only by the 1976 and ’77 Bay teams which swept the top three and placed five in the top six.
Senior Tim Villari led the Shoremen, taking first in 16 minutes, 36.8 seconds. Devin Arora (17:04.7) and Ian Korney (17:05.0) finished second and third, while James Darkow was fifth (17:27.6). Riley Jantz (20th, 18:03.8) equaled a career-best time as the No. 5 runner.
Villari yelled with exuberance as he crossed the finish line.
“I’ve worked hard and this is the time where it pays off,” he said. “Today was not so much about confidence in who we are, just confidence in the work we put in. When you trust your work, nothing else really matters.
“When we run as a team it’s infinitely easier because you know you’re running for the guy right next to you. With that attitude you feel like Superman.”
Avon Lake finished with 31 points, beating Berea-Midpark (55) and Brecksville (63).
“It’s hard to come up with a strategy because you never really know what’s going to happen,” Avon Lake coach Rob Juergens said. “We had four guys up front at the half mile and I was a little surprised. I told myself I wasn’t going to use a watch today because times don’t matter. It’s all about being at the right place.”
It was Avon Lake’s sixth SWC title overall, its first first coming over Bay in 1996.
“We didn’t really talk about doing this, but when the race began unfolding at the half mile we figured to try and keep things this way,” Villari said. “We have the chemistry where we really didn’t need to say anything. Things were clicking.”
“We’ve now won five years in a row. Tradition like that (is special). You don’t want to let down the guys that have run in the past and established it. We kept it alive. It’s awesome.”
Villari’s margin of victory (27.9 seconds) is the largest since North Olmsted’s Aaron Arlinghaus defeated Rocky River’s Chris English by 29 seconds in 2002.
“I don’t run very even (splits), I kind of surge,” Villari said. “I stay with the pack for about a mile. From there, I trust myself enough to go. I’m pretty aware where my red line is. Off the hill (Mount Washka), nothing matters beyond that. That’s just heart.”
Villari’s teammates followed his lead.
“It’s a strange year,” Juergens said. “There were three or four teams coming into the season returning a lot of guys. I thought it was going to be a bloodbath. I respect them all. They’re all pretty well-coached. You have to be healthy. I think we’re very fortunate to be mostly healthy. Some of the other teams aren’t at full strength.”
Amherst junior Alexis Szivan (19:17.2) won her second straight SWC title as she defeated 2010 winner Miranda DiBiasio of Berea-Midpark (19:29.2). DiBasio beat Szivan by 11 seconds at the SWC Preview in August. It was the fastest winning time since Rocky River’s Caroline Sanker had the same mark in 2002.
Szivan pulled away for good as the two crested Mount Washka, the manmade hill on the course, with just over half mile left.
“I’ve always been good at hills,” said Szivan, a 2012 state qualifier. “This race meant a lot to me and I really wanted to do well. It feels amazing.”
Szivan is the 12th runner in the history of the SWC girls meet to win multiple titles.
Brecksville won its ninth straight SWC girls title as it outdistanced Amherst, 47-77. Sophomore Megan Park (fifth, 20:22.0), freshman Cara Gianuzzi (17th, 21:36.2), junior Ashley Hauck (21st, 21:55.1) and junior Lauren Sturgeon (33rd, 22:34.8) rounded out the Comets’ top five.
Contact Paul Heyse at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Team scores: 1. Avon Lake, 31; 2. Berea-Midpark, 55; 2. Brecksville, 63; 4. Amherst, 104; 5. North Olmsted, 125; 6. Westlake, 137; 7. Olmsted Falls, 198
Top 5: 1. Tim Villari (AL), 16:36.8; 2. Devin Arora (AL), 17:04.7; 3. Ian Korney (AL), 17:05.0; 4. Mike Bonamer (BR), 17:21.6; 5. James Darkow (AL), 17:27.6
Other top local finishers: 7. Joey Colon (AM), 17:31.5; 8. Evan Sergent (AM), 17:32.9; 9. Brad Tomcho (NO), 17:33.2; 18. Nick Irwin (WE), 17:59.4; 20. Riley Jantz (AL), 18:03.9; 22. Ryan Cummings (NO), 18:09.1; 24. Alex Jarufe (NO), 18:12.1; 25. Mike Sekerak (AM), 18:12.6; 26. Gavin Kelly (WE), 18:16.9; 27. Trent Glasser (AL), 18:17.5; 28. Noah Haramia (AM), 18:18.0; 29. Charles Connolly (AL), 18:18.6; 30. Evan Milovich (WE), 18:18.9
Team scores: 1. Brecksville, 47; 2. Amherst, 77; 3. Berea-Midpark, 89; 4. Westlake, 94; 5. Avon Lake, 103; 6. Olmsted Falls, 127; 7. North Olmsted, 142
Top 5: 1. Alexis Szivan (AM), 19:17.2; 2. Miranda DiBiasio (BE), 19:29.2; 3. Olivia Cook (BR), 19:45.8; 4. Lindsay Scarton (BE), 20:03.6; 5. Megan Parker (AM), 20:22.0
Other top local finishers: 7. Grace Jenkins (WE), 20:46.6; 8. Sarah Makari (OF), 20:53.2; 9. Emily Johr (NO), 20:56.3; 13. Robyn Hageman (WE), 21:19.9; 14. Charlotte Ward (AL), 21:25.8; 15. Marisa Gerrone (AL), 21:28.0; 17. Cara Giannuzzi (AM), 21:36.3; 18. Katie Chalfant (OF), 21:37.3; 20. Audrey Spensley (AL), 21:45.9; 21. Ashley Hauck (AM), 21:55.1; 23. Michelle Appel (WE), 22:00.1; 24. Julia Jantz (AL), 22:06.5; 25. Jasmine Welch (WE), 22:08.1; 26. Madeline Lee (WE), 22:10.8; 27. Stefani Salazar (NO), 22:16.6; 28. Katherine Garruto (WE), 22:20.8; 29. Kaylee Gomez (OF), 22:23.3; 30. Katey Faber (AL), 22:25.5