ELYRIA — The Runner of the Year winners for the 13th annual All-Lorain County cross country team shared a common denominator — all were driven for success.
Senior Tim Villari of Avon Lake and Amherst junior Alexis Szivan are the county’s top runners in Division I, while junior Creighton Jensen of Brookside and Keystone sophomore Shannon Wargo are the top Division II-III runners in the county.
Villari, Szivan and Wargo were all individual state qualifiers. Jensen was a regional qualifier.
The four athletes were honored at a small ceremony Wednesday night hosted by Schlather Insurance in Elyria.
Villari finished in 36th place at the state classic in 16 minutes, 14.32 seconds, missing the final Division I all-state spot
by nine seconds. A tremendous surge moved Villari up an impressive 40 places over the final 2 miles after an opening mile of 5:04.46.
“Last year was my first year for running,” Villari said. “But after the regional track meet, I knew that making it to the state meet was my goal. I collapsed and fell in the final 50 meters of the 3,200 and was unable to finish. I was in fifth or sixth place at the time and on pace to run about 9:27, which would have been a huge (personal record).”
Villari won the Southwestern Conference title as he led the Shoremen to their fifth straight championship.
He was second at the Elyria district meet despite temporarily dislocating a kneecap when he accidentally kicked himself while making a left turn in the opening mile.
Szivan is the first Amherst girl to earn consecutive trips to the state meet since Christine Thompson qualified three straight times (1994-96). She placed 49th at state in 19:24.75 after taking second at the Tiffin regional in a career-record 18:38.
“It wasn’t my day at the state meet. It’s unfortunate,” said Szivan, who earned her second straight county MVP award. “I’m upset about it, but I can’t dwell on it forever. I accomplished a lot this season and have track to look forward to.”
Szivan earlier defended her title at the SWC meet and was second at the Elyria district.
The Brookside boys’ first regional qualifier since Tom Solomon in 1984, Jensen turned a lot of heads with his second-place finish at the Elyria district in 17:44.01. Only Bay sophomore Jack Hautz (17:27.58) was quicker.
“I made up my mind at the start of June that I wanted to make this a memorable season,” Jensen said. “I made it a goal to run 500 training miles by the conference meet. There’s a website our coach (Kevin Landis) likes to use, called running2win.com. It helped me to be more consistent, to know what I was doing and what I needed to do. I also attended the Northeast Ohio Running Camp at the end of July. I was incredibly inspired by all the amazing athletes that were there.”
Jensen ended up 33rd at the Tiffin regional in 17:10.12. He earlier finished second at the Patriot Athletic Conference meet to Buckeye’s Colin Theis, a 2013 Division I state qualifier.
“I really set the bar high,” Jensen said. “Some things I didn’t quite get, like making it to the state meet, but I felt like I tried very hard to go get it. So nonetheless I’m very satisfied with what I did.”
Wargo came back from a pair of injuries to earn a state ticket with a 14th-place finish at the Tiffin regional, where she clocked a career-record 19:45.22. She was the first Keystone girl to advance to state since Amanda Winslow in 2006.
A Florida State graduate, Winslow reached out to Wargo with text messages throughout the year. Winslow was the county Division II-III Runner of the Year for 2005 and ’06 before moving to Georgia for her last two years of high school.
“She offered advice whenever I needed it,” Wargo said. “It’s great when my coach or my dad offer advice, but it’s very special to receive advice from someone that recently experienced so much of all this and to get her perspective.”
Wargo’s district efforts helped the Wildcats finish second at the Elyria district, helping Keystone qualify to regionals for the third year in a row. She went on to finish 93rd out of 139 runners for the Division II girls race at state in 20:37.10.
“It was a great season,” Wargo said. “It was great winning the PAC (first time since 1994). It made the program more noticeable throughout the school. We’re definitely thinking of goals for next year.”
Contact Paul Heyse at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
RUNNER OF THE YEAR: Tim Villari, sr. (Avon Lake)
FIRST TEAM: James Hawks, jr. (Elyria); Joey Colon, sr. (Amherst); James Darkow, sr. (Avon Lake); Ian Korney, sr. (Avon Lake); Austin Fasciana, sr. (Avon); Sean Kane, jr. (Avon).
SECOND TEAM: Noah Haramia, sr. (Amherst); Devin Arora, sr. (Avon Lake); Evan Sergent, jr. (Amherst); Trent Glasser, jr. (Avon Lake); Michael Young, so. (Avon); Joey Yanoska, so. (Avon); Jake Chizmar, so. (Elyria).
HONORABLE MENTION: Charles Connolly, jr. (Avon Lake); Joseph Goetz, jr. (Avon); Nick Ferancy, jr. (Elyria).
RUNNER OF THE YEAR: Creighton Jensen, jr. (Brookside)
FIRST TEAM: Derek Reynolds, jr. (Firelands); Simon Perales, so. (Oberlin); Kevin McCaffrey, jr. (Elyria Catholic); Brennen Crawford, jr. (Firelands); Ben Davis, jr. (Elyria Catholic).
SECOND TEAM: Andrew Fox, sr. (Keystone); Alex Overy, so, (Elyria Catholic); Jacob Corcino, jr. (Clearview); Dan Carmany, so. (Open Door); Matt Brightbill, fr. (Firelands); Denver Daniel, fr. (Open Door); Michael Adkins, jr. (Firelands).
HONORABLE MENTION: Justin Raynak, so. (Brookside); Tyler Barhorst, so. (Elyria Catholic); Cullen Grude, jr. (Firelands); Drew Zaborowski, jr. (Open Door); Manny Danao, jr. (Elyria Catholic); Ben Ocheltree, so. (Keystone); Seth Hancock, fr. (Clearview); Alexandros Nicolaou, jr. (Brookside); Noah Parsons, jr. (Clearview).
RUNNER OF THE YEAR: Alexis Szivan, jr. (Amherst)
FIRST TEAM: Megan Parker, so. (Amherst); Marissa Gerrone, sr. (Avon Lake); Cara Giannuzzi, fr. (Amherst); Erin Laird, so.
(Avon); Haley Parker, fr. (Avon); Audrey Spensley, so. (Avon Lake).
SECOND TEAM: Allie Spensley, so. (Avon Lake); Shannon Adams, jr. (Midview); Leah Lindak, sr. (North Ridgeville); Ashley Hauck, jr. (Amherst); Kellie O’Keefe, jr. (Avon); Lauren Sturgeon, jr. (Amherst); Ashley Hill, fr. (Amherst).
HONORABLE MENTION: Kayla Graham, fr. (Avon); Ashley Olszewski, so. (Elyria); Emma Gardner, fr. (Elyria).
RUNNER OF THE YEAR: Shannon Wargo, so. (Keystone)
FIRST TEAM: Tori Hritsko, so. (Firelands); Jena Copley, fr. (Keystone); Anna Zemanek, jr. (Elyria Catholic); Tori Oeftering, so. (Elyria Catholic); Gabrielle Neubauer, sr. (Open Door); Ashley Martin, sr. (Wellington).
SECOND TEAM: Morgan McNulty, sr. (Keystone); Erin Hostal, so. (Keystone); Sara Lehman, jr. (Elyria Catholic); Sarah Ziegelmeyer, jr. (Elyria Catholic); Erin Thiele, so. (Elyria Catholic); Madison Copley, jr. (Keystone); Beth Plas, so. (Keystone).
HONORABLE MENTION: Leslie Peterson, so. (Firelands); Savannah Pliszka, sr. (Brookside); Emilee Gil, sr. (Brookside); Jillian Peters, so. (Keystone); Alli Schill, fr. (Brookside); Cassie Cunningham, sr. (Elyria Catholic).