What carried four Lorain County high school runners to success this season? To borrow a phrase from the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire, maybe a "hope in their hearts and wings on their feet."
Elyria Catholic all-state sophomore Marty Coolidge and Amherst senior Michele Molnar might relate to that feeling. The pair headlined the seventh annual All-Lorain County Cross Country Team.
The Division II-III Lorain County MVP, Coolidge finished 10th at the Division II state meet on Nov. 3 in a personal-record time of 16:08.26.
Coolidge is the EC boys` first all-state cross country runner since 2001 when Chris Hoban finished 22nd. It`s the first time an EC boy cracked the top 10 at state since 1983 when Tim Mackert placed third (15:53).
"I was lot more focused. This year I put a lot more training miles in during the summer," said Coolidge. "Last year, we went down to watch Chris Kuhman at the state race after he qualified. We got on the course. It was just something I wanted to do, to get to state this year (in 2007)."
Molnar led the Amherst girls to their third Division I state berth since 2002. The Division I girls county MVP led Amherst`s stellar day at the Tiffin Regional meet. Molnar had a personal-record time of 19:45.71, finishing 32nd. The Comets` top five finished 17 seconds apart, keying Amherst`s fourth place finish.
"Things were kind of rocky for us at the beginning of the season, but we just never gave up," said Molnar. "The seniors tried helping out the underclassmen in terms of staying focused, keep looking ahead and keep trying your hardest. Eventually, we knew we were going to put it all together and get there.
Amherst was 16th at the state meet, but it barely dampened the feeling of making it to the "Big Dance."
"It was a real toss-up for the fourth (team) spot at regionals," said Molnar. "As a senior, you really want to make it there (to state). Everybody really stepped it up. Six of seven runners had personal-record times (at Tiffin). I`m just really happy we did it."
Amherst junior Gary Haglund (Div. I boys) and sophomore Avon`s Erin Schneider (Div. II-III girls) were also honored at Monday`s county awards ceremony, held at Schlather Insurance in Elyria.
Haglund led the Comets to Division I regionals where he clocked a career-record time of 16:13.13, finishing 18th. Schneider led a seniorless squad to its second straight trip to Div. II regionals.
Haglund beat back some demons from earlier in his high school career. He twice dropped out of the race during his career on the same Tiffin course while competing at the Tiffin Distance Carnival due to issues related to exercise-induced asthma.
"I just wanted to put it together at the end of the season," said Haglund. "It worked out pretty well. I had good races throughout the season. I just had to put what had happened at Tiffin in the past behind me. I knew it wasn`t the course."
Gary`s brother, Tim, was the 2005 Division I county MVP.
"I put in more consistent miles over the summer, which helped out a lot," said Gary. "I was getting tired of (teammate) Kyle (Lowry) beating me pretty bad. That provided some motivation. We`ll be a very good team next year."
Schneider led the way for Avon, which made up for the loss of four seniors that graduated in June. The Avon girls were fourth at districts and seventh at regionals.
"Our team was made up basically of freshmen (4), so a lot of leadership was responsibility was put on sophomores," said Schneider, who finished sixth at districts (20:39) and 30th at regionals (20:14). "We tried to live up to that. When we made to regionals last year, we made it our goal then to make it back there. Our coach (Tara Gruskiewicz) was there for us the whole time and really helped us a lot."
BOYS DIVISION I
Runner of the Year: Gary Haglund, jr. (Amherst)
First team: Kyle Lowry, jr. (Amherst); Miles Pittak, fr. (Amherst); Ben Kildow, sr. (Amherst); Aaron Grim, sr. (Elyria); Mike Parsons, fr. (Avon Lake); Matt Link, so. (Avon Lake)
Second team: Dave Siefker, sr. (Midview); Jimmy Adams, so. (Avon Lake); Kevin Harroff, sr. (Amherst); Justin Housley, fr. (Avon Lake); Jordan Stephenson, jr. (Midview); Pete Hause, jr. (Amherst); Ian Ward, so. (Elyria)
Honorable mention: Tony Bartalotta, sr. (Avon Lake); Kyle Hill, fr. (Amherst); Dan Uptmor, sr. (Avon Lake); Cole Musial, jr. (Avon Lake); Josh Tayler, so. (Elyria); Brian Maddock, fr. (Elyria)
BOYS DIVISION II-III
Runner of the Year: Marty Coolidge, so. (Elyria Catholic)
First team: Nick Jeffers, jr. (Firelands); Andy Ventura, jr. (Avon); Tyler Kvach, fr. (Avon); Angel Senquiz, jr. (Clearview); Cory LaMar, jr. (Firelands); Dan Kuhman, fr. (Elyria Catholic)
Second team: Peter Deucher, sr. (Firelands); Kyle Nimon, jr. (Firelands); Tony Nelson, jr. (Keystone); Tim Gibson, sr. (Avon); Bryce Steindl, so. (Elyria Catholic); McClain Stoneburner, jr. (Open Door); Jim Russell, sr. (Elyria Catholic)
Honorable mention: Mike Ogle, fr. (Open Door); Matt Wiehe, fr. (Elyria Catholic); Will Sellers, fr. (Elyria Catholic); Jared O`Keefe, sr. (Open Door); Paul Harding, sr. (Open Door); Preston Rathge, so. (Firelands)
GIRLS DIVISION I
Runner of the Year: Michele Molnar, sr. (Amherst)
First team: Jessica Bartholomew, jr. (Amherst); Jane Lehman, jr. (Amherst); Kasey Schuler, fr. (Amherst); Miranda Weed, fr. (Avon Lake); Megan Byrne, sr. (Amherst); Erica Kelly, so. (Amherst)
Second team: Jessica Sykes, jr. (Elyria); Alyssa Bove, jr. (Amherst); Katie Adams, sr. (Avon Lake); Julie Hardgrove, sr. (Avon Lake); Katie Siwierka, so. (Elyria); Becky Lightfoot, sr. (Avon Lake); Teresa Divencenzo, sr. (Midview)
Honorable mention: Teresa Pesch, jr. (Elyria); Alyssa Molnar, sr. (Avon Lake); Becca Lamb, so. (North Ridgeville); Selena Ventura, jr. (Avon Lake); Alice Shoemaker, sr. (North Ridgeville); Stephanie Mauer, so. (Avon Lake); Abbie Hornyak, so. (Amherst); Kelsey Anderson, so. (Amherst)
GIRLS DIVISION II-III
Runner of the Year: Erin Schneider, so. (Avon)
First team: Kayla Welch, fr. (Avon); Evann Heidersbach, jr. (Elyria Catholic); Liz Bailey, sr. (Columbia); Liz Bruno, fr. (Avon); Emily Michelich, jr. (Avon); Nicole Blair, so. (Keystone)
Second team: Mallory Balmert, fr. (Avon); Rachel Schumick sr. (Open Door); Devon DeLorge, fr. (Avon); Julia Kopcienski, so. (Avon); Nadia Husien, sr. (Columbia); Brianna Shaw, jr. (Clearview); Grace Dill, fr. (Elyria Catholic)
Honorable mention: Laura Pierce, sr. (Elyria Catholic); Courtney Neigh, fr. (Brookside); Alexa Rick, fr. (Elyria Catholic); Kristen Concheck, fr. (Elyria Catholic); Kelsey David, jr. (Wellington); Tina Smith, jr. (Brookside); Mara Gordon, so. (Keystone)