Nov. 4—OBETZ — With the two race leaders breaking away from the pack, West Geauga's Matthew Dienes had to change his strategy during the Division II state cross country meet Nov. 4. The senior contended through the chase pack and was still on track for a top 10 to close his cross country career.
The Wolverines runner came across the line in sixth with a 15:47.04 to earn back-to-back All-Ohio finishes.
Once he saw Fairfield Union's Andrew Walton and Marlington's Colin Cernansky make an early break, Dienes' game plan pivoted to battling for the best finish possible. Surrounded by strong runners, he knew the task would be difficult, but that made it more exciting for him.
"It's a real change for me to not be in the front pack, and I got a taste of it last week," Dienes said. "I knew they would be some beasts that I had to deal with and going into the race, with it being my last, I had to aim for the top spot. I had to change my strategy mid-race and got a high spot on the podium."
Dienes tied the mark for the best finish by a West Geauga runner at the state meet. Last year, teammate Daniel Kearns was also sixth on the podium.
While Dienes was battling among the leaders, Hawken's two runners approached the meet with different mentalities. Nick Garcia-Witko was hot on the chase pack's tail ahead of the herd, while Parker Carrus was just ahead of the field.
Despite the different approaches, both earned All-Ohio results and podium finishes. Garcia-Whitko finished 13th with a 16:03.18 while Carrus was 20th with a 16:08.23.
Both knew that their approaches yielded different strategies but were prepared to roll with the punches.
"The start of the race was really packed," Garcia-Whitko said. "Just being able to maneuver around was a challenge. There were times when we had to essentially stop. But that's just part of racing but it was something that made it difficult."
Carrus added: "All the meets leading to this one are about how fast you can run. But today it comes down to tactics and how you can work through packs of really strong guys. It's a challenge, but it's something we embrace."
Hawken finished in sixth in the team standings, one spot behind Kenston. The Bombers put a runner on the podium as Kyle McMahan pushed his way to a 17th-place finish.
McMahan was among the leaders through the beginning of the meet but knew he needed to pace himself not just for his own result but that of the team as well.
Going into the meet, Kenston had high expectations after it survived a strong Boardman Regional. McMahan had the team goals in the back of his mind and went after the race looking for the best team result.
"I came through the mile a lot faster than I anticipated," McMahan said. "I thought my start was great and I was out in the front. I gagued with people I had run with in the past and made moves depending who was where. We had a super special night last night where we set our goals and it was nice to see it pay off in the end. We aimed for higher than fifth but it's the highest finish we've had as a team in my four years."
The D-I race was filled with strong runners, and right in the middle was Mentor's Billy Dennison. The junior battled in the pack and crossed the line in 46th in 16:07.32.
Dennison's teammate Matthew Penkowski worked his way through the field at every mile and finished 64th with a 16:19.72. Chardon finished 20th in the team standings, led by Thomas Nelson who was 78th with a 16:27.52.