Oct. 28—BOARDMAN — Even with on-and-off rain throughout the meet, nothing could rain on the parade for Chardon's Rae Kawalec. The senior entered the Boardman Regional with her eyes firmly on advancing to the state meet for the first time.
After a clean start in which she got out with the leaders, Kawalec maintained her pace and found her stride as she came across the line in 13th in Division I with a 19:09.58 to advance to Obetz.
The Hilltoppers' senior kept to the pace she wanted and knew she didn't need to kick hard to fight for one of the final advancement spots. Rather, she could cruise to the finish line knowing she was through to state.
"Going in, I knew the biggest competition was going to be myself," Kawalec said. "It's a hard meet here. I picked out and stayed with some people. I tried to make some moves here and there and while they didn't really work, I can't complain."
Chagrin Falls' Mila Gresh didn't have the best start in the D-II race, but the senior made it work. She methodically picked her way through the field to be in the top 10 after the second mile.
In the final 1.1 miles, Gresh started her kick early and picked up four spots to cross the line in fourth with a 19:21.39.
"The first mile was a big challenge," Gresh said. "Everyone here is going to give it their all and try to get as far ahead as possible early. They all went out so hard. But after the third mile I could see some pulling up and was able to get a few other spots."
Gresh also will see a friendly face at the starting line with Lilly Strukus also qualifying for the Tigers with her 16th place finish (19:46.46).
Kesnton also had a pair of runners advance to the state meet with All-Ohioans Emerson Greene and Brianna McIvor. Greene came across the line sixth (19:29.92) while McIvor was 23rd (20:02.86).
She was with the leaders through the course, but Greene knew that this meet wasn't about time, it was about placement. She was more focused on wanting to be within range of them but not push the pace of the meet.
"I knew there was couple of girls that were really strong," Greene said. "It's always a pleasure and honor to run with them. I knew I wanted to be with them in the first mile to the second and that was my goal. It was a confidence booster for the mental side of the sport. It's been a fun ride."
Also advancing to the state meet are Beaumont's Ava Hartman, Gilmour's Amy Weybrecht, Hawken's Brielle Collins, and Perry's Holly Vis.
In the girl's D-III meet, Sasha Kheyfets of Beachwood got out with the best of the runners and maintained her pace through the course. The entire meet, she hovered around the top 10.
The Bison sophomore crossed the line in seventh with a 19:30.81 for her first trip to the state meet.
While many of the runners came into the meet worrying about counting places, Kheyfets worried more about running her race. She wanted to be able to dictate her own pace and not worry about the runners around her.
"I feel like it's so hard to prepare for this course," Kheyfets said. "It's so unpredictable and our coach calls it the ideal cross country course. At some point worrying about position doesn't matter anymore. Whether I was in the top 15 or not, I needed to just go."
Both Kirtland's Ainsley Borthwick (14th, 19:51.74) and Lake Catholic's Kelly Ward (15th, 19:53.77) advanced to the state meet as well. Wickliffe's Markalla Tumbry finished just outside of the state qualifiers in 24th.