High school cross country: Chardon, Kenston make early noise at Frank Gibas Invitational

Aug. 26—Teams took to the starting line for the beginning of another cross country season at the Frank Gibas Invitational at Kenston on Aug. 26. The Chardon and Kenston boys teams picked up where they left off a year ago.

They qualified for the state meet as teams last year in Divisions I and II, respectively, and they were at the top of the scoreboard at the end of the meet Aug. 26, as well. The Hilltoppers' Thomas Nelson led their charge, while it was Kyle McMahan for the Bombers.

On the first of the two loops, the two were firmly in the lead pack with a gaggle of nine runners. But as they started their climb back up the pair of hills, both fell to the back half of the group.

In the rest of the second mile and in the third mile, Nelson made his move back up the group and came down the stretch behind Massillon Perry's Connor Reed. Nelson made up a lot of ground in the softer terrain of the soccer field but wasn't able to catch Reed and the senior settled for second with a 16:22.9.

"I knew he was going to be here and that was kind of my focus," Nelson said. "He was coming in with the fastest time of everyone, so I was trying to stick with him. There was a lot of good competition at this meet and I was able to get out well and keep pace with him."

McMahan however, settled into his own groove rather than press to be with the leaders. He came across the line in eighth in 16:47.7 as he led Kenston to a runner-up finish as a team.

While he entered with the focus of winning his final home meet, McMahan knew that he had to dictate his own pace rather than pushing more than he needed to at the start of the season. He also knows that this meet helps prepare the Bombers for the postseason with a myriad of strong runners.

"The goal was to try and win and my first mile was good," McMahan said. "But I fell asleep as soon as we got out of the woods and that gap started building. I lost them from there and it was an issue for my end result. The goal for next time is to try and do a better job keeping touch in the second mile because I felt really good in the third."

On the girls side, the Bombers' pair of senior Emerson Greene and junior Brianna McIvor got their seasons off to strong starts, as they finished third and fourth. After the first mile, the duo could see Stow's Jayla Atkinson in the lead.

But rather than push to reel her in, the pair stuck to their race plan and maintained their spots.

"Trying to stay within closing distance of the people in front of you is a goal of ours," McIvor said. "Slowly trying to make those passes overtime is our goal for meets and we want to just continue to get better at that."

The Bombers' girls are building on a state runner-up finish a season ago and are led by the All-Ohio pair. The team around them has some familiar faces with a sprinkle of new names.

But they don't feel pressure to follow up on last season. They know they can see improvements for themselves and everyone on the team.

"I'd call it honor being at the top with the other strong runners," Greene said. "There's a lot of good competitors in the state and at this meet. Just to compete with them is a great honor."

Chagrin Falls senior Mila Gresh also found her way inside the top 10 with a seventh-place finish with a 20:18.7 while Chardon's Rae Kawalec also started her final year strong with a 10th-place finish and a time of 20:44.5.