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Hard work puts Woodridge boys cross country team in line for another state title

10/11/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

PENINSULA — The Woodridge High School boys cross country team is out to another undefeated start, and head coach Jeff Howard said that success is a result of a lot of hard work.

“The boys had tremendous summers of training to put them in position to be in the state championship conversation,” he said. “Most of the guys ran 40 to 80 miles a week to prepare for the fall. This was done primarily alone with the leadership of our seniors. We have tremendous senior leadership.”

As of Oct. 7, Howard said, the boys team’s record was 9-0 overall and 6-0 in league play.

“They are currently ranked fifth in the state poll,” he said.

The team’s seniors (with comments on each by the coach) include:

• Matt Wojcik: “An All-Ohioan in 2011 (18th in Ohio), he is a tremendous leader and worker. Matt sets a fine example for our younger kids and can be counted on to help with all of our team endeavors. He ran 70 to 80 miles per week over summer to prepare for the fall.”

• Alex Frederick: “He turned 15 in April and is an outstanding student. He ran over 70 to 90 miles a week over the summer to prepare for the fall season. He ran fifth man at the state meet last fall.”

• Sam Scourfield: “A [junior varsity] runner last fall, he ran 65 to 75 miles a week this summer to prepare for the fall. Sam is averaging around 90-second improvements on nearly every course this fall.”

• Stephen Cunningham: “He’s like a leader of our second-tier group. He’s running the best times of his career right now.”

• Jimmy Conroy: “He had no varsity experience last fall, but broke into our varsity this fall in a couple races. He’s a good kid.”

The remaining seniors on the team are Michael McCann, Jeff Laux and Josh Dryer.

“They’ve been committed to the program for six years, including middle school, and they’ve been a big asset,” the coach stated.

Howard said the team has 29 athletes and “a nice balance of the classes,” including a trio of talented juniors.

“John Harry was our third runner at state last spring — and 31st in Ohio. John is the best overall athlete in our top five and a great kid,” Howard said. “Tim Faiken did not run state meet last year — he got his appendix taken out [while] at cross country camp in the summer and never fully recovered — but he is a great kid and a hard worker. He ran 60 to 70 miles a week to prepare for this fall and is averaging over a minute faster on each course. And Andrew Stewart didn’t get varsity experience last fall, but he broke 18:00 for the first time last week at Lancaster. He provides great depth.”

Another key runner on the team, Howard said, is sophomore Noah Bullock.

“He is a mature runner for a youngster,” the coach stated. “He has been in the top five this fall in a couple meets. Noah is very talented.”

In addition, Howard said, sophomores Logan Stockton and Kyle Jarvis came into the season without varsity experience, but both are “running great and providing depth.”

According to Howard, the team now is working short-handed as two talented sophomores are out with injuries.

“Brian Jankowski is a hard-working kid with an ankle injury. He may be back by championships,” the coach said. “Zach Perrin was running super, but had a motorcycle accident and was lost for a season. He may run, but won’t likely race again this fall.”

Howard is in his 19th year at Woodridge. He is assisted by Susan Morgan, who is in her ninth year with the high school program, and Caitlin Sabo, an alumni runner who has helped out for two years.

The Woodridge boys cross country team is looking for a ninth straight trip to the state championships. The team has never lost in the Portage Trail Conference County Division, he said.

Howard said the team still has work to do in order to achieve its ultimate goal this season.

“We still need to tighten up our ‘split’ — the time between our top five runners — to have a real chance at winning a sixth state championship,” he stated.

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