Boys cross country races ahead to GCC meet

Senior+co-captain+David+Howell+%28front%29+celebrates+with+his+team+after+the+Kenston+Frank+Gibas+Invitiational+on+Sept.+2.
Senior co-captain David Howell (front) celebrates with his team after the Kenston Frank Gibas Invitiational on Sept. 2.

Senior co-captain David Howell (front) celebrates with his team after the Kenston Frank Gibas Invitiational on Sept. 2.

Joey Coladangelo

Joey Coladangelo

Senior co-captain David Howell (front) celebrates with his team after the Kenston Frank Gibas Invitiational on Sept. 2.

Jake Novack, Writing Editor

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Following a season in which they claimed their first Division I state title, the Solon boys cross country team has once again hit the ground running.

On Sep. 29, the team finished first overall in the Gilmour Paul Primeau Invitational following an individual first place finish by senior Chantz Visse. Additionally, junior Logan Esper, senior Brian Finnerty and senior Aman Jain respectively finished second, third and fifth to claim four of the top five spots in the 5,000 meter varsity race for the Blue and White.

Head coach Matt Wieczorek said that he felt that the win at Gilmour, although a positive experience for his team, wasn’t their strongest showing.

“We won the Paul Primeau Invitational by a pretty wide margin, but to be fair, the competition was pretty weak at that meet,” Wieczorek said. “Paul Primeau felt good, but I don’t think we performed better there than we did at most of our other meets.”

Wieczorek, who is in his first year coaching the team, commented on his runners’ willingness to adapt to a his new coaching style.

“Any coaching change is never going to be an easy process,” Wieczorek said. “This team has done a tremendous job of buying into our program and our training plan. To their credit, [the team] did not hesitate for a second and it has really paid off.”

Wieczorek’s assertion that the team is reaping the rewards of their dedication definitely has merit. On Oct. 7, the team had another strong showing, with the Solon varsity runners finishing fourth overall in the Legends Meet at the Trumbull County Fairgrounds. This recent string of top finishes have proved to be important for the Comets, as they arrive in the last meets prior to the Greater Cleveland Conference (GCC) championships on Oct. 14. Senior co-captain Joey Coladangelo explained that the team’s recent performance reflects their strategy to become progressively faster as the season moves forward.

“Our training plan makes it so that in the first couple of races, we don’t have the foot speed to run our fastest times,” Coladangelo said. “But at the end [of the season], we definitely do.”

Another important aspect of the team’s strategy leading up to the conference meet was for Solon to rest its top varsity runners during the first three meets of the regular season. Senior co-captain David Howell said that the varsity runners sat out the season’s first three races in order to reach their fastest times during the postseason.

“Basically, our coach is planning it so that we peak on our ‘peak day,’ and for varsity, that’s during states,” Howell said. “So for the first three meets of the season, varsity didn’t run so they could progressively get more mileage and become faster in a different time period.”

Considering Solon’s recent stretch of high finishes, it looks as if the team really is getting faster heading into their postseason. However, the team has had an uncontrollable factor working against them: age. The team’s 2017 season finds them without many of their prominent varsity runners from last season, including class of 2017 seniors Danny Cohen and Joe Riordan. Both are current Division I collegiate runners, with Cohen attending the University of Pennsylvania and Riordan at Michigan State University. Wieczorek said that since Solon recently lost such prominent runners, the team’s biggest priority should only be steady improvement.

“We can only control ourselves and how we individually perform,” Wieczorek said. “Some guys got unparalleled experience competing on a state championship team last season. The majority of our varsity this year, though, did not compete on the varsity team last year. Our focus each day and each meet has been to be a little bit better than yesterday.”

Leading up to the conference meet, Wieczorek also said that he feels the team needs to focus less on the running and more on what’s going on between their ears.

“Our areas for improvement are mostly mental right now,” Wieczorek said. “We have a great team. All 58 of us need to honestly believe that. We can’t just say we believe in ourselves, we have to truly feel it. Once we have developed our swagger, our program will be in the place we want it to be in.”

Besides attaining confidence, the team is also building a high level of chemistry. Coladangelo said that he is using his role as captain to help team members bond with each other.

“I’m just working on building a big group of guys who all care about each other,” Coladangelo said. “Considering that we have a group of around 60 kids, that makes it even more special.”

Solon will run at the GCC championships on Saturday, October 14 at Garfield Park in Mentor.

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