High school cross country: Course, heat challenge runners at Mentor Cardinal Classic

Sep. 3—The theme of the 50th annual Mentor Cardinal Classic was one of survive and advance.

Runners took the line at Garfield Park on Sept. 3, and with the temperature rising as the meet progressed, the focus for the runners shifted from fast times to just finishing the course.

The girls took to the course first, and there was a three-runner breakaway at the front. Included in that group was Mentor's Savannah Dennison. However, she wasn't able to catch the pair of Julia Isham of Strongsville and Kaitlyn Reese of Avon and settled for third.

While she knows she is capable of more than her 18:32.60 time, Savannah knew the course was going to be a challenge for all runners. Being able to break away and run her own race was something on which she wanted to focus.

A third place today for Savannah Dennison and the @MentorHighXC senior talked about one last race at her home course #NHXC pic.twitter.com/fpzuzZ7Qwf

— Ben Hercik (@BHercikNH) September 3, 2022

"This is a true cross country course, and I wanted to give it my best since it's my last time running it," Savannah said. "It was tough competition and the two girls that finished ahead of me are phenomenal. You have uphills and downhills here and not a lot of flat, fast sections. To have the time that I did was still really impressive with the course laid out like it is."

Kenston's Emerson Greene rounded out the top five of the race with her 19:18.00. While she was pleased with her result, Greene was thrilled to see the Bombers finish in second place with 102 team points just behind Medina's 74.

The course at Garfield Park features a handful of hills to challenge runners throughout the contest. That played into Greene and her teammates' favor, with their run at their home Frank Gibas Invitational on Aug. 27.

A solid fifth place finish for Emerson Greene today helped @KenstonTrackCC to a runner up finish as a team. The work that the Bombers did at their first meet of the season helped prepare the team for the Cardinal Classic #NHXC pic.twitter.com/DBiA8BJCtJ

— Ben Hercik (@BHercikNH) September 3, 2022

"The hills here really helped me a lot," Greene said. "I felt like I could get up them easier and helped me push through the race. We're a very close team and are all striving for the same goal. We're going to push each other to achieve that goal and are ready to keep working toward that goal."

The only other News-Herald coverage area runner who placed in the top 10 was Hawken's Brielle Collins in eighth. But four other runners were knocking on that door.

Kenston's Paige Masson, Chardon's Cate Dawson, Perry's Grace McKoon and Lake Catholic's Kelly Ward placed 11th through 14th, respectively.

It was a similar story on the boys side as a group of five runners broke away as they entered the second mile. Among that group was the Mentor duo of Billy Dennison and Michael Petrovic as they came down the stretch.

The duo was able to take advantage of their familiarity of the course and pushed to a third and fourth place finish respectively.

A third place for Billy Dennison of @MentorHighXC is a strong result for the sophomore. Having his teammate Michael Petrovic alongside him throughout the race was a big help for him #NHXC pic.twitter.com/Av2ZBbDKAR

— Ben Hercik (@BHercikNH) September 3, 2022

"You have to be able to take advantage of those downhills, which I was able to do," Billy said. "I was able to catch a lot of runners there. To be up there with Michael was good for both of us, and I told him after the second mile that we needed to go to stay with the front runners. We were able to kick it right in at the end especially. It's a lot easier to run with someone you know because you're not trying to beat them, rather you're working with them."

Behind the five leaders was a large chase pack that included Chardon's Colin Snider. While there was a large pack together, Snider was able to weave his way through to be at the front of it.

With a big group clumped together like that, he knew if he got to the front of it, he would be able to keep the field behind him. Snider did just that as he crossed the line in sixth place with a 16:28.15 and stretched the gap between him and the pack as they came down the chute.

It was another strong showing for Colin Snider of @chardonboyscc with his sixth place result. He shares his thoughts on the result #NHXC pic.twitter.com/gZIN14kFKG

— Ben Hercik (@BHercikNH) September 3, 2022

"For me, it was a light at the end of the tunnel," Snider said. "You know that end is coming, and you have to get there. But that also makes the competition a lot more challenging. With that many people in a big pack you start to stack. It's the little things like pushing forward in that group to be in the front that can make a difference."

Snider led the way for the Hilltoppers' brigade. As a team, Chardon compiled 89 team points to finish as runner-up. Behind Snider was Taman Chokshi, Thomas Nelson and Makoto Gumpf, who were all in the top 25.