Sunday, October 10, 1999

Elder gains confidence with Fr. Rudy victory

Panthers put pack mentality to good use

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Bring on La Salle! Where's St. Xavier!

        That's not exactly what Jon Wagner implied after Elder won the Fr. Rudy Cross Country Invitational Saturday at Rapid Run Park but the senior did declare the Panthers ready.

        “We know we can beat anyone,” he said. “The past couple weeks we've stressed running as a pack. Beginning next week, the pack plans to put more pressure on the front runners.”

        Ranked No.3 behind La Salle (1) and St. Xavier (2), Elder and a healthy Moeller will test those state powers in the Greater Catholic League meet at Rapid Run Park and the following weeks in the district and regional meets.

        “We needed to have a good race today to build confidence,” said Wagner, who finished 11th overall in 16:34. “We won't worry about our opponents but only about how we run.”

        In winning the Fr. Rudy, Elder runners finished seventh through 11th with Kurtis Smith leading the way at 16:23.

        “Our first five runners are solid,” Elder coach Steve Spencer said. “If they all run well, we're a pretty good team. But we're competing in a pretty good regional and only the top four teams make it to state.”

        Although the Panthers won the Division I race, much of the talk centered around Mason Ward from Colerain, who sat out for the second consecutive week with a back injury.

        “I don't think the injury is career-ending,” Colerain coach Ron Russo said. “But in terms of Mason running again this cross country season, that's in question.”

        Madeira was the surprise winner in the Division II-III boys competition.

        “We lost five of our seven runners to graduation,” coach Bob Kitchen said. “Most of these kids have played other sports but have never been on top. The tradition has now been established and these kids are upholding it.”

        Senior Chris Davis was Madeira's best, finishing fourth in 17:20 with John Johnston (sixth in 17:25) and Andy Kennedy (seventh in 17:25) close behind.

        “We try to run as a pack,” Davis said. “John (Johnston) led the pack early and I took over half way through the race.”

        Despite muddy and slippery conditions, Colerain senior Alison Zeinner tied the meet record of 17:47 set by Michelle Sica of Roger Bacon in 1984.

        “I'm more relaxed. There's no pressure this year,” Zeinner said. “Last year I was tense and worried about every race.”

        Zeinner blew away the field, finishing one minute and 17 seconds in front of teammate Catie Grebe (19:04).

        “I was worried that Ally may not be ready to run today,” Russo said. “She flew in late last night from a visit to Michigan State and I thought it may have a negative effect.”

        Reading's Courtney Engel was the individual winner of the Division II-III girls race but Hillsboro's balance enabled the Indians to win the team title.

        • In winning the the Les Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington, La Salle beat Pickerington, Strongsville and Dublin Coffman, teams ranked in the state's top 10.

        Senior Steve Padgett was the individual winner (15:22) with Lakota East senior Jerry Claunch taking second.

        “This will be a good springboard going into the GCL,” La Salle coach Frank Russo said. “Every week, we've run against the top teams and we're still undefeated.”

        Injuries have plagued La Salle the past few years but not this year.

        “If we stay away from sickness and injuries, we could be in position to win it all,” Russo said.

        • Kings captured the Middletown Invitational (boys), handing Fairfield its first defeat.


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