Raiders have a lot to be proud of

HEBRON — The South Range boys had one thing on their minds at the the 91st annual state cross country meet Saturday.

“Today was to have fun,” lone senior Derek Rutledge said. “We’ve already put in the work. We really weren’t looking at placement and times. We were running for fun.”

The Raiders’ fate in their third state appearance in school history was sealed a few days earlier. Junior Connor Nichols, the Raiders’ top runner at the Boardman regional, pulled a hamstring in practice Wednesday and didn’t run.

“It picked the worst possible time,” Nichols said.

South Range finished 20th out of 20 Division III boys teams with 454 points. The young Raiders were happy just to be at state this time.

“It was a surprise,” Rutledge said. “But with the way the coaches train us, we have a lot of faith.”

None of the Raiders finished in the top 100 in the 181-runner field at National Trail Raceway.

Junior Michael Hvizdos topped the Raiders in 101st, completing the 3.1-mile course in 17 minutes, 42.5 seconds.

Also for the Raiders, sophomore Brian Standley was 122nd (17:56.0), junior Isaac Baun 130th (18:00.3), sophomore Kaden Sykes 109th (18:16.1), sophomore Liam Justison 110th (18:16.3), senior Derek Rutledge 167th (18:48.2) and sophomore Alex Garwecki 173rd (19:20.8).

“Connor’s a big part of our team. Luckily, we are a team and run as a pack,” Rutledge said. “We are lucky to have Alex.”

Rutledge feels fortunate to have been on this team and to run at state.

“It doesn’t seem like I am a senior,” he said. “We’re like a family and treat everyone the same.”

Rutledge teared up when he thought about his last race with the Raiders.

“It’s going to be sad and I’ll be around to watch them,” he said. “They have a lot of potential to go far.”

Lions race

The Minerva girls made their fifth straight state appearance with a new lineup with four freshmen.

The Lions finished 14th in the Division II girls with 292 points. It was a learning experience for the promising group.

Sophomore Jenna Cassidy topped Minerva by placing 61st out of 176 runners (19:48.7). She bettered her time at state from last year by a full minute.

Rounding out Minerva’s lineup was freshman Caitlyn Hoppel in 81st (20:09.5), freshman Hera Hoffee 97th (20:26.0), junior Aubrey Dunham 100th (20:27.4), freshman Layla Monroe 106th (20:33.5), sophomore Madeline Crissman 133rd (21:14.0) and freshman Emily Norris 150th (21:35.1).

Meet notes

¯ Massillon Jackson sophomore Sophia Istnick finished 18th (18:31.0) in the Division I girls race and led the Polar Bears to a ninth-place showing in the team standings.

She is the daughter of Rick Istnick, a 1990 graduate of East Palestine High School.

¯ Former Salem coach Michael Almond, who coached the Quaker boys to the 2004 Division II state title, had a daughter and son race at the Division II state meet.

Marlington freshman Bella Graham finished 22nd in the girls race (19:24.7).

Marlington sophomore Noah Graham was in eighth place after the first mile of the boys race before dropping out.

¯ For the first time, the course was lined with more than one million Christmas lights.

They weren’t on, but the display that will be synchronized to music is being put into place at the drag racing facility so people can drive through it.

Wonderlight’s Christmas in Ohio will be open to the public Nov. 15 through Jan. 15. Cost is $7.