Berkshire opens the 2018 cross country season by hosting the Berkshire Early Bird Invitational at Kent State University’s Geauga Campus on Saturday.
Head coach David Kindall enters his fourth year at the school with the same expectations.
“I think that the boys are capable of winning the CVC title again this year and qualifying to the regional meet as a team,” he said. “If everything comes together for everyone on the right day and we stay healthy, I truly believe that this team could make a run for a state qualifying spot. I am hoping the girls can run at the regional meet this year. With experience from (Madison) Romask and the few returners, along with the great work ethic from our new additions, it should be possible.”
Berkshire’s boys’ team returns five starters from the squad that won the Valley Division title last fall including junior Sam Adams, who placed 61st at the regional meet.
“I’m looking for Sam to fit right in to the lead pack again this year,” Kindall said of Adams, who owns a 17:23 personal record. “Going in to his second year and having some experience from last year, I’m looking for Sam to make a run for an individual qualifying spot for the state meet this year. The biggest challenge is going to be keeping Sam healthy and fresh this year, as we are sharing him with the Berkshire soccer team again this season.”
Junior Robert O’Conke consistently pushes Adams for the top spot in the Badger lineup. He ran a PR of 17:58 and qualified for the 2016 regional meet as a freshman.
“He is using that as motivation to get back again this year as a junior,” Kindall said of O’Conke missing out on regionals last fall. “Robert put in more time running this summer than he has any previous. I’m looking for Robert to push our lead pack and see what he can do.”
Senior James Patterson (19:49) logged more miles this summer than any other Berkshire runner in the hopes of closing out his high school career in style.
“James is a great leader and is going to be a great example of what hard work can do,” Kindall said. “James put in more time than any other runner this summer and is ready to lead his team to another CVC title and hopefully a regional qualifying spot. He by far took missing out on a regional team berth the hardest last year and has really worked on pushing himself and his team to the next level this year.”
Senior Josiah Cheung (17:49) is another two-sport athlete in the fall as he also plays soccer.
“(Cheung) is another great leader on the team that helps push our top five,” Kindall said. “He should make a run for an individual qualifying spot at the regional meet now that he has some experience from running last year.”
Senior Ben Pelletier (19:17) is among Berkshire’s top runners when healthy.
“Ben put a lot of time in this summer building a base that will hopefully help him get through this season,” Kindall said.
The Badgers have the experience and talent to achieve their goals this fall. Now, it comes down to the Berkshire runners staying focused, healthy and committed to the team’s strategy.
“We have some depth this year but the success is going to come from pack running,” Kindall said. “I don’t have one guy that blows the doors off the field, but I do have five guys that can run within 30 seconds of each other and a great supporting cast not far off of them. If the top guys can get down into the 17-flat range and pack run, with my 5-10 runners being able to finish not far behind, I think it is going to take us places.”
Berkshire’s girls are hoping to improve upon their second place finish in the CVC last season.
Just three starters return but the Badgers have an elite talent at the front of the pack.
Romask, who finished 20th at the state meet, helped to lead the Badgers to the regional meet last fall. She has a PR of 18:51.
“Madison is hoping for another successful season this year by getting back to the state level for the third year,” Kindall said. “Her 2018 track season didn’t go as well as we had hoped and she is using that as motivation for this season. Our main goal this year is to get our average season time down and improve upon her state finish from last year. I am looking for her to be a good leader this year and help the young team get to the next level.”
Junior Lizzy Dingman (22:06) and senior Melanie Rakoczy (24:05) also return from last year.
“Lizzy has put in a lot of time this summer and is looking to move up in the varsity rankings. She should fill in for some of the runners that graduated last year just fine. I think she could make a push for an individual regional spot,” Kindall said. “Melanie was a great addition to the team last year. She has come out this season ready to compete. She had a huge PR at the district meet last year and I’m hoping she can start off where she finished last year.”
Freshman Gabby Adams should make an immediate impact for Berkshire this season.
“I’m excited to have Gabby finally on the high school team this year,” Kindall said. “She is going to be a nice addition to the team. I am hoping that Romask can help pull her along to the front of the races.”
The Badgers have the potential to win the league title and their other goals are within reach.
“The returners need to stay focused on their goals this season and help guide the new runners in the right direction,” Kindall said. “I am relying on my few returners to show the rest of the team where hard work and dedication can get them.”