BURTON—Independence senior Tyler Polman opened the 2016 cross country season with a second place finish at the Berkshire Early Bird Invitational at Kent State University’s Geauga Campus.
Polman, who finished fifth last year, 10th in 2014 and 15th in 2013, ran the race in 16:29.2, just 19 seconds behind champion Joe Riordan of Solon, who finished 11th in the Division I state cross country meet last fall. Polman beat Solon’s Danny Cohen, who finished fourth at state last year.
“Tyler has run against him before,” said Independence coach Craig Polman. “We knew he was going to be here. His teammate, Cohen, I think who is having some injury issues, he was a few places back. They’ve run here before and done very well. We knew they were going to be up there. A 16:29 mark to start off the season isn't too bad. This isn't a real fast course and when it's your first meet and you're not used to racing it's hard to get the most out of your body.”
Thorin Chappel (26:15), Wyatt Balser (26:18) and Gregory Adams (27:05) also competed for the Blue Devils in the boys race.
“Overall, I'm never sure quite what to expect the first meet going in,” Coach Polman said. “We don't do a lot of speed work before the racing season begins so we're just out there trying to get as well conditioned as we can. We've got a very young team, particularly on the boys’ side. We have three freshmen, a sophomore and Tyler. We're in the developmental stage. The guys, this is the first time they've ever raced a 5K so it probably felt like a marathon today. We got a mark on the board today and we'll look to improve that in the coming weeks.”
Dana Zaccardelli finished in 21:54, good for 22nd place overall and Mari Sagi wasn't far behind her in 25th place with a time of 21:58. Freshman Emily Skoczen finished 30th in 22:04 and sophomore Emma Wensink was 53rd with a time of 24:03.
“We have a good quality team but the problem is we only have four of them,” Polman said. “We have a group that with a fifth runner who is fairly good, they could be up there at the conference meet, district meet and regional meet but we just don’t' have enough bodies.”
While the Blue Devils are short a fifth runner, Polman is confident his four have the ability to find success.
“Dana is really our fastest and our team leader. She was All-Ohio as a freshman and she's a senior now. She just needs to get into shape and has to work her way into condition once our races begin,” he said. “Maria came back after a year of playing soccer. She's pushing a close second to Dana and Emily is a freshman. Coming in she did pretty well. She was around 30th place or so. That's not a bad mark for a freshman. Emma was our fourth runner. She's made dramatic improvement over the past year. She's just a sophomore and has gotten a lot better. With this group she's going to be training with daily she's going to continue to get better.”