Monday, January 30, 2023

Shorthanded Blue Devils open new season

Independence’s cross country teams entered the 2014 season ranked among the best in Division III. They showed why at the Berkshire Early Bird Invitational on Saturday at Kent State University’s Geauga Campus in Burton.

Tyler Polman finished 10th overall

The Blue Devils finished seventh in the boys’ race and 13th in the girls’ event, despite missing its top two runners.

“Generally speaking, we’re usually a little slow in the first meet. This year, on the girls’ side, we’re missing Jen Wisniewski, our top runner from last season, and also Dana Zaccardelli. We feel she’ll be a big contributor for us. She’s been suffering some knee pain, so she didn’t compete today but we expect her back in the near future,” said Independence head coach Craig Polman. “On the guys’ side, I think we performed a little better. We’re usually a little behind some of the better schools at this meet. I think they do a little more training over the summer, maybe a little more speed work early in the practice season.”

Tyler Polman led all Independence runners with a 10th place finish in a time of 17:50.9. Shane Matthew (18:55.5), David Wisniewski (18:59.1) and Adam Anielski (19:06.3) finished 33rd, 34th and 37th, respectively, and Coliln Jedrzejek (19:15.9) finished 44th.

“We weren’t as strong up front as we’ve been in the past but we had a good solid pack. I’d say primarily in the 30’s,” Coach Polman said. “It isn’t too bad of a start. If they work hard and continue to keep that pack together good things can happen down the road.”

Matt Mroczynski (21:12.5), Erik Liebal (22:05.1) and Matt Botzman (24:52.9) also ran for the Blue Devils.

With Jen Wisniewski focusing on soccer this fall and Dana Zaccardelli sitting out the meet with an injury, Amanda Pucella led the way for the Independence girls. She finished 42nd with a time of 22:55.0.

Maria Sagi also finished among the top 50 girls with a time of 23:07.0, good for 46th place.

“The girls are just a little bit behind schedule,” Polman said. “We were a little slower than I expected even though we don’t usually get off to a fast start. As a coach, I’m mainly concerned that this will motivate them to work harder and basically show where our weaknesses are and where we need to work rather than demoralize them and feel like we’re in trouble this year because of the way we performed today.”

Ashley Pucella (24:11.3) and Nicole Zaccardelli (25:52.5) also finished among the top 100, with Pucella finishing 83rd and Zaccardelli notching 88th place.

Lauren Taras and Kim Rega also performed well in their first varsity races.

“Lauren Taras, she’s a sophomore and she had some injury issues last year. She had a relatively strong performance considering where she was at last season,” Polman said. “Kim Rega is a freshman. She’s just adjusting to the longer distance, the 5K race distance. Over time I’m sure she’ll improve.”


Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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