McDonald boys win Billy Goat Challenge

McDONALD – Billy goats are male goats. Goats are known for their lively and frisky nature.

Since the Billy Goat Challenge started more than a decade ago, the Woodridge boys cross country team has dominated this early-season meet. In addition, the Bulldogs have captured six state championships in the past seven years.

McDonald has had many second- and third-place finishes over the years.

Saturday, the Blue Devils boys team channeled their inner billy goat and won the Billy Goat Challenge at Woodland Park.

McDonald’s Bobby Johnson proved too frisky and lively to catch, even up the famed Billy Goat Hill, to win the boys race.

“It’s not a meet we key in on usually,” said Johnson, who ran 16 minutes, 59.2 seconds. “But in the past we’ve had this thought, ‘It would be a great thing to win it.’ Ever since my freshman year, we haven’t been able to get it. It has always been Woodridge or CVCA (Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy). It’s a pretty cool way to start off my last year. It’s a good motivation booster. A lot of guys ran well. I think it’s something to get pumped up about, especially for the young guys.

“With (graduated senior) Patrick (Kunkel) winning and me getting second (last year), I knew it would be a goal for me next year to start it off – it was an especially cool thing on my home course.”

McDonald won with 57 points, while CVCA was second and Woodridge took third. Each had 62 points, but CVCA won on the placing of the sixth runner. Garaway was fourth (90), while Austintown Fitch was fifth (109). Team placement is determined by the top five individual places on each team.

Garaway’s Alex Shrock (17:11.2), CVCA’s Ben Bockoven (17:12.2), CVCA’s Ryan Adams (17:18.3) and Woodridge’s Andrew Stewart (17:36.4) round out the top five individual runners.

“It is fun to see the guys do well,” McDonald boys coach Chris Rupe said. “I’ll be honest, it was a pleasant surprise for me to see them running well. Again, I’m basing it on how competitively they ran and the guts I want to see them race with.”

United’s Allison Parks was so far ahead of the pack that not even the two goats on leashes roaming around Woodland Park wanted to break free and chase the Golden Eagles runner. Parks won in a time of 20:11.6.

Garaway’s trio of Rachel Wentworth (20:30.3), Anna Havranek (20:44.0) and Kenzie Widder (20:55.1), and Austintown Fitch’s Carissa Jenkins (20:57.2) completed the top five.

Woodridge won with 57 points, while Crestwood took second and Garaway was third. Each had 64, but placement was decided by the sixth runner. McDonald was fourth (104) and CVCA took fifth (153).

“It was the first race of the year,” McDonald girls coach Michael Richards said. “We weren’t expecting a whole lot, but we were hoping to get top three. Fourth place isn’t bad against some of these schools, especially Woodridge and Crestwood.”

The Blue Devils were led by sophomores Rachel Perry (21:39.9) and Heidi Hoffman (21:50.2), which took 12th and 14th, respectively.

“Both of them ran well together,” Richards said. “Some of our freshmen, some of the younger ones like Brenna Rupe and Yasmeen ElNobani, they’ll move up as the season goes along and fill in that top five.”

As for the McDonald boys, they’re happy they weren’t just part of the pack this year at its own meet. Like a goat’s horns, they stuck out.

Besides Johnson, Allan Coviello took seventh (17:49.6), David Natoli was 13th (18:05.2), Bryce Street was 14th (18:08.8) and Daniel Loomis took 22nd (18:33.7).

“Today we were out to see what the team is like,” Coviello said. “I think we got a pretty good idea. I think we did pretty well against these teams. They’re big, powerhouse cross country teams. We did a very good job.”