Tigers’ girls, Garfield’s Klouda star in Billy Goat

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Tyler Klouda of Garfield wins the boys race Saturday at the Billy Goat Challenge in McDonald.

McDONALD — Robin Kapalko was bustling around shady Woodland Park on Saturday.

Her hands were full of inhalers and other assorted items of her Howland girls cross country team.

Don’t you need a third hand?

“It’s all right,” said Kapalko, whose team finished second to Woodridge, 56-79, at the Billy Goat Challenge. “I’ll get a backpack, whatever it takes. They did very, very well today.”

McDonald (108), Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (126) and Lakeview (140) rounded out the top five in the girls race. Crestwood’s Zoe Simmons took first (20:10.5) among individuals. McDonald’s Anna Guerra was the area’s top finisher, placing third (20:53.5).

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Anna Guerra of McDonald crosses the finish line in the Billy Goat Challenge girls race Saturday in third place.

Howland, meanwhile, followed the time honored ways of cross country — pack up and succeed.

Sophomore Molly Yasnowski (ninth), senior Jenna Craigo (11th) and sophomore Gabby Reuschling (13th) led the way. Junior Elenie McNally (19th) and junior Maria Dellimuti (27th) rounded out the team’s top five finishers. Dellimuti, who qualified for state cross country last season, is coming off a slight tear in her calf muscle. It kept her out of basketball and she did not compete in track.

“I have a very solid team with lots of depth,” Kapalko said.

Garfield senior Tyler Klouda led from beginning to end to win the boys race with a time of 16:39.3. He ended up challenging himself throughout the race to run a faster time than he did the previous week.

Klouda took first in his bracket at last weekend’s preseason race at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, site of the state cross country meet in early November.

“The time really wasn’t there,” Klouda said. “I took it as a rust buster. I knew coming into this race I ran a 5K already for the first time since the state meet last year. So, I had that going under my belt. I had a better gauge of where my season is going today.

“To run this time on this course, I feel I can continue to stay undefeated and running quicker times as the season progresses.”

Junior Connor Symbolik led the McDonald boys, who were not at full strength, to a fifth-place finish (17:42.8). Sophomore Brody Rupe took seventh (17:47.7) and junior Zach Canada was 10th (18:01.8).

“When Woodridge comes to town everybody’s eyes open up because it’s a program over the last 10 years that has been at the top of their game, winning about seven state titles in that stretch,” McDonald assistant coach Kyle Joynes said. “It’s an honor to compete with that team, obviously. We didn’t have any expectations. It was more of a fitness test. Let’s put a mark out there and move forward. We really want to keep progressing as the season goes along and get better. We don’t want this to be our best day.

“Obviously we’re happy to get a team plaque.”

As for the Howland girls, this is a great start. Kapalko took over the varsity program a couple of years ago after being a middle school coach. She saw the progress of what was going to happen with this team.

“I think it’ll spark a well-deserved boost for the girls,” she said. “They’ll believe, if that makes sense. I believe. I think now they’ll have some concrete evidence that we can do this.

“It certainly boosts their confidence level and helps them realize they’re on their way.”