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Bulldog sports roundup: Atkinson places 35th and Bentley 76th at state cross country meet

Jayla Atkinson ran a smart race in the Division I girls state cross country meet Nov. 5 at Fortress Obetz and Memorial Park in Obetz. The Stow-Munroe Falls junior finished in 35th place out of 172 runners with a time of 19 minutes, 7.20 seconds, nearly earning All-Ohio honors. The top 30 individuals were named All-Ohio.

“I felt like Jayla ran pretty well,” head coach Aaron Morris said. “She did run with the group that she needed to be with in order to make All-Ohio happen. She just ran out of cross country course. She ran much more sensibly than she did the week before at regionals. She kind of held back at the beginning of the race at regionals and never really put herself with the girls who she should’ve been racing with. This week, she put herself in that group, or at least on the back half of that pack, and started to try to pick them off towards the end. She got a lot of them, she just didn’t get quite as many as she needed.”

According to Morris, the fact that Atkinson won so many races this season with ease may have worked against her in the postseason.

“It’s hard running by yourself most of the time the entire season and not really getting to have that kind of competition until you get to the last two, maybe three races where she had anybody to race,” he said. “And then trying to teach yourself how to race other athletes real fast, it’s not easy to do. We felt like she handled it pretty well, though.

“This was by far her best performance in her three years at the state meet whether the time and places shook out that way or not. Her freshman year she ended up with a leg cramp, so she barely finished, and then last year I don’t feel like she ran a great race. But this year, she was in it the whole time. She ran smart, ran well, but the times didn’t really shake out for anybody across the board because it was so windy, so that was kind of frustrating.”

Deena Ingrassia, Atkinson’s classmate, finished 107th with a time of 20:16.70.

“Deena ran pretty well,” said Morris. “This was the first time she’s been at state without the entire team being there, so it was more spotlight on her. I felt like it was more stressful of a situation, but I thought she handled it pretty well. I was a little disappointed for her, not in her, that it was so windy because she had some pretty lofty time goals that she was going to try to hit, but everybody kind of knew time goals were out the window when you have 25-mile-per-hour winds in your face half the race. So then you’re just running for place. Mentally, it’s a really hard place to be.”

Ingrassia’s coach felt she had a phenomenal season.

“Last year Deena was kind of a role player, but this year more eyes were on her,” he said. “She was expected to take over the role of finishing right behind Jayla, and I felt like she handled that pressure very well. I don’t feel like she had a bad race all season long.”

Morris feels his team’s prospects for next season are pretty good.

“Deena and Jayla will be back. They’ll be seniors. Ellie Brosch will be back. She’ll also be a senior,” he said. “Some of the girls on the tail end of our varsity this year will be coming back like Abby Dunmire, who will be a senior, too. We’re going to need some girls to step up. I think we can still be competitive, but we have some work to do as far as finding some girls to come and run with us.”

Boys cross country

Micah Bentley made his coach proud with his performance at his first Division I boys state cross country meet Nov. 5 at Fortress Obetz and Memorial Park in Obetz.

The senior finished 76th out of 178 runners with a time of 16:43 in windy conditions.

“Micah ran a smart, aggressive race plan and put himself out there on the big stage,” head coach J.K. LeSeure said. “He gave everything he had and left it all out on the course. That’s all you can ask.”

Bentley was a leader for much of his high school career and could be counted on.

“He finished with the third-fastest time in school history in a meet this season at Madison but really only had one day this season where the conditions were right to put up a really fast time,” said LeSeure. “So I think you can make a case that he’s the best cross country runner in school history, without question one of the best.”

As for the Bulldogs’ prospects for next season, five of this season’s top seven runners will be lost to graduation.

“We’ll be fairly young,” LeSeure said. “That said, we’ve seen great growth in our younger guys this year. We’ll continue to work hard through the indoor and outdoor track seasons to go after it in the summer and again be ready to compete well next fall.”