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Last year, the Black Tigers looked completely overwhelmed.
This year, the Cuyahoga Falls boys cross country team proved it belonged.
The Black Tigers finished 4-3 in the eight-team National Conference of the Suburban League Super Duals Sept. 3 at Silver Creek Metro Park in Norton.
The Black Tigers defeated North Royalton (26-30), Twinsburg (28-30), Stow-Munroe Falls (23-35) and Nordonia (26-31) and lost to Brecksville-Broadview Heights (18-37), Hudson (15-49) and Wadsworth (16-45).
Hudson won the competition with a 7-0 record and Wadsworth (6-1) and Brecksville (5-2) placed second and third, respectively.
When Falls competed at the Super Duals last year, the Black Tigers did not win a single meet.
"Overall, I was very pleased with the way we ran," Falls head coach Bob Koch said. "The kids stepped up and ran very well. They finished strong."
Twinsburg's Ryan Adkins finished first out of 144 runners with a time of 16 minutes, 18 seconds. The race featured runners from both the National and American conferences.
Bronson Luksza led Falls with a 20th-place time of 17:22. Teammate Kyle Wilson, who had to go to the hospital after the race, wasn't far behind in 25th (17:25) and Jack Wilcoxson was the third man for the Black Tigers in 32nd (17:30). Koch said Wilson is OK and was not expected to miss any races.
"Kyle, Bronson and Jack started together," Koch said. "Toward the end, Bronson finished stronger. Kyle ran a very gutsy race even though he was ill."
Rounding out the top five for Falls were Anthony Sondles (49th, 18:03) and Jay Wilson (54th, 18:05).
"Kyle, Bronson and Jay showed great leadership," Koch said. "Tony ran a very good race. He was over a minute faster than he was at Seneca the previous week. Jay ran incredibly strong. He was the eighth man going into the third mile and he ended up being our fifth man."
Also competing for the Black Tigers were Anthony Nichols (57th, 18:07) and Thomas Hillyer (69th, 18:30).
Falls still has a way to go before it competes for the National Conference title. But this certainly was a critical first step toward success.
"Hopefully, they realize the potential they have," Koch said. "It shows where we're at and where we need to be."
In the open race, the Black Tigers defeated North Royalton (28-29), Stow (28-29) and lost to Twinsburg (26-31), Hudson (15-50), Wadsworth (15-50) and Nordonia (23-35).
Zach Langbein led Falls with a 32nd-place time of 19:39. Rounding out the top five for the Black Tigers were Thomas Gregory (47th, 20:07), Justin Hinkle (52nd, 20:17), Sterling Hanselman (76th, 20:49) and Jared Weckerly (130th, 21:55).
"Sterling broke his PR [personal record] by 31 seconds," Koch said. "Jared broke his by 1:52 and Zach broke his by 3:50. Zach was our 15th man last week and he was 10th [Sept. 3]."
Falls was scheduled to compete at the Tomahawk Run Sept. 10 at Walsh Jesuit High School. Results were not available at press time.
The Black Tigers are set to compete at the Galion Cross Country Festival Sept. 17 at Amann Reservoir and Park. Racing is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.