In less than three months, the Chagrin Valley Conference will crown at least three new cross country champions.
This fall, the CVC Cross Country Championships will be held at the Geauga County Fairgrounds. Three of the four 2020 individual division winners have graduated, leaving each of the races wide open.
Kirtland senior Reilly Greenlee is the lone returning champ as she won the girls’ Valley Division title with a time of 20:54. Thanks to Greenlee and a pack of six runners who finished among the top 13, Kirtland won the Valley Division title for the first time since 2006.
Greenlee and the Hornets have a shot at repeating that same feat in 2021.
Five Hornets who placed among the top 20 return this fall. Cuyahoga Heights returns two top 20 runners and Berkshire, Independence Lutheran West, and Trinity each return one.
Berkshire’s Maitland Fuentes placed fourth last season but finished nearly three minutes behind Greenlee’s time.
Greenlee and Fuentes are two of the six first-team All-CVC runners that return this season. Cardinal’s Lily Ayer, Independence’s Alana Nowak, Lutheran West’s Kellie Roach, and Wickliffe’s Tori Stiles also return.
Kirtland has four returning runners who earned second-team all-CVC honors while Cuyahoga Heights has two, and Lutheran West and Trinity both have one second-team runner set to return this fall.
Hawken won the girls’ Chagrin Division title last fall but the Hawks lost a boatload of talent with the graduation of defending champion Ella Gilson and Juliana Metz, who finished second.
Orange senior Kate Halloran could be the favorite heading into 2021 as she finished third last fall with a time of 20:25). Five runners finished within a minute of Halloran. That group includes Hawken sophomores Elana Padley (21:03) and Camilla Mari (21:13), Edgewood seniors Layce Artman (21:09) and Caroline Nelson (21:19), and West Geauga senior Skye Hackathorn (21:25).
The team title should once again be closely contested as Edgewood, Geneva, and West Geauga each return three runners who placed among the top 20, and Hawken and Perry each have two. Edgewood finished second last fall while West Geauga, Geneva, and Perry rounded out the top five.
Halloran, Padley, Artman, Mari, Nelson, Hackathorn, and Geneva senior Renee Tetlow all earned first-team all-CVC honors last fall.
West Geauga claimed the boys’ Chagrin Division title last fall and the Wolverines require many of their top runners.
Senior Lorenzo Linek (13th), juniors John Mikes (16th), Chris Whiting (22nd), and Grant Congdon (25th) all return after placing among the top 25 last season.
Geneva finished as the runner-up but is one of the teams that could prevent the Wolverines from repeating this season. The Eagles return three top 25 runners from last season including seniors Owen Schroeder (14th) and Bryan Lininger (24th), and sophomore Sam Robinson (21st).
Hawken could be an early favorite to win the Chagrin Division title thanks to four top 20 runners returning.
Sophomore Nick Garcia-Whitko placed fourth last season and is the top returning place winner from last season. He finished in 17:32, just 22 seconds behind champ J.T. Basco, of Harvey.
Other top 20 finishers from last season who return for the Hawks are senior David Hamilton (10th), and sophomores Sam Cohen (15th) and Parker Carrus (21st).
Garcia-Whitko, Hamilton, and Perry senior Isaac Balistreri all earned first-team all-CVC honors last season.
Second-team all-conference runners who return this fall include Edgewood juniors Kurt Corrigan and Granison Hill, West Geauga’s Linek and Mikes, Geneva’s Schroeder, and Hawken’s Cohen and Carrus.
Berkshire’s greatest challenge in repeating as Valley Division champs likely will come from Lutheran West this fall.
The Badgers and Longhorns both return four runners who placed among the top 25 last season.
Berkshire’s top returning runners include senior Lucas Leggett (11th last season), junior Jarrett Long (14th), junior Henry Hoover (17th), and senior Sam Chrzan (24th). Sophomore Max Myers also returns after earning honorable mention all-league honors last season.
The Longhorns return seniors Sam Silva (3rd) and Elijah Van Farowe (9th), junior Tyler Vance (18th), and sophomore Jonathan Barnes (22nd).
Silva and Van Farowe both finished within 22 seconds of Grand Valley junior David Steimle, who placed second last year behind Valley Division champion Darien Tillett of Cuyahoga Heights.
Tillett graduated in June, leaving the door open for Steimle or any number of other runners to take home the individual title.
Independence junior Kyle McGovern placed 10th last year, just seconds behind Van Farowe, so there are at least four runners returning this season who challenged for the top spot last year.