Rick and Jack Lape carry the Spartans hope for a state meet berth.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- Boardman High sophomore Ryan Westfall was running in a Relay for Life race a while back when someone pointed to him and his brother and said, 'Hey look -- twins!' "
"And I was like, 'What? Where?' " said Westfall, who has an identical twin brother, Seth. "Then I realized they were talking about me."
See, Westfall doesn't really think of Seth as his twin anymore. They're just brothers who happen to run.
"It gives you a little more competition," said Seth. "You want the bragging rights at home."
Rick and Jake Lape know all about that. The twin brothers have been standouts on the Spartans cross country team for the past four seasons and are a big reason why Boardman is making its second straight regional meet appearance Saturday.
"I probably wouldn't be half as good if it wasn't for Jake," said Rick.
Last fall, Jake Lape became the first area runner to qualify for the state meet in Division I since Boardman's Tom Albani did it in 2001. It was a bittersweet moment for Rick, who finished 17th, just one place -- and one second -- behind the final state qualifier.
"It's been a big motivation," said Rick Lape, who missed qualifying in 2004 by eight places and four seconds. "I realize the competition is harder this year. I know I'm right on the borderline, so I have to run a good race. Hopefully all the training will pay off."
The Spartans, who have won three straight Suburban League titles, entered this season with arguably their strongest team in several years. Freshman Sam Deskin, who was coming off a strong middle school career, was simply hoping to make the varsity team but has emerged as the most pleasant surprise. He ran the third-fastest time on the team at the district meet.
"I was a little nervous about all the training because you don't really do that in middle school, but I've adapted well," said Deskin, who owns Boardman's eighth grade mile record. "I'm fine with it now."
Fourth at district
Boardman, which finished fourth at last week's district meet, needs to be at its best Saturday if it wants to qualify for the state meet. The top four teams move on -- the Spartans finished seventh last year -- and they'll be battling teams like Medina and Mentor for the final slot. With cold weather expected, it should be a good race.
"We've probably worked harder -- no, I know we've worked harder than the other teams," said Rick Lape. "But I know we've got our work cut out for us. The team that puts it together is the one that's going to go.
"It's going to come down to who wants it more."