By TIM CLEVELAND
The 2013 cross country season has just begun, but it’s already been a fruitful one for the Howland boys and senior Ryan Sullivan.
After Sullivan and the Tigers swept the individual and team titles Saturday at the Salem Early Bird Invitational, they did the same Tuesday at the Suburban League meet at Austintown Township Park.
Sullivan ran 16:48 to claim the boys’ title and led his teammates Ethan Petrilla, Connor Dotson and Ben Cole to a sweep of the top four spots. Howland easily defeated Austintown Fitch, 16-56, for the team title.
“It’s a little bit slow,” Sullivan said of his time. “We went out and tried to pace our first 2 miles. We ran 5:30 first mile, 5:30 second mile, and then third mile we were supposed to go as fast as we could.”
Howland coach Dan Libert said he wanted to hold Sullivan back as a strategic measure.
“We were trying to run as a team, so I kind of held him back a little bit early,” Libert said. “Tried to pull the other guys along (with him). I told him at the 2-mile mark, ‘You can take off.’ At that point he did.
“He’s a great team leader. He’s a kid that does stuff for the team. He pushes every day in practice. He does all the right things. I’m sure he wasn’t thrilled about me holding him back early, but he still did what we asked because he understands the team concept.”
Sullivan said Petrilla and Dotson have made vast improvements in their second season on the varsity team.
“They’re both really good,” Sullivan said. “They’re sophomores this year. Last year, they kind of slacked off a bit but this year they finally picked it up in training. We’re going to be a great team.”
Boardman junior Jordan Grantonic won the girls’ individual title. She also placed first at the Salem Early Bird Invitational.
A perfect 2-for-2 this season, Grantonic said she and the team have been working hard to maximize performance.
“It’s gone pretty well,” she said. “This is only our second meet, but our team is doing really well this year. We won this meet and we won our last meet.
“This summer I’ve been doing a lot of mileage, up to 50 or 60, so I was training pretty hard getting ready for this season.”
Like Sullivan, Grantonic said her time wasn’t as low as she would have liked, but for a different reason.
“It’s pretty slow. I’m usually about a minute faster,” she said. “My PR’s (personal record) about a minute faster. It was really muggy today, so it was kind of hard to run. I was kind of going with it, I guess.”
While it wasn’t the time Grantonic was hoping for, Boardman coach Stacey Hunter said she was pleased with her runner’s performance.
“She ran really well,” Hunter said. “She ran a smart race, looked strong, and had a great finish. I’m very happy with her race.”
Libert added that while he was pleased that his team was victorious, he was well aware that some of the other teams didn’t bring their A games.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said. “Boardman didn’t run their top kids and Maplewood didn’t run their top kids. Fitch kind of did a pace workout. We know all those teams are still good. It was nice that we won today, but I know there’s a lot of good teams still out there.”