SPRINGFIELD TWP. Bigger, better and more competitive.
That has been the goal for the annual Frola Frolic cross country meet hosted by the Springfield Spartans, and in the meet’s third edition, organizers did their best to continue building it up
This year’s meet once again featured a youth race for the district’s elementary and intermediate school runners, a middle school meet for seventh- and eighth-graders and a varsity race with five teams.
Springfield head coach Kevin Gorby - whose voice could be heard echoing all around the course at high volume during each race - has been among those who have worked to make the event a special entry on the district’s sports calendar.
"The quality of runner has really, really picked up. Before, it was almost a fun run type of atmosphere. It’s got pretty competitive this year and we know he completion in all of the races has picked up and especially the competition in our own program," Gorby said. "The work is there, the tradition has set itself and we’re seeing some really good things, especially the results in the races."
The Spartans won the varsity races for both the boys and girls, outpacing Mogadore on the boys’ side with a team score of 24 against the Wildcats’ 49. For the girls, Springfield tallied a score of 23, with Garfield Heights Trinity in second with 49.
Blake Hillyard won the boys’ race for Springfield in a time of 18:31, while teammates Carter McCollum (fourth) and Colin Leporis (fifth) close behind. All together, Springfield had six of the top 11 runners in the boys’ race and on the girls’ side, Natalie and Cassidy Phillips were fourth and fifth, respectively, while Emma Sandefur, Hanna Warnick and Eden Amador-Gorby took the eighth through 10th spots to power their team to victory.
"We’ve got kids that are challenging not just here, but in every race we go to, so it’s absolutely awesome," Kevin Gorby said.
Asked about the meet’s growth and what it means to the team, Amador-Gorby, the daughter of Gorby and his wife, said that the Spartans take notice of all those who come out to support it.
"For this meet, it’s really important to us, we’ve been able to hold (it) for two years … this meet has been new to our school and it’s just important to us in many ways because it helps us bond, it teaches us lessons and it’s just important to me," she said. "When I see the community that supports us, I see that there’s lots of people that care about our program … in the past a lot of people didn’t care about our program and they didn’t think of us and now, they’re supporting it. They’re coming and they’re helping … it’s basically love."
That love was also felt before the varsity race, when Frola and Lakemore Mayor Rick Justice took part in the senior recognition ceremony to honor the seniors on the Springfield boys and girls teams. Frola, a former principal at the school, is now retired but said she follows the program in the newspaper and Gorby noted that any time he calls her to talk about the meet, she’s eager to come out and cheer on the Spartans.
"Again … constantly never being content, always trying to make it something bigger, getting more and more people involved in the community, getting the mayor out here and of course, Cynthia Frola who the race is named after, we have the National Guard down here helping out with things, the newspaper is here, the auxiliary police … our school is behind us," Gorby said. "The biggest thing to point out to everyone is this is a free meet, so it takes everybody. We have our athletic trainers out here giving out all of the Gatorade and the water … it’s been an entire community-based thing and that’s what we wanted it for, it’s not just the cross country program."
Prior to the varsity race, the middle school race featured four teams and saw the Springfield boys win the race, while Akron City Schools’ squad won the girls’ side of the meet. In the elementary school race, Schrop Intermediate School student Grace Frient won the girls’ race in 7:08 and classmate Peyton Carney won the boys’ race in 5:58 for one mile.
Add in free pizza for all of the runners, a race timing system and plenty of other fun to be had and the event was once again a fitting final home meet of the season for the program. Given its progress over its first three years and the district’s desire to keep growing it and the table is set for an even bigger, better event in future years.
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