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Lake cross country buying into process as postseason nears

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

LAKE TWP.  Through the early weeks of the season, the message for the Lake boys cross country team from its coaches was simple: Buy into the process, do the work and better times will result.

Coming off a successful outing at the recent Stark County Championships meet in which the Blue Streaks placed three runners in the top 10 – including race winner Nathan Moore – that message seems to be resonating.

Lake's Nathan Moore was the Division I state runner-up last season.

"Coming into the end of the year and getting ready for the postseason, last week we ran really well at the Stark County meet. A lot of the boys got their fastest time of the season," Lake head coach Jeff Wertman said. "They've put in a lot of miles and we've told them that if they trust the process, those times will get lower."

Leading the way on lower times was Moore, a senior who has been winning races and pacing the pack since his freshman year.

Moore is an experienced runner from a running family and his time of 15:13 at the Stark County meet put him ahead of the field and provided a much-needed boost for he and his team.

"He'd been looking for a breakout race for this part of the season and that was of the races we looked at," Wertman said. "He said, 'I'm going to get to certain part of race and I'm going to go for it and push the pace if they can go with me, fine, but I'm going for it.' He's a great runner, but he was looking for that one big race."

The race took place at GlenOak High School, the same course where Lake competed in the preseason Federal League meet.

Running the same course they'd run a month or so earlier and seeing their times drop was an encouraging sign for the Blue Streaks, especially junior Ian Clevinger and senior Connor Wertman, the head coach's son.

That duo placed ninth and 10th, respectively, with times of 16:05 and 16:13 to help their team to a fifth-place finish.

"Ian ha been running really well and with Connor being my son, that was exciting. I've told him, if you put in the work and see it through, you'll be a really good runner," Jeff Wertman said.

He recalled taking photos of the end of the race and seeing the ecstatic look on his son's face after running a full minute faster than he had at the preseason league race.

Part of the team's overall success stems from the runners adapting well to the new normal for cross country that's the result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on sports.

One of the outgrowths of the pandemic in the cross country world has been races segmenting runners into multiple waves, putting fewer runners on the course at once and allowing for more space.

Jeff Wertman noted his runners haven't liked that part of the process because it doesn't feel like they're truly competing directly against the other runners who are in different waves than they are.

For the most part, though, the new normal has gone relatively well and with the district meet just over two weeks away, the Blue Streaks are entrenched in the process and trusting that their times will continue to trend in a positive direction.