The teammates of junior Elliot Kowalski playfully started to call him ‘First Loser’ after he finished second four or five times this season.
Kowalski will laugh his way to the Division III regional meet for the second time after he finished first overall at 17 minutes, 32.44 seconds Saturday as Put-In-Bay’s boys were 14th at the district meet at Amann’s Park in Galion.
“It pushed me to run my best and do as well as I did Saturday,” Kowalski said of his runner-up finishes. “I never saw (a district title) coming when I was a kid, but it’s great. Coach (Randi Wertenbach) gave me a good kick in the pants to get me started this season.
“I hoped and prayed for first. The school will be hyped up. Everybody is excited. (Districts) will push me to do well at regionals and hopefully go to state.”
Kowalski wasn’t going to let anything stop him Saturday. In a pack of runners near the 1-mile point, Kowalski was nudged off the wet course.
Instead of a stumble or tumble, Kowalski simply hurdled over the marker sign that was suddenly directly in his path to a loud cheer from those who saw. He was not forced to change his pace and actually used the incident for a kick with a bit of an adrenaline surge.
“Running is fun for me,” he said. “Call me crazy, but I enjoy it.”
Living on the island, Kowalski faces challenges such as time-consuming travel. Put-In-Bay’s team stayed in a hotel Saturday night because the boat home was no longer running.
Kowalski does not believe such things factor against him in his efforts to succeed. In fact, circumstances combined so that Put-In-Bay’s boys had six runners for a complete team for the first time this year, something Kowalski is thrilled with.
“I don’t have anything to compare it to,” he said. “I’m proud to be supported by the island and represent Put-In-Bay. It’s nice for people to support us and I hope we do a good job representing it.”
Kowalski began to get serious about cross country last year. His personal-best is 16:54.44 as he finished second at the Lakota Invitational this season.
“I think that’s the first time someone has been to regionals,” he said. “The goal coming in (this season) was to do the best I could and qualify to regionals. The next goal is to qualify to state.”
Ryan Avers was third (17:38.87), Joey McTague sixth (17:53.15) and Jordan Buck 10th (18:07.21) as Woodmore’s boys were runners-up to move on. Grant Matwiejczyk was 20th and Nick Emerine 31st.
Woodmore’s Courtney Burner was third (20:30.37) and freshman Samantha Sedlemeier 13th (21:48.53) to advance to regionals for the girls.
Sophia Schroeder was 51st for Put-In-Bay’s girls.
Tyler Sievert was two seconds off the school record to finish fourth Saturday at 16:16.54 while Oak Harbor’s boys also were fourth as a team at the Division II district meet at Liberty Center to qualify to regionals. Sievert will start tapering today and intends to make a run at the mark.
“We finished ahead of Lake,” Sievert said. “It’s the first time to regionals for the school in like 10 years. We had a lot of people step up and I got back into the low 16s. We had a lot of PRs in rainy weather. Everybody did what they had to do for us to finish fourth.”
Jake Wistinghausen was 16th (17:07.37), Bryce Buderer 18th, Konner Fletcher 33rd and Tim Poiry 37th for the Rockets’ boys.
Taylor Dunn finished 18th to narrowly miss moving on as the Rockets’ girls were sixth.
Claire Zielinski was 21st and Nick Reineck 28th as Port Clinton’s girls and boys both finished seventh at the Division II district meet at Amann’s Park in Galion.
Carly Gose was 21st for Genoa’s girls while Kyle Farrell was 30th as the Comets’ boys finished 10th at the Division II district meet at Ottawa Park in Ottawa.