The Race to Success: Two NR Cross Country Runners Make It to Regionals

By: Emma Kolick.

Aubrey, third from the right, stands with her teammates at a meet at Gilmour Academy (photo taken by Robert Puleo).

As the brisk morning wind invigorates the North Royalton Cross Country runners, an abundance of athletes begins to settle into their starting positions. While each runner vigilantly anticipates the reverberating crack of the gun that signifies the start of the event, virtual silence engulfs the onlookers as they anxiously await the emergence of the contenders who will be at the forefront of the race. The gun sounds and the participants sprint onto the course, beginning their wearying 5K. At any of North Royalton’s Cross Country events, sophomore Austin Kling and junior Aubrey Hurlbert, two runners who made regionals, can frequently be found amongst the preeminent competitors at the front of the race. 

Aubrey Hurlbert, sporting number 210 at Gilmour Academy, standing with her fellow North Royalton runners shortly before a race (photo taken by Robert Puleo).

“When I first found out about regionals, the first thing I felt was excitement,” said Aubrey Hurlbert, who advanced into regionals due to her astounding time of 19:59 at districts. “People had been yelling what place I was in the entire race so I had an idea that I was in, but it was overwhelming when I first heard the news for sure.” 

Despite the absence of her encouraging teammates, who act as her support system through each race, Aubrey received a time of 20:47 at regionals, merely 48 seconds above her personal record. This stellar time ensured that her strenuous workouts throughout the season would be recognized by the numerous other schools in North Royalton’s region, including schools such as Medina High School and Gilmour Academy. During the preseason and postseason, she arduously trained in a successful attempt to reach her full potential, a common thread seen in exceptional athletes, such as sophomore Austin Kling, who joined Aubrey in proceeding to regionals.

“I really made it because of the hard work I put in over the summer. The days we have to run on our own when nobody is looking is what really helps,” said Austin. “Competing at regionals was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I enjoyed it a lot,” he continued. After obtaining a time of 16:58 at districts to qualify, he finished regionals with a time of 17:15. He believes his senior teammate’s presence at regionals impelled him to perform auspiciously, in spite of the exorbitant amount of pressure he placed upon himself to excel.

Austin Kling receiving an award following a race at Gilmour Academy (Photo via Austin Kling).

As Austin is consistently one of the foremost runners on the cross country team, he says he is ceaselessly motivated to improve upon his already formidable foundation. He also hopes to race collegiately following commencement in order to attain the potential he knows he is capable of. 

Notwithstanding Aubrey and Austin’s innate talents, their coaches have discerned that their work ethic outshines that of nearly any athlete on the team, and they believe this principally determines their success above all else.

“When the summer started you could tell they put the miles in,” said Mr. Francescangeli, who coaches cross country and is also the head coach for track & field. “In a sport like cross country, the season is two months long, and it’s really what they did prior to that that helped them achieve their goal of making it to regionals.”

He says Austin and Aubrey’s continued hard work, consistency and perseverance throughout the season enabled them to perform triumphantly at the vast majority of their meets, and these three factors nearly guaranteed them a spot in regionals. In addition, while their diligence enhanced their individual performances, their teammates substantially benefited from their tenacity and initiative as well.

“They honestly help the team because they’re just natural-born leaders,” said junior Lauren Devney, who competed in regionals last year. “It’s very obvious that they push themselves to a degree that not many other people on the team do, and, in turn, I think them pushing themselves shows the team that we can push ourselves as well.” She believes that Austin and Aubrey’s altruistic and conscientious personalities in addition to their leadership abilities have undoubtedly influenced the team in its entirety.

Aubrey and Austin’s assiduous training has allowed them both to compete at the regional level, a feat that is typically earned by upperclassmen. As their successful performances throughout the season have led them to excellence, they now aspire to surpass their current personal records next season. This unrelenting determination symbolizes the way in which they are continually attempting to improve upon their already extraordinary capabilities and accomplishments.

Emma Kolick is currently a sophomore at North Royalton High School. She is involved in numerous clubs such as student council, Key Club, Spanish Club, Environmental Awareness Club, French Club, and STAND. She is also a member of the girls track team. Outside of school she enjoys yoga, reading, writing, and hanging out with friends and family. After high school, she plans to attend college and pursue a career in journalism and political science.