By Ron Jantz
Tim Villari is running. He is running cross
country courses across Ohio and to be the future leader of the free world.
The Avon Lake High School senior wants to be the President of the United States. There is one problem. He is only 17 years old.
“2032 will be the first year I am eligible to run,” said Villari. He then pauses and added with a sense of want in his voice, “19 more years.”
Villari is not kidding.
“I think every kid grows up wanting to have a voice in society,” said the young man who often runs in shorts that look the American flag. “It is frustrating not to have an influence and I like the thought of eventually being able to bring my ideas to the table and serve from the highest position I can. I like people depending on me.”
Villari is the top runner for the Shoremen cross country team and they depend on him.
“Tim is very intense and determined,” said Avon Lake’s Cross Country Coach Rob Juergens. “He believes there are no limits and is constantly trying to prove that.”
In his last race, the Gilmour Invitational, Villari beat the field. He finished first out of 159 runners with a time of 16.28.0 over the 5k course and the Shoremen won the team title in the Division I race beating 18 other teams.
In three other races this year, Villari finished 3rd out of 96 runners at the Avon Lake Early Bird (16:48:20), 18th out of 223 runners at the Tiffin Distance Carnival (16:17:37) and 4th out of 217 runners at the Strongsville Invitational (16:48:44). He is in the conversation when the top runners in the area are mentioned.
Leading the pack after one year
It is hard to believe he started running only one year ago.
“I didn’t go out for Cross Country because I thought guys were crazy for just wanting to run,” he said. “At the time, running didn’t seem appealing.”
The first race he ever ran was the Avon Lake Early Bird a year ago. He ran in the Open race and finished 7th out of 196 runners with a time of 18:45:60.
“I remember coach Juergens yelling to me as I ran by, ‘if you keep this pace up you’ll make varsity.’”
Villari kept up the pace and he has worn the Shoremen varsity stripes ever since that first race.
Villari dropped his very-competitive varsity time by 2:28 in 12 months.
“Tim has gone from a mid-pack runner to a front-runner in a very short time,” said Juergens. Villari, who also plays tennis, draws from that sport to explain his chase. “A score of 6-love, 6-love is the best you can do in tennis. In cross country, there’s not really a limit,” he said. “You can always run a faster time. So, I push myself really hard to see how fast I can go.”
The fastest cross country (5k) time at Avon Lake High School is 15:42 set by Matt Link in 2009. Only three other runners in the history of the school have broken the 16-minute mark. They are Trevor Norris (15:52), Steve Parsons (15:55) and Michael Parsons (15:56). The 16-minute mark doesn’t drive Villari, it’s the record that keeps him up at night. “The 15:42, I would say it dominates my thoughts,” he said. “It gets me excited. I think about it a lot. I want to break the school record.”
Speaking of records, this Saturday, the Avon Lake Shoremen will attempt to win their 5th straight Southwestern Conference Cross Country Championship. The SWC meet will be run on the Lorain County Community College course at 10:00 am. The Avon Lake Varsity seven is made up of Villari, Devin Arora, Chip Connelly, James Darkow, Trent Glasser, Riley Jantz and Ian Korney.
“We’re all friends,” said Villari. “We joke around together all the time. We hang out so much it has allowed us to get real close.”
The teammates organize theme days too - like donut Tuesday and gelato Friday. They challenge each other in the classroom as well. Four of the seniors, Arora, Villari, Jantz and Darkow, rank in the top 34 in their graduating class of 290 students.
“At the end of the day,” said Villari, “you run for your teammates. You don’t want to let them down.”
Villari runs toward history too. The Avon Lake Boy’s Cross Country program has produced four SWC individual champions since the conference started keeping records in 1966. They are John Clark (1980), Dave Messenheimer (1998), Matt Link (2009) and Michael Parsons (2010).
Villari would like to add his name to that list and of course, the list of United States Presidents. “Nineteen more years,” he says again.
Maybe he will choose one of his teammates to run with him.