PICKERINGTON — Despite the rain and the mud, results were favorable for area cross country teams at the regional cross country meet held Saturday at Pickerington. Three teams and one individual qualified for the state meet, slated for Saturday, Nov. 7, at Scioto Downs.
The Johnstown and Centerburg girls squads placed first and third, respectively, in Division III; the Fredericktown boys team also placed third in Division III. Qualifying as an individual was Sarah Baker of Mount Vernon in Division I, who finished fifth overall.
“It would be nice if it were sunny and 60 degrees, but we have not had that,” said Fredericktown coach Denny Stevens. “The kids I felt were well prepared. They knew what the conditions were going to be like, and they rose to the occasion.”
Potes led the Fredericktown squad, placing fifth overall with a time of 17:44.4. McGuire’s 18:04.83 placed him at No. 11 overall. Sean Kennedy just missed the individual cutoff with his 17th-place finish in 18:18.52, but will advance as part of the Freddie team. Garrett Gatton finished 38th overall with a time of 18:59.13. Strong performances also came from Nick Gaumer (20:05.10), Trey Divelbiss (20:26.28) and Jamison Shipley (20:39.33).
“Garrett, our No. 4 runner, did better than we expected on paper,” said Stevens. “In cross country, it’s an entire team; it’s not just the No. 1 or 2 or 3 runner.”
Stevens said there was no difference between running for time, as one would with good course conditions, and running for overall place.
“In a race, we know who we were competing against,” he said, “and as they ran our coaching staff did a nice job of keeping them informed of where they were. The kids just stepped it up and got the job done. They understood they weren’t going to turn in PRs; they were going in as a team. I think all of the kids recognized this is what you plan for.”
The Centerburg squad was led by Victoria Holt, who finished 13th overall in 21:19.81. She was followed by Brett Teiga (21st, 21:57.21) and Amelia Holt (25th, 22:05.96).
Coach Sean Sweeney of Centerburg agrees with Stevens on the team concept.
“Saturday was just amazing to watch,” he said. “The girls ran a very strategic race; they followed the strategy perfectly. Brett Teiga — our senior — and Amelia Holt have closed the gap to within 40 seconds between Victoria, our lead runner. Elizabeth Holsappel, Alyssa Burton, Ali Soci and Gabriella O’Donnell were basically told to stay with Northmor’s 4, 5 and sixth runners, and they did. Then they just made a charge at the end.”
Holsapple ran a 22:50.61, Burton a 22:54.93, Soci 23:10.82 and O’Donnell a 24:43.93.
“Brett, these last three weeks, has shown what a senior does — it’s leadership,” said Sweeney. “This group, for people who really follow central Ohio running, they flew under the radar all year long. They didn’t have us coming out of regionals, we’re not ranked in the state. But these girls really feel they can run with Johnstown and Northmor, and both of them have a chance to make the top 10, if not win the state. These girls feel like they can walk in there and pull off a victory.”
For Baker, her time of 20:10.91 sent her to the state meet for the third year in a row.
“Sarah ended up fifth overall, which is pretty good to do at a regional meet,” said coach Pat Gray. “The course was pretty muddy; to be able to come out in the top 5 is an accomplishment.
“We have her peaking [for state] this Saturday, so some of those girls she’ll beat next week, because they were peaking for [regionals],” he continued. “She’ll be ready to get them. We’ll back down a bit on her training, let her get her legs back.”
Rounding out the Mount Vernon squad was Sarah Fowler, 21:25.5; Lindsey Studebaker, 21:47.46; Celia Leonard, 22:09.87; Zoe Leonard, 22:27; Hannah Lamoure, 23:02.64; and Brynna Uhring, 24:19.16.
“Even though we didn’t quite make it as a team, we still did well,” said Gray. “Last year we finished as the 13th team; this year we finished seventh, so that was a huge improvement. That is the best finish we’ve had. All of the girls ran really great. To come out and have a great season, I think is still terrific.
“We’re losing Sarah next year, but all of the other girls are coming back,” he continued. “Sarah placed 33, she’s a freshman; Lindsey finished 47th, she ran a terrific race and she’s a freshman. Our No. 6 and No. 7 runners got some regional experience.”
Gaining experience at the regional level is also a big step for the East Knox Bulldogs. Joey Montoya placed 20th overall in the Division 2 competition with a time of 18:47.86. Paul Blanchard finished in 46th place with his time of 19:28.29. For the girls, Kelly Dobbins’ 22:31.13 was good for 36th-place overall.
“Joey started out well,” said coach Ron Fannin. “Unfortunately, the course conditions affected him, and he lost a little bit of strength and fell back a bit in the later part of the race. Unfortunately for Paul, he has such a long stride, I think the mud affects him more.
“I was really proud of Kelly, the determination she put into her race. The course was tough, and she gave her heart and soul,” he continued. “What we’ve talked about all year long has been taking small steps. For them to make it out of districts and to regionals, it’s one of those steps.”
Fannin said Dobbins suffered a knee injury early in the season.
“As a first-year coach of a program that has not had much success before, we set goals,” said Fannin. “All of the kids were willing to work hard. Because Kelly worked hard, she got to regionals, and getting to regionals was not something anybody was expecting. I was proud that some of our girls team came to cheer her on.
“Yes, I’m a little disappointed [they didn’t go further], but we did make our goal of getting to regionals. We’ve only had one make it to regionals in the school’s history; we had three this year.
“We’re looking forward to the future,” he added. “We met some of our goals this year, and will meet more of them next year.”
Other area runners at the regional level include Tyler Van Sickle of Utica, who ran a 19:23.49, and James Platt of Johnstown, who finished with a 20:48.66.
“Just to make it to regionals by himself, I felt was a great accomplishment,” said Utica coach Elizabeth Edinger. “He ran a great race. He was a little disappointed with his time, but with the course being as muddy as it was, and there’s always great competition at regionals, he did great overall.
“His focus now is looking for a school next year to run cross country at the collegiate level,” she continued. “He’s looking at Muskingum, Ohio Northern and a couple of other schools, so he’s looking at the next level.”
Stevens said as one of 16 teams making it to the state meet, the Freddies will “thrive on that type of competition.”
“They will step up and bring their A race [to state],” he said. “The challenge to each of the seven guys is ‘What can you do to make it happen?’ When running against the best athletes in the state, time and time again I have seen athletes step it up.”
“You go out there and you run,” said Sweeney of the Trojans’ strategy for the state meet. “We can look at all of these things on paper, but really it’s an attitude. You have to go out there and want it. Watching this group on “Saturday, I have not seen a group want it more than they do.”
“The conference — the MBC — is well represented, with Centerburg and Johnstown,” said Stevens. “Knox County will have a lot of representation at state. We’re looking forward to it.”
“When we finished Saturday, the Fredericktown parents were all asking ‘How did you do?’ We really appreciate that,” said Sweeney. “We have a tremendous representation, and I think it’s only going to get better. East Knox is only going to get better. The performance of Montoya, Blanchard and Dobbins speaks well for the program.”