RIO GRANDE — For cross country runners in Ohio, and especially in Scioto County, it’s annually all about the hunt for the end of October —in order to run one last great race in every November.
For the third time indeed, destiny awaits Portsmouth junior Charles Putnam, who has qualified for his coveted third Division II state boys race —in which his ultimate goal of course is to capture the individual state championship.
That’s because Putnam, at the recent Southeast District Division II championship meet at the University of Rio Grande AND in Saturday’s sunsoaked Division II Region 7 race at Pickerington North High School —placed third in both 5K races, and hence advanced to the state event.
Already a three-time Ohio Valley Conference champion for the individual race, Putnam repeated a pair of third-place postseason finishes —for he was third in BOTH the district AND regional meets last year as well.
This year, and in both races in fact, Putnam placed third behind the same two individuals in the exact same order —Fairfield Union senior Marcus Runkle and Marietta junior Ezra Minard.
At the district meet, Putnam completed that sunsplashed and 75-degree 5K in 16 minutes and 20 seconds —which was 16 seconds (16:04) off the pace from his personal-best time running Rio Grande’s campus, which he clocked in as a sophomore.
While Tate Ruthers of Sheridan crossed a mere two tics behind him in 16:22, only Runkle in 15 minutes and 57 seconds and Minard in 16 minutes and 14 seconds stood ahead of him.
Fairfield Union’s Andrew Walton was fifth for the district Division II boys in 16:35 —before ALL five finished in the top-5 at Saturday’s regional run.
In that race, in which all five finished in under 16 minutes — Runkle was the champion in 15:40, Minard was the runner-up in 15:46, and Putnam in 15:47, Walton in 15:55 and Ruthers in 15:57 rounded out the top five.
All Division II boys which finish in the top 20 at the Pickerington regional move on to the state meet, as this Saturday (Nov. 5) marks the third straight state run at Fortress Obetz — with the Division II boys race taking place at 1 p.m.
Last year, amid some rain and much mud for his 5K regional run, Putnam ran a slightly slower 17 minutes and two tics —but still finished third out of 164 total runners.
Those only individuals ahead of the PHS standout —seniors Connor Shingleton of Minerva in 16:43 and Corey Schobelock of Unioto in 16:46.
There were 160 boys in the Region 7 race on Saturday, as Northwest junior Boston Wolfe —who placed 27th at the district meet to qualify for the top 32 to the regional —was 89th.
In both races, Wolfe ran an 18-minutes and 13-seconds time, as his regional race clocking of 18:13.51 was actually 30 one-hundredths of a second faster that his district run.
On the girls side at the district meet, Wheelersburg —back in Division III —was the overall Southeast District champion, and an automatic qualifier to the regional as a team.
In fact, the Lady Pirates edged out North Adams by three points (79-82) —as Wheelersburg and North Adams are both considered district champions, given that the Southeast District schools are actually two districts for each division, combined to run one single solitary race.
The two Division III girls runners-up were West Union (115) and Waterford (117).
Wheelersburg senior Amanda Salmons spearheaded the Lady Pirates’ charge, finishing fourth out of 114 runners in exactly 22 minutes.
Only individually ahead of Salmons was Peebles junior Samantha Seas (20:12) as the runaway champion —followed by runner-up and senior Erica Durst of Meigs Eastern (21:19), and third-place finisher and freshman Shy Miller of Belpre (21:47).
While the remaining Lady Pirates crossed the finish line outside of the top 24 individuals, which was the requirement to qualify individually to the D-III regional, they combined their places spanning 20 spots — and ultimately towards the team trophy.
Wheelersburg freshman Amaia Robson was 26th in 24:25, junior Kylie Marsh was 30th in 24:41, sophomore Alayna Sissel was 32nd in 24:46, and sophomore Whitney Adams ended up 45th in 26:03.
Not bad for the young band of Lady Pirates —as those were four times were all within a minute and 38 seconds.
The other two Wheelersburg runners were Salmons’ fellow senior Natalie Parker (54th in 26:30) and freshman Gabby Munn (71st in 28:59).
The Lady Pirates spent the past two coronavirus-impacted campaigns at Division II, while this Division III district title is believed to be the program’s first.
Wheelersburg’s Southeast District championship backed up its Southern Ohio Conference crown —only one week earlier on Oct. 15 at Waverly’s Bristol Park.
“We did great. We did what I knew we could do. We came here (at University of Rio Grande) knowing we could win it and not just make it to the regional. We’ve worked hard not just this past week, but since June. We didn’t change a whole lot, and we just told them to keep doing what we’ve been doing. If we did that, we’re that talented that we could win a district championship,” said Wheelersburg coach Adam Conn, after the district meet. “We do have individuals like Amanda finishing fourth, but we have depth. They’ve worked hard together and are a strong unit. When they all show up, great things happen just like they did today.”
Salmons made the major climb towards the front of the line, as she finished 40th as a sophomore and 32nd as junior in the Division II district race.
She also came close to qualifying for her one and only state meet, as she was 36th in the Division III regional run — in 21 minutes and six seconds in her final Lady Pirates’ 5K.
There were 154 runners in the girls Division III race, as Grandview Heights freshman Maci Tew took home the championship in an even 19 minutes.
Another freshman, Sami Ward of Tuscarawas Valley, was the 24th and final individual qualifier —in 20 minutes and 33 seconds.
As a team, the Lady Pirates placed 14th out of 18 —as only six Burg gals competed on Saturday.
Besides Salmons in 36th (21:06), Robson was 98th (22:57), Adams was 106th (23:09), Parker was 125th (24:05) and Sissel was 128th (24:09) for the five counting times.
Munn was Wheelersburg’s only other runner —in 148th in 26:41.
Two other individuals from Scioto County joined the Lady Pirates at the D-III regional —West senior Kodi Burton (99th in 22:58) and South Webster sophomore Marley Kreischer (113th in 23:28).
At the district, Kreischer finished 14th in 22:44, while Burton punched the final regional-qualifying ticket —and ran a 23:48.
Burton, before shaving 20 seconds off her time in her final race, edged out Minford senior Juniper Allen (24:02) in earning that final qualifying spot.