Throughout the season, cross country runners in the area have seemingly been moving at the speed of light into eternity.
Competitors came from wall to wall to challenge some of the best from schools in Scioto County for a trip to regionals last Saturday at Rio Grande.
Several individuals and teams performed well enough to advance to regionals this coming Saturday in Pickerington, and those runners and schools deserve to be taken serious as they compete for a chance at state.
From Portsmouth, Aiden Kammler (10th with a time of 16:42) and Daniel Clark (34th with a time of 17:33) move on in the boys competition.
Kammler and Clark have worked hard to get to this point, and look at them now, they’re in the regional tournament.
“They put in a lot of miles over the summer, it takes a lot of dedication,” Portsmouth head coach Brad Liston said. “A lot of training in the heat, and when you may not feel like wanting to go run, but they put in a lot of miles and a lot of work.”
The Trojans girls team competed in the Division III race, and Portsmouth also had two participants make the cut for regionals in that race.
Lynsey Shipley (13th with a time of 21:50) and Anne Marie Raies (25th with a time of 22:26) were chucking up the deuces to the competition as they crossed the finish line.
For Liston and his team, they hope the success doesn’t stop here. If they can make it on to state, they could be dancing forever.
“I’m hoping for a couple state qualifiers,” Liston said. “That would be the icing on the cake for this season, to end the season at the state meet.”
The Green Bobcats also had to give their opponents game proper in only their third year competing as a team. Green head coach Randy Smith wants to make sure his Bobcats don’t think it, but be about it in their races, and has done a lot to prepare Green for this level of competition.
Smith signed the Bobcats up for the OHSAA Early Season Invitational in Hebron, and also took Green to a large meet in Mason County, Kentucky to help prepare his group for the postseason and the big stage that comes with it.
“We’ve run in some really big meets just to get ready for that kind of competition,” Smith said. “The kids won’t be intimidated. They’ll give it everything they’ve got, and regardless of what our outcome is I know those kids will lay it on the line.”
The Bobcats have treated every race like it’s their last, like they’ve never had it at all. That mentality paid off big when the Green boys won the SOC Championship in Division One on Oct. 14.
“This is our third year having a varsity program,” Smith said. “That’s kind of one of the stepping stones that we had set for ourselves, to be at a point where we could qualify and start moving up in state competition. So, to actually get that first step in is pretty special.”
Smith gives a lot of credit to the Green community, who have been nothing but supportive since the program was started.
“We really have some super people who have been real supportive,” Smith said. “Parents, people in our community, and administration at the school have been super. It’s a brand new program basically, and they’ve given us anything we’ve asked for. They’ve really helped us out, they’ve really supported us, and it’s truly appreciated.”
James Hallam placed 27th (18:28), Zachary Huffman came in 33rd (18:53), Tanner Kimbler ended up in 34th (18:54) and Ethan Huffman wound up at 47th (19:43).
The Bobcats finished 5th overall as a team in the Division III boys race.
Perhaps the most impressive overall team performance of the race was from the Minford Falcons, as both the boys and the girls team qualified for regionals.
Matthew Harris might be the name you know of, but it was several other runners who had big performances to propel the Falcons to Pickerington.
Harris finished 5th (16:53) in the Division III boys race, and continues to sweep up the competition this season.
While Harris has been spectacular on the course, he’s been even more special off it.
“At our team meals and before races, I have him talk to the kids,” Minford head coach Ann Marie Allen said. “He’s just an amazing kid, and I’m really proud of him. When your top runner can be an amazing example and leader, he gets good grades and is an all-around good kid, to have him leading the team makes a huge difference.”
Falcons freshman Dutch Byrd placed 28th (18:29) as the second finisher for Minford. Rounding out an impressive showing for the Falcons was Michael Henry who came in 35th (18:55), Collin Bennington at 37th (18:57), Ryan Higbee in 39th (19:14) and Zeb Allen at 42nd (19:21).
The girls race came right down to the wire for Minford, and it took a tiebreaker to determine if the Falcons would advance.
“It was right on the line and it was super exciting,” Allen said. “We tied with another team and it goes to the sixth place runner, and my sixth place runner Paige Howard, who is my senior, was our tiebreaker.”
Howard finished with a time of 28:10. Amy Shoemaker and Emily Shoemaker were huge for the Falcons, placing first and second on the team respectively. Amy Shoemaker finished 54th overall (24:19) and Emily Shoemaker placed 60th (24:43).
Abby McKinney wound up in 65th (24:58), Jenna Powell came in 78th (25:55) and Kara Dillon came in 87th (26:36) in what was a group effort for Minford.
“If we could get some kids out to state, it would be phenomenal,” Allen said. “It’s been many years I think since kids have gotten to state at Minford, and I think it’s been pretty long since the whole team has gotten out just to regionals.”
Minford came in 3rd in the boys race as a team, and 7th in the girls race.
Rounding out the individual qualifiers, Northwest sophomore Landen Smith said gimme that when it came to a slot in regionals. Smith came in 22nd (17:19).
Eastern’s Evan Leist continued to be in a class all his own, and did not tone it down at districts. Leist finished 3rd (16:46) and will look to keep his junior season going in the next race.
Waverly and Piketon kept their seasons alive, too, relying on strong individual and group efforts.
Both boys teams for the Tigers and Redstreaks will move on to regionals, as they placed 5th and 6th respectively as a team.
Waverly’s girls team will also advance to regionals, as the Tigers were in 7th at the end of the race.
All the individuals and teams are happy to be at the next level of competition, but going on to state is like Jordan’s on a Saturday.
Of course, regionals will be tough. But as they say, when they push you down you got to get back up.
The regional race will take place in Pickerington this Saturday morning, with the Division III girls race starting at 11 am.
Middle schoolers also shine
High school runners aren’t the only ones enjoying running royalty.
Their middle school counterparts deserve just as much fame and credit, as several athletes have had just as much success.
In the Ohio Cross Country Middle School State Championships in Dublin on Sunday, South Webster’s Brady Blizzard finished in 3rd place (11:02) in the two mile race.
Blizzard, an eighth grader who is the son of Hope and Nathan Blizzard and the brother of Mason Blizzard, had a strong showing and looks ready to run next season in high school. If Brady Blizzard can keep this up, he can be a force to be reckoned with for the Jeeps as soon as next season.
Wheelersburg also had several standout runners in the OHSAA Junior High Cross Country Invitational on Saturday.
Eighth grader David Brown finished 1st in the boys race (12:14) and seventh grader Kyra Warren came in 6th (15:06).
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 on Twitter @BSpicerPDT or on Facebook.com/ReporterBenSpicer