RIO GRANDE — Indeed, for the second consecutive Saturday, the Northwest High School boys cross country team ran its way into history.
That’s because, after winning their first conference championship since 1985 at the Southern Ohio Conference meet, the Mohawks captured their first-ever district championship in the sport on Saturday — crowned as one of two Southeast District Division II champions at the University of Rio Grande.
Since two districts are combined into one race at the annual Southeast District meet, the top two teams are recognized as district champions — with the third and fourth-place overall clubs considered the runners-up.
Either way, the Mohawks returned to Scioto County on Saturday with something they’ve never returned with before — a district trophy, and the gold one in fact.
Northwest’s top-six runners all finished within the top-51, with the Mohawks’ five scoring runners all placing within the top-33.
Three runners placed within the top-12, and junior Landen Smith secured race runner-up honors in 16 minutes and 27 seconds.
Adam Schroeder, the fifth-year Northwest cross country coach, scurried all over the Rio Grande course following his Mohawks — emphatic about their progress and imploring each to track down the runner in front of them.
Finally, with hardware in hand, Schroeder slowed down and smiled long enough to partake in a team photo — and relax long enough for a post-race interview.
While Northwest’s girls won a district championship in 1989, it indeed was a first for the boys.
“This is a huge deal,” said Schroeder. “This is something that we can bring home to our community and show off that these boys have worked for it and they’ve earned it and it has actually happened. It’s nice to know that they are clutch runners and they are going to show up each week. It’s not a one-week thing, and we’re not done after this. We’re district champs, so it’s nice to bring this home for Northwest.”
The Mohawks mustered a team score of 82, and — just like they did in capturing the SOC championship — finished just ahead of Waverly.
The Tigers trailed the Mohawks by three points apiece on the first two runners to cross, Smith and eighth-place junior Josh Shope in 16:41, then sophomore Kailan Marshall took 12th-place while Waverly’s third runner was 20th.
Marshall completed the 5K in 17:12, as junior Gabe Morrell was 30th in 17:54 and fellow junior Ricky Gambill 33rd in 18:04.
The Mohawks’ other runners were senior Eli Marshall (18:52) in 51st and sophomore Mason Breech (20:18) in 89th.
Unioto was the other district champion with 38 points, while Waverly with 95 and Sheridan with 102 were the runners-up.
The top eight teams advanced to this Saturday’s Division II regional meet at Pickerington North — with the final four squads consisting of Fairfield Union (140), Warren (172), Logan Elm (218) and Vinton County (236).
There were 160 individual runners and 21 total teams — with Portsmouth West placing 17th with 457 and Portsmouth taking 21st with 609.
Smith trailed only William Wilke of Sheridan, who captured the individual championship in 16 minutes and three seconds.
Unioto took three of the next four places, while Waverly’s Aidan Judd finished fifth in 16:35.
Shope trailed Colton Pinkerton (16:40) of Circleville by a single second for seventh-place, as Unioto’s fourth runner, Eastern Brown’s first and Waverly’s second sandwiched Shope and Marshall.
“All five within the top-35 is what it takes to win. Landen (Smith) as always takes care of business. He was in the race and put it away with the last 400 meters to get second-place. He was second to one of the best runners (Wilke) in the entire state. Then Josh Shope took that next step today to be an elite (runner). I think he has a chance this year to be an all-state runner,” said Schroeder. “Kailan Marshall is a sophomore that keeps improving and keeps showing people he is the real deal, then our four and five of Gabe Morrell and Ricky Gambill came back strong that second mile to win it for us. That’s huge that they know it’s a three-mile race and the last mile is the most important.”
In addition to Northwest’s team, Minford junior Dutch Byrd qualified for the Division II regional as an individual — having finished 31st in 17:56, but among the top-32 individuals not on a qualifying team.
The Falcons fielded three runners and thus did not have the minimum number of five for a team score, as freshman Skylar Allen was 63rd in 19:28 while junior Zeb Allen was 91st in 20:23.
Xander Young, a sophomore, paced Portsmouth (71st in 19:44) — as West was led by junior Caleb Hazelbaker (77th in 19:47).
For the Mohawks, they return to the regional meet at Pickerington North, where they qualified last year for the first time in 30 years.
At last season’s district meet, Smith was eighth in 17:16 and Shope took 12th in 17:32 — so both lead runners are already well under 17 minutes.
Schroeder said no Northwest team has ever punched its ticket to state.
“We’re hoping we can change that next Saturday,” he said. “We have goals, and these boys show up every week no matter what. Our training doesn’t falter, and they know that each week is important.”
The Mohawks will run again at the regional on Saturday at 2:15 p.m.
Division III boys
In addition to Northwest’s team and Minford’s Byrd, one runner apiece for Valley and Wheelersburg will represent Scioto County at the regional meet.
In the Division III boys race, senior Alex Morris of Valley finished 14th in 17:45, while Wheelersburg sophomore David Brown took 24th in 18:04.
Brown, in fact, was the final of the 24 individual qualifiers to land a spot at the regional.
Although Brown will be running at the regional as an individual, he and his Wheelersburg teammates came oh close to qualifying for Pickerington as a group.
The top six squads advance as a team, as the Pirates tied with West Union for that sixth and final spot — with 234 points.
The tiebreaker, of course, is the sixth runner’s score — as West Union’s sixth runner was 91st for 84 points while Wheelersburg’s was 122nd for 104.
Adena finished fifth as a team at an even 200.
There were 140 runners in the boys Division III race.
Morris and Brown will compete in the Division III boys regional race on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Division II girls
Wheelersburg, in the Division II girls race, took 12th as a team with a score of 311.
In Division II, the top seven girls teams and individuals among the top-28 qualify for the regional.
The Lady Pirates fielded five runners, and were paced by senior Alyssa Dingus in 44th in exactly 23 minutes.
Amanda Salmons — a freshman — finished 50th in 23:32, while senior Gabby Deacon was 56th in 24:01.
Wheelersburg freshmen Kyra Warren (86th in 25:44) and Natalie Parker (87th in 25:45) crossed the finish line back-to-back.
There were 130 runners in the girls Division II race.
Division III girls
There were also no ladies which qualified for the regional in Division III, although South Webster was one single solitary spot from advancing as a team.
Like the Division III boys, the top six teams and individuals among the top-24 qualify from the district to the regional.
The Lady Jeeps were seventh with a score of 263, which trailed sixth-place Ironton (163) by exactly 50 points.
Northwest’s tandem of Brooke Shope (32nd in 23:32) and Kodi Burton (34th in 23:34) almost made it out, as did Oak Hill freshman Ivy Gentry (38th in 24:04).
A complete list of results can be found at www.baumspage.com.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved