McDERMOTT — While it will be only one run, the Northwest High School boys cross country team plans to make it a November to remember.
That’s because, for the first time for the five-year re-started program, the Mohawks will compete in the annual Ohio High School Athletic Association state cross country meet — which is set for Saturday at National Trail Raceway near Hebron.
The young Mohawks, now back-to-back qualifiers for the Division II regional meet at Pickerington North, make their state debut — and are one of 20 total teams competing.
Northwest, which began its postseason with its first-ever district championship, finished fourth at the regional meet — as the top seven squads at the regional meet move on to the state meet.
Northwest head coach Adam Schroeder — who has overseen the school’s cross country program for all five years — stresses that this week is a reward for all of the effort, time and hard work his Mohawks have invested into accomplishing this goal.
Schroeder said the week’s preparation for the race — and course — remained the same as it ordinarily would, and that the team members and coaches planned a trip to National Trail Raceway for a preview of the course.
“Most of our preparation running-wise won’t change. We’re still doing our fire towers, still doing our workouts, we gotta stay consistent with that. But we’re definitely going to check out the course, and take a little downtime and enjoy it,” said Schroeder. “We’re gonna go up there and treat the kids right.”
But depending upon what day the Mohawks took their visit, those course conditions likely have changed — given the amount of rainfall from Wednesday and Thursday.
The course is extremely close to Interstate 70, and rain extended throughout the state starting Wednesday afternoon.
Still, Northwest will race in whatever weather conditions there are, as evidenced by its strong performance from the rain-soaked and wind-driven regional meet.
The Mohawks, which will start from starting-box 24, will join 43 individual runners and 19 teams for the Division II race — as those 19 include Unioto, Sheridan, Waverly, Heath, Lakewood and Jonathan Alder from the same Region 11 meet.
Four of the seven — Northwest, Unioto, Sheridan and Waverly — represent the Southeast District.
The other teams to qualify include Peninsula Woodridge, Bay Village Bay, Poland Seminary, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, Cloverleaf, Defiance, Lexington, Huron, Dayton Carroll, Cincinnati Madeira, West Liberty-Salem and Waynesville.
The OHSAA will recognize the team champion and runner-up with trophies, as the top-20 overall individuals are honored as all-Ohio.
Northwest’s seven runners at the district and regional meet — and are listed as the state-meet participants — include juniors Landen Smith, Josh Shope, Gabe Morrell and Ricky Gambill, senior Eli Marshall, and sophomores Kailan Marshall and Mason Breech.
Smith and Shope are expected to challenge individually for all-Ohio honors, as Smith finished fifth in the regional meet in 16 minutes and 13 seconds — after capturing district runner-up in 16:27, and trailing only William Wilke of Sheridan.
Unfortunately for the Mohawks, they will miss Morrell for the state meet, as he injured his hip in the regional race and likely won’t compete on Saturday.
Behind Smith, Shope and Kailan Marshall, Morrell and Gambill have been the key fourth and fifth-place scorers.
In the Mohawks finishing fourth at the regional by a single solitary point over Sheridan, Morrell made it across the finish line only five places and four points ahead of Sheridan’s fifth runner, Ross Emmert.
It was not known as of Thursday morning if Northwest will race with an alternate to complete the seven-member roster, or if it has to go with just six scorers.
Either way, the scores of Gambill, Breech and Eli Marshall make a major difference, as Smith, Shope and Kailan Marshall have been a solid top-three.
And, regardless of finish on Saturday, Northwest will already be thinking of another trek to National Trail Raceway next year.
This year, though, indeed intends to be a November to remember — and one run the Mohawks won’t soon forget.
“It’s unreal. Some say it took a while for us to get here, but not really,” said Schroeder. “It’s a testament to these kids and how they’ve bought in and how much work they’ve put in to get to this level this quickly.
The Division II boys state race is set for 2:15 p.m. on Saturday at National Trail Raceway.
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