FRANKFORT — Stacking a team with a strong top-seven is vital to the success of any cross country program.
Year-after-year, the Shawnee State cross country program continues to stack its top-seven with outstanding harriers that can score big points, such as Adena’s Noah Kanniard.
Kanniard, who ran at the OHSAA state cross country championships along with fellow incoming SSU freshmen Aidan Judd and Eric Hacker, represents another strong addition from Southern Ohio and the Scioto Valley Conference.
He’ll run cross country and also participate in indoor and outdoor track for the Bears from the 2020-21 academic year on forward.
“It means a lot to be able to continue my athletic and academic career and that Coach Putnam gave me the opportunity to run for him and a team that he has had a lot of success with,” Kanniard said. “To be a part of the team is a dream come true and an honor.”
After finishing 28th as a freshman in the OHSAA Division III Southeast District championships, Kanniard dealt with various injuries during his sophomore and junior seasons.
However, he was able to recover from those setbacks to put together one of the best running campaigns in school history during Adena’s 2019 cross country season, finishing 10th (17:35) at the OHSAA Division III Southeast District championships in Rio Grande to lead the team.
His stout performance allowed Adena to finish fifth as a team in the district, which meant that the Warriors — for the first time since 1988 — were able to qualify for the Division III, Region 11 championships.
Kanniard then posted a time of 18th overall by bumping his time significantly, moving all the way up to a 17:00 to qualify individually for the OHSAA Division III state championships — and closed out his running career with a 17:58 to finish 126th at the state level.
“Adena will always be special to me,” Kanniard said. “Everyone there is supportive. Whether it is a good race or bad, I still had people congratulate me. To attend a school that supports you is a great feeling. Running for Adena was a great experience that has made me who I am from the coaches I’ve had to the teachers and the supporters that I’ve had. I wouldn’t change that for anything.”
Much of Kanniard’s decision was weighed on the respect level that he had for Shawnee State head coach Eric Putnam as a runner himself.
An all-MAC performer at Ohio University, Putnam has since taken the SSU cross country and track programs to significant highpoints and has — without question — established himself as one of the best coaches nationally regardless of college division.
Putnam has led the men’s cross country program to nine conference championships in 10 years, while the women’s cross country program has won 10 consecutive Mid-South Conference Championships since joining the conference in 2010.
He’s also led individuals such as Brad Liston, Adam Schroeder, Joe Stewart, Seth Farmer, Steven Adams, Sarah Biehl, Anna Havranek, Brooke Smith and Jessica Price to NAIA National Championship berths in various events in both indoor and outdoor track.
“Getting to meet (Eric) Putnam was exciting because I knew how good of a runner he was, even at his age,” Kanniard said. “Getting to meet someone who is that caliber of runner is no small feat, and I hope to be able to reach my full potential as a runner through him and his staff.”
Whether it’s on the trails or on the track, or in either nursing or computer engineering, Kanniard’s ultimate goal is to become a better runner and student with each passing day at Shawnee State.
“My parents always tell me to be a student first and an athlete second, so I definitely plan to get my degree,” Kanniard said. “Additionally, I also have high expectations for myself in athletics as well as from an academic standpoint. I hope to leave behind a career that I can be proud of.”
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