OBETZ — Landen Smith may not have won a state championship on summery Saturday.
However, on such an immaculate weather day, Smith set a personal-best time and amassed an even higher all-Ohio finish from a year ago —and had some Northwest Mohawk company within the top-30 runners.
Thus, although he was unhappy about not running the “perfect” 5K, he couldn’t complain following the Division II boys state cross country race —part of the annual state meet which was held for the first time inside futuristic Fortress Obetz.
Smith, after an 11th-place performance at last season’s state meet at National Trail Raceway in which he earned all-Ohio honors with a time of 16 minutes and four seconds, secured sixth-place on Saturday out of 168 total runners — and was within three-tenths of a second of finishing in under exactly 16 seconds.
His 16:00.3 is a personal-best, and established on an Indian Summer and sun-soaked afternoon at high noon.
Smith was the lead runner of the Mohawks’ team which qualified for the state meet for the second consecutive season, and was joined among the all-Ohio top-30 by fellow senior Josh Shope — who finished in 27th-place and made all-state by a razor-thin two seconds.
Shope, who was 46th in 16:43 last year, shaved 11 seconds off his time to 16:32.8 — along with the almost 20 total spots.
A third Mohawk, junior Kailan Marshall, almost made it a trio of Northwest all-Ohio runners —as only four spots and exactly four seconds separated him from the 30th-place finish.
Marshall, who was 85th a season ago in 17:06, rocketed up the leaderboard to clock in at 16:38 and finish 34th.
That threesome spearheaded Northwest’s 11th-place team standing out of 19 total, as the Mohawks had a team score of 263 —trailing only Cincinnati Mariemont’s 261 for a top-10 finish.
One qualifying club was unable to compete due to a coronavirus situation.
Woodridge won the team title with a runaway score of 113, as Waynesville with a 149 was the state runner-up —after winning the sixth-runner tiebreaker with Southeast District champion Unioto.
Northwest cross country coach Adam Schroeder, leading the Mohawks in their sixth season restarted as a program, couldn’t be prouder — or happier following the week he had personally.
In addition to coaching his Mohawks in their second straight state meet, Schroeder celebrated his birthday — along with the birth of his newborn son.
Schroeder said he “made a deal” with his runners that “if they run and made all-Ohio, they can meet my newborn baby boy.”
“They earned it this time,” said Schroeder, with a smile. “It’s been a whirlwind week to say the least. But it’s been great. My wife and I’s first son is wonderful and healthy and happy. And then today, the kids run amazing. You dream of these weeks. As a team, we were shooting for 10th. We were two points away from that. Not much closer than that and those two points could have came from anybody anywhere. And we had two all-Ohioans with one in the top six, and our third runner Kailan Marshall is four seconds and four spots away from making it three all-Ohioans on the same team. That doesn’t happen very often, and even two on the same team doesn’t happen very often. These kids ran great.”
After finishing as the Division II Southeast District runner-up and as the Division II Region 7 champion, Smith —one of the state’s elite Division II boys runners — set sights on an individual state championship, which was his lofty goal from the start of the summer.
But of course, the other top runners in the state also expressed the same aspirations, although Smith made sure he got at least sixth —by passing at least five runners in the final few meters, including a pair of Unioto juniors (Gabe Lynch 7th in 16:00.8 and Corey Schobelock in 8th in 16:01) and Wauseon senior Braden Vernot (9th in 16:02) before the finish line.
Owen Matthews, a senior from Hamilton Badin, was a mere 10th of a second ahead of Smith for fifth —as the top foursome all ran in under 15 minutes and 55 seconds.
They were Woodridge senior Ryan Champa (15:42), CVCA junior Drennan Akins (15:49), Marlington junior Noah Graham (15:54) and Carroll senior Kevin Agnew (15:54).
Smith was awarded an all-Ohio medal — thanks to finishing among the top-20.
“Everything went out as expected, but I just didn’t run what I wanted to. It’s still a great race, though. You can’t be mad when you get top-10 in the state,” said Smith. “The season has been great and it’s been a great senior year for me despite what’s been going on (with coronavirus). Our team has run great. I couldn’t ask for a better high school cross country life. It’s been a great four years. Great cross country family at Northwest.”
Smith said the 5K course at Fortress Obetz was “a lot faster by far”.
“It’s set up better and it’s a better atmosphere here than I feel like the raceway (National Trail Raceway) was, but i ran the raceway on a dreary day,” he said. “Could be a little bit biased.”
Shope said the weather shift from cooler temperatures to an extremely unseasonable warm November day “impacted every runner.”
Still, he kicked his way past a junior from Springfield Shawnee, a senior from Huron and a sophomore from Streetsboro to take 27th —and earn all-Ohio with a confirmation certificate.
“This showed all my hard work paid off since eighth grade. There’s been a lot of hard times, but I made it through it. The race was very hard, and the weather change being so hot and miserable really affected everybody. We all went out a lot slower than what everybody thought,” said Shope. “But being all-Ohio means a lot. Making it to the state the last two years has been awesome. The last four years, these guys have been like family and running with them every day since the eighth grade.”
Schroeder said Smith and Shope both “stepped up in the most important race of their lives.”
“It was amazing to see them both do that, and do what needed to be done. I know Landen wanted to win, but being the sixth-best runner in the state is still a great accomplishment. When they were younger, I told them both this was a possibility. It’s hard to believe it, but all of the sudden, they put the work in for years, and we’re here now. It’s great to see it actually happen,” said the coach. “Those two boys have done more than most people even dream about. They deserve it. They’ve done great.”
The Mohawks’ third senior and fourth runner, Gabe Morrell (17:59), placed 124th in one second under exactly 18 minutes.
Morrell missed last season’s state meet after injuring his hip in the rain-soaked regional race.
The final three Mohawks, including their fifth scorer, were among the final eight placers — including the actual final finisher in 168th-place.
Mason Breech, a junior, was 161st in 19:17, while freshman Eragorn Elkins was 166th in 20:16 and sophomore Michael Wamlsey was 168th in 20:26.
Breech and Wamsley were runners in last season’s state meet as well.
Two qualifiers —Portsmouth freshman Charlie Putnam and Minford senior Dutch Byrd —represented Scioto County in the Division II state race as individual runners.
Putnam placed 49th in 16:55, as he entered the race with the fastest freshman regional time — and exited the race with the fastest freshman time by 11-and-a-half seconds.
Byrd, a first-time state qualifier, was 71st in 17:09.
A complete list of results can be found at www.baumspage.com.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved