OBETZ — In the smaller picture, no doubt these were the final —but best — 5K runs of the season for Portsmouth sophomore Charles Putnam and Northwest senior Kailan Marshall.
But, in the larger photo opportunity on Saturday, Putnam AND Marshall made their Division II state cross country races the runs of their young lifetimes.
That’s because Putnam placed eighth in his second consecutive state race, while Marshall made a late charge and took 24th —as both boys representing Scioto County captured all-Ohio honors on Saturday, inside a sun-splashed but terribly traffic-congested Fortress Obetz and Memorial Park.
That’s correct, as Scioto County — with just the two individual men — went 2-for-2 in earning all-Ohio honors in this season’s state cross country meet.
For Putnam — with his father, the 1989 Division I state runner-up and Shawnee State University cross country head coach Eric Putnam watching and cheering on — the sophomore standout made a dramatic jump from his freshman performance from a year ago.
In easily setting a new personal record, and running within the top-10 for the race’s majority including inside the top-five at the one-mile mark, Putnam crossed the finish line in exactly eighth-place — clocking in at a lightning-fast 15 minutes and 59 seconds.
That’s right, Putnam posted a sub 16-second time, was the last of eight Division II boys in under 16 minutes, and was only 28 seconds away from unbelievably winning the state championship.
You read that last part right.
Jack Agnew of Carroll claimed the state title in 15:31, Noah Graham of Marlington was the runner-up right behind in 15:33, and Connor Shingleton of Minerva muscled for third in 15:39.
The next foursome finishing consisted of CVCA’s Drennan Adkins in 15:45, Unioto’s Corey Schobelock in 15:46, Woodridge’s Aaron Dutt in 15:55, and Marlington’s Colin Cernansky in 15:58.
Then there was Putnam, dashing towards the finish line with the sunshine brightly beaming upon him.
“Just an incredible run!” exclaimed PHS cross country coach Joe Albrecht. “He took an entire minute off his time.”
Well, actually, it was exactly a full 56 seconds off his state run a season ago —which was amid summery-like conditions at Fortress Obetz, and temperatures hovering around 80 degrees.
On Saturday, the early afternoon temperatures topped out in the mid-50s, as Putnam finally cooled down by taking off his shoes —and appearing on the awards podium.
The top-30 finishers in the boys Division II race are named all-Ohio, with the top-20 appearing on the medals stand.
There were 180 runners in that race, and Putnam’s push from the back end of the front third from a year ago was quite remarkable.
“I’m just really speechless right now. This is great and crazy too. I never expected this was how my sophomore year was going to end up. It feels great,” said Putnam, in his postrace interview with The Portsmouth Daily Times. “In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way before. It feels really good.”
Putnam placed third in both the Division II Southeast District AND Region 7 races to qualify for the state —similar to what he did last year, notching ninth in both of those runs.
But by the time of that state meet, and with warmer weather that November weekend, the sophomore said he had already experienced peak performance —and was “worn out from running all of them (district, regional and state races) together.”
A year ago, 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.
This time, a physically-improved Putnam prevailed in terms of energy for all three races — on three straight Saturdays.
“As a sophomore this year, I am a lot stronger, taller, and a lot smarter in technique. I happen to know what’s best for me. I like to focus on state and I’ll run the postseason races and I’ll qualify, but I don’t want to place anything too high that’s going to wear me out in the next race,” he said. “I didn’t know what was the idea of me being a freshman last year, but I did this year. Just smarter, I guess.”
It also aided Putnam, he said, that he saw the flat-like Fortress Obetz 5K course as a freshman — a valuable learning experience.
Prior to last November, the Ohio High School Athletic Association state cross country meet was held for a decade at National Trail Raceway —where Marshall ran as a sophomore.
“I didn’t know the layout of the course at all last year, so I just went with and didn’t know what to expect. Now I have lot of experience running this course,” said Putnam. “I’ll be ready for about anything that happens here.”
He also ran a consistent race, which was perhaps the most important aspect of his eighth-place performance.
He was seventh at the two-mile mark, trying his hardest —he said —“to stay on Schobelock’s hip”.
“It was very chaotic and I was actually out of breath a lot. There was a lot of pushing and shoving trying to get up ahead, and there were a lot of people in the way. A bunch of tight spaces everywhere,” said Putnam. “I lost some footing in some spots, but thankfully I stayed put, and got it all done in the end.”
And got it done he did —shaving 56 seconds off his initial finishing time.
“All the work I did for these past few months has finally paid off with what I did today,” said Putnam. “It’s a gift. I didn’t expect to run a 15:59 on a day like this. I can’t believe it. I’m really happy and lucky to have this ability to run with these seniors and these other great runners. It feels amazing. I’m really happy with what I did today. I didn’t know what to expect, so I just ran.”
But Putnam wasn’t the only one earning all-Ohio.
Marshall, in his third and final state race, punched his all-state ticket with a time of 16 minutes and 20 seconds —only four seconds off his personal record (16:16), which he set in last year’s Southern Ohio Conference championship meet.
He started back in the initial pack, but kept moving forward and gained some significant separation —and ultimately was 24th.
Speaking of 16, he was the 16th crosser of at least 16-plus minutes —missing the medals stand by a mere six seconds.
Eric Board of Maumee (16:14.5 for 19th) and Tate Ruthers of Sheridan (16:14.6 for 20th) were the last two runners to reach podium status.
Last year, Marshall — who was 85th two years back in 17:06 — rocketed up the leaderboard to clock in at 16:38 and finish 34th.
He also spent those first two trips as a member of the Mohawks’ qualifying club —but was on his own in his final race.
Well, actually, he wasn’t —as former Northwest cross country coach Adam Schroeder, among others, returned to cheer him on.
Landen 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.
Smith was sixth in that Division II race, making him a two-time all-Ohioan.
Hence, make that a three-peat of Mohawks making all-state.
“It feels amazing. It’s unexplainable right now,” said an elated Marshall. “All the hard work and everything put into these last four years and all my teammates pushing me with all the workouts just finally coming together. It’s crazy, and I’m just so excited right now to see it pay off. The course was the same as last year, but it was a lot hotter and a lot tougher. The plan this year was to be around the top-40 in the first mile, and work my way up each mile. The last mile I wanted to stay around the top-20. It worked out and it means the world to me. It was a lot different not having the boys with me in the (starting) box, but those guys are insane and I love them.”
Marshall said he will miss his Mohawk running days and close friends, but he will run at the collegiate level — just not committed to a particular program yet.
As for Putnam, he is committed to PHS XC for two more years —and dedicating himself to the sport to appear at the top of the platform.
And, that will be the next run of his lifetime.
“That is my main goal. I want to be state champion, and it doesn’t matter if it’s next year or my senior year or both,” he said. “As the years go by, I am going to get a lot faster. It’s my destiny. But I will try my absolute hardest to reach my dream and be number one. That’s what I want.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved