WEST PORTSMOUTH — By his own admission, and indeed his candor, Portsmouth High School junior and standout cross country runner Charles Putnam has “developed a lot of anxiety” —in regards to running invitational-type meets this season.
But on Saturday — amid light rain, cooler temperatures and some wind for the annual Portsmouth Invitational — Putnam didn’t display, at least outwardly anyway, any of those anxious moments in capturing the individual boys race championship.
That’s because Putnam passed Waverly senior Mitch Green just beyond the one-mile mark, and put his legs into another gear and picked up speed, all en route to running a 15-minute and 52-seconds 5K clocking — on the west side’s flat and few-hills course at Earl Thomas Conley Park.
There were 108 runners in the boys high school race, and Putnam’s 15:52 was the only boys time under 16:10 —as the runner-up Green ran a 16:11, with the next-fastest times a pair of Rock Hill Redmen (Sam Simpson in 17:27 and Connor Blagg in 17:27) just 10 seconds apart but more than a minute slower than Green.
Braden Mantell of South Webster, one of two Jeeps to compete, was fifth in 17:28.
For Putnam, he returned this fall as one of the top Division II boys runners in the entire state —the son of renown Shawnee State University cross country coach Eric Putnam, and after placing eighth in the Division II state meet last November.
His hunt for October and into November for a return state trip is officially on —as, if you’re asking about that 15:52 being a personal-best time, it’s actually not.
Putnam, at the Jeremy Anderson Invitational at Fort Frye High School almost a full month ago, blitzkrieged to a 15-and-a-half minute 5K time.
As for Saturday in West Portsmouth, Putnam commented on almost everything from the course conditions, his father helping prepare the course, his recent yet candid experiences of anxiety, his balance between academics and athletics, his practice sessions with Shawnee State University runners, and his revelation that he is “talking to a pretty girl”.
As for that last remark, “this year, it’s been kind of hard for me trying to keep up with school and my grades. I’ve been talking to a pretty girl. That’s fun. You have to keep that together, right?” said Putnam, with a smile. “Practice is a pain because I am running with all these college kids. It’s not easy. But I am making it work, for sure.”
He made it work on Saturday indeed.
It made for a pleasant, wide-ranging, and quite conversational postrace interview.
”I felt really good today. This weather was perfect for me,” said Putnam. “Rain keeps you cool. The conditions weren’t that bad. The course was pretty good. My dad spent about 12 hours yesterday (Friday, Sept. 30) trying to get this whole course set up and nice to run on.”
Putnam separated himself from Green just past the mile marker, as those two —Putnam revealed —had some friendly banter going on before the race began.
“At the beginning of the race, Mitch (Green), as a joke, told me he was going to run out the first mile in about a four-and-a-half minute or five-minute pace. And he did. I think we ran that mile in about 5:05 or 5:10, which is pretty fast. But I think he wasted all of his energy and that got me to pull away from him,” he said. “Pretty easily actually.”
Per Putnam, Saturday’s meet didn’t present the “anxiety” which some races have for him in August and September.
As for as invitationals inside Scioto County, the Portsmouth Invite is the first one.
“There’s been a problem this year where I’ve had a lot of severe anxiety attacks during big races. For example, I ran in Louisville (Ky.) a couple of weeks ago and I ran horribly,” said Putnam. “My heart skipped a lot of beats and just completely shut my whole body down and I was in a lot of pain. That’s just been happening a lot this year, but didn’t happen at all last year. I didn’t have this problem before, but I guess these are just new obstacles for me to jump over. It’ll probably blow over soon enough and I’m sure I will be fine.”
Putnam did just fine on Saturday, thank you very much.
The Redmen captured the boys team championship with a runaway tally of 30, as Manchester was the runner-up at 95 and Oak Hill at 108.
Northwest (121) and Wheelersburg (154) were fourth and fifth for the team front, as Valley (254) and West (265) were 10th and 11th.
Beyond the champion Putnam and fifth-place Mantell, other Scioto County boys among the top-25 included Northwest’s Boston Wolfe in eighth (17:42), Wheelersburg’s Tate Hollback in 12th (18:13), Valley’s Brayden Lewis in 20th (18:41), and Northwest’s Peyton Wolfe in 21st (18:45).
On the girls side, Wheelersburg was one of five squads to field a full five-gal group —as the Lady Pirates placed second to River Valley, with the Lady Raiders’ score a 31 and Wheelersburg a 49.
The other three teams were Huntington with a 68, Rock Hill with an 84, and Green with a 140.
Wheelersburg senior Amanda Salmons finished third out of the 66 runners in 20 minutes and 41 seconds —just three seconds shy of race runner-up and River Valley’s Abigail Heffernan (20:38).
Peebles star Sam Seas simply smashed the field, running a blazing 5K time of 19 minutes and 26 seconds —with no competition in sight.
The Lady Pirates’ five counting times all crossed among the top-23 —and included 3rd-place Salmons (20:41), 14th-place Ali Newman (22:29), 19th-place Whitney Adams (22:55), 21st-place Amaia Robson (23:29) and 23rd-place Alayna Sissel (23:38).
The Lady Pirates’ sixth score, from Natalie Parker in 24:19, was 28th.
Minford’s Juniper Allen (13th in 21:55) and Oak Hill’s Ivy Gentry (15th in 22:35) joined Salmons and Newman inside the top-15, while Valley’s duo of Ava Smith (31st in 25:06) and Laurianne DeAtley (32nd in 25:08) and Northwest’s Ashley Cantrell (34th in 25:26) all finished within the top half of the field.
A complete list of results can be found at www.baumspage.com.
A meet at Ironton and another at Unioto are the main invitationals in the area for this Saturday —as Putnam prepares to make the talent-filled run at Unioto.
“I’m ready for whatever happens, that’s for sure. They have a lot of good guys running in that Unioto meet,” he said.
While he admits of anxious moments so far for 2022, the PHS junior is presently in a good state of mind —and ready for his October hunt, into what could be a November to remember.
“I’m feeling pretty good now,” said Putnam. “This next month is going to be a blast. I’ve got the remainder of my entire year set up for me at this point. All I have to do is run it.”