Starting with summer training and off-season training, cross country runners in Ohio all dream of seeing their season stretch to the first week of November and racing the Fortress course. Obetz in the state championship meet.
To get there, however, things start two weeks early with this weekend’s District Championships, as the region’s Division II and III teams attend classes at Columbus Grove High School and Leaders Farms in Napoleon. .
In Division II, five of the top six boys in last year’s district competition graduated, but the girls’ field will include several runners looking to rack up repeat top-flight finishes.
In the boys race, Defiance will be looking to find the same spark as last season at district level when they were tied with Van Wert for the tag team title. Although Josh Horvath (2021 fourth district) and Eli Fortman (ninth) have graduated, juniors Cole Batt (20th in districts) and Josiah Gonzales (25th) will try to boost the Bulldogs after a fifth finish in the meeting of the Western Buckeye League last week.
“We have a lot of younger guys who are under a little more pressure to contribute, but they’re running well,” longtime DHS coach Obie Mouser said. “They’ve improved a lot throughout the year.”
Bryan’s senior star Joshuah Taylor is also gone, but junior standout Xander Fackler will be in the mix for the Golden Bears individual championship after a fifth-place finish a season ago. Likewise, current senior Aidan Pena finished seventh overall last year for fourth-placed Wauseon, but with district runner-up Hunter Wasnich graduating, Pena will look to pave the way for the tribe and take Wasnich’s place. .
On the girls’ side, the dynamic DHS duo of senior Mira Horvath and junior Layla Briseno will likely top the Blue and White standings and enter the playoffs on a high note after finishing 12th and 16th respectively for Defiance at the WBL meet.
“It’s going to be a tough line to hoe (in the girls’ race),” Mouser said. “Celina has some really good riders, OG has a whole great team and Bryan’s daughter is very fast (Kate Thormeier). Our two leading daughters need to be in the lead because this race is going to be fast.
“It’s going to be difficult with all these tough teams, but I think we can qualify (for the regionals).”
In a similar vein, Wauseon senior Grace Rhoades is sure to have a battle for the top spot in the district field with senior OG star and defending individual district champion Alexa Fortman returning to the field. However, Rhoades won the individual Northwest Ohio Athletic League championship last week and is in a prime position to tie his second-place district finish from last season. Bryan sophomore Kate Thormeier (seventh district 2021, third NWOAL) and junior Alexis Nieves (21st district, Wauseon’s Emilie Wasnich (18th district, 22nd NWOAL) and Ottawa-Glandorf junior Madelyn Hovest (sixth district, fifth WBL) are also in the running to have success in Putnam County on Saturday morning.
D-II action kicks off at 12:40 p.m. and 1:20 p.m. in Columbus Grove with the top four men’s and individual teams in the top 16 qualifying for regionals while the top three women’s and individual teams in the top 12 will race at regional in Midday meal.
Division III will also see runners in Columbus Grove with Paulding, Patrick Henry, Swanton and Wayne Trace representing the coverage area in a 27-team field comprising much of the MAC, NWC and PCL.
The other notable Division III field will see Leaders Farms in Napoleon host a sizable field of 25 schools, split into two races each for boys and girls. Each race will have three qualifying teams qualifying for regionals as well as individuals not on the qualifying teams finishing in the top 12 in each of the four races.
Rugged terrain saw Tinora escape the boys’ race districts with a third-place finish while Tinora’s girls were runners-up last year at the Liberty Center. With their leaders back, the Rams have cautious optimism about a repeat of the district.
Junior Lauren Sattler broke the previous school record with a time of 18:59 at the Green Meadows Conference Championships last week for her third consecutive conference crown and finished fifth last year amid the Liberty Center pack in the districts. The Rams finished fifth in the team standings with a young roster behind Sattler, but experience on a big stage will be key for the Lady Rams. Erica Westrick was the next highest ranked Ram at the GMC meet in 25th with Ava Steffel in 33rd.
“Lauren just has to run her race, but we have two freshmen we’re relying on, so hopefully they can get off to a good start and let things fall where they can,” Tinora’s coach said. , Jim Winseman.
On the boys’ side, senior Jaxen Durfey and second Paul Westrick headline a league-runner-up Ram side that saw the duo finish 1-2 in the individual standings a year after finishing second and fourth respectively in the districts.
With freshman Logan Coy (fifth in GMC) as a reliable third runner, Winseman’s team will be in a prime position to clinch a regional spot if the back of the dash can work well.
“That’s the thing, you’ve got Holgate who’s been good for years, you’ve got Archbold who just won the NWOAL and Hicksville are doing really well and those are just three teams that can go out,” Tinora’s coach added. . “It’s a tough district…it’s nerve-wracking as a coach, but you know the kids are excited about this opportunity.”
Fairview, who was a district runner-up in their run last season against the Rams’ district home court, will also enter the playoffs with confidence after winning GMC gold for the second straight year on the boys’ side. Although no Apache finished higher than sixth, the top six scorers for Nic Alvarez’s team all finished between sixth and 13th, led by Aspen Brubaker and junior Kyle Rabe. The Fairview girls finished second in the GMC meet following a league title win in 2021 and will also have the opportunity to make some noise at the district level with sophomore Kayla Mavis (GMC sixth) as the top finisher back from last year’s district meet, where she was 15th. Fellow soph Cheyenne Zeedyk finished 19th in districts as a rookie and led the Apaches to fifth overall in league play this season.
The Archbold Boys, fresh off a second straight NWOAL Championship, played well in their district’s meet last season. Even with leader Brady Johns gone to graduation, the depth with runners like Aden McCarty (Jr., eighth districts 2021, fourth NWOAL), Caleb Harrow (So., fifth NWOAL, ninth districts), Brennan Garrow ( Jr., 12th NWOAL, 13th Districts) and Landon Stamm (Sr., 14th NWOAL, 15th Districts) will be key to Rachel Kinsman’s Bluestreaks.
“We had to defend the title this year and we knew it would be tight again. Going into the districts, we will focus on similar things to what we did last weekend, keeping our 1- 2 at 3-4-5 small,” mentor Archbold said. “They’ve executed our plan well each week and are up for the challenge.
On the girls’ side for the Streaks, senior Sophie Rupp can lock in the cross country playoffs with the girls’ soccer team tournament run complete, having finished 11th in the league meeting on the Leaders Farms course a week ago and third in this district meet a year ago.
Fellow runners Kirsten DeLong (So.), Allie Buehrer (Jr.) and Annika DeLong (Sr.) will also be sought after for their successful efforts, along with rookie Kylie Wannemacher and runner-up Trinity Lauber.
“The girls were one point out of third in league play, but that’s why we love our league,” Kinsman added. “Sophie did a great job up front and will be there again. Our key this weekend will be to progress our two to five. They ran well and are ready to compete on Saturday.
Rounding out the list of notable runners in the region are the Holgate Tigers, whose men’s team won the league title for the fifth straight season (three GMCs, two BBCs) a week ago and are confident for the playoffs.
While the Tiger boys may not be able to replicate a 1-2-3-4 finish from a season ago and six runners in the top 10, senior Jack Westrick (2021 district finalist), Junior Logan Miller (Eighth Districts) and Senior Ethan Fritz (10th Districts) are still a talented core.
“It was a great day for the boys with the BBC win and a big confidence boost for all our riders, especially those who weren’t relied on in a championship race,” said the Holgate coach, Brad Hurst. “Our young riders have now seen what they need to do to win a championship and you need to keep that focus against a strong district field.”
On the girls’ side, Holgate finished just two points off first place in last year’s district meet and just five points from this year’s BBC crown, with both instances finishing behind Pettisville. Experienced veteran Elisabeth Willett finished third in the league meet this year and was a district runner-up last year behind Delta’s Josilyn Welch. Joined by juniors Hannah Swary, Kaylynn Ashbaugh and Miriam Bower, Hurst also has faith in her women’s team.
“We have great veteran leaders and they have shown young riders how to work hard and compete,” said Holgate’s mentor. “The women’s team has only gotten better all season and that’s because of how close they are as a team. Saturday is going to be a tough day for all the races because of the big teams and every rider has to be prepared for a big race.