TIFFIN – Whenever a team graduates its top performers, it’s always easy to label the next season as a ‘Rebuilding Year.’
Coming into this cross country season, Columbus Grove coach Terry Schnipke wasn’t about to concede this season.
However, he did have reason for concern.
Last year, Columbus Grove’s front-runner Jake Graham (seventh at state meet), along with several other seniors, led the Bulldogs to a sixth-place finish at the Division III state meet.
At Saturday’s Division III regional meet at Tiffin, Columbus Grove proved it was more than worthy of a return trip to the state meet as the Bulldogs finished second to Liberty Center, 78-106.
The top four teams and the top 16 individual finishers in each regional race advances to next Saturday’s state meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
Leading the Columbus Grove pack at Tiffin was junior Colton Grothaus, who finished fifth in 16 minutes, 29.78 seconds.
“I had to push myself a lot more, since I didn’t have them (last year’s seniors) to push me,” Grothaus said. “So, I had to train harder. I tried to get a lot of miles in this summer and it’s paid off. It always pays off in the long run.”
As a team, Columbus Grove finished second to Lincolnview at this season’s Northwest Conference Championships. The following week, the Bulldogs won the district title at Ottawa.
“I’ll tell you what, ‘to God be the glory’, because these guys have worked really hard,” Schnipke said. “Last year, we were supposed to be such a good team and we got fourth here (Tiffin) and didn’t run very well and didn’t get a trophy. For this group to come here, get second and to get a trophy – I didn’t expect this when the year started. It’s been a blessing.”
The rest of Columbus Grove’s scorers Saturday included Logan Douglas (17:05.12); Jerry Kesselmayer (17:17.33); Lee Altenburger (17:26.04) and Bryce Sharrits (17:35.98). Grove’s sixth and seventh runners were Alex Tabler (18:00.40) and Boone Brubaker (18:06.94).
Behind Columbus Grove at Tiffin was NWC-foe Lincolnview. The Lancers finished third (146).
It’s been more than two decades since Lincolnview has sent a boys team to the state meet. Last year at the regional meet at Tiffin, Lincolnview finished fifth and just missed qualifying for the state meet.
Leading Lincolnview on Saturday was Alex Rodriguez, who finished 14th (16:45.23). Lincolnview’s normal frontrunner, Bayley Tow, fell off pace and finished in 17:13.45.
“Obviously, we wanted to secure that one spot from last year,” Lincolnview coach Matt Langdon said. “It was an unbelievable team race. Our top kid (Tow) didn’t run the way he wanted to run, but everybody else just stepped up.”
Crestview’s boys team finished eighth and did not qualify for the state meet. However, Crestview’s Mycah Grandstaff finished seventh (16:32.88) to advance. Grandstaff missed the first four weeks of the season, because of a knee injury. However, he battled back and won the NWC title two weeks ago and now is primed to compete at the state meet.
“After that injury, I just wanted to try to get to state again,” Grandstaff said. “I didn’t know where I would be, or how long it would take me to get back to where I was. So, I’m happy with this year, already.”
Lima Central Catholic’s Alex Rigg finished fourth (16:29.20) to advance.
“I knew the wind was going to be a big factor,” Rigg said. “So, I wanted to get behind some people and try to draft the best that I could and just hang with everyone.”
Coldwater’s Jon Wenning won the Division III race in 16:19.84. St. Henry’s Spencer Schulze was third (16:28.70).
On the girls side in Division III, Coldwater finished second to Liberty Center, 47-52. Sarah Kanney led Coldwater with a first-place finish (18:03.1). Teammate Christina Seas was close behind in second (18:05.29).
“They ran well,” Coldwater coach Marty Schoenherr said. “I gave them more motivation to run as one this week, and they did that today. They stepped up and they were communicating together.”
Added Kanney, “I feel like we worked really well together, today. She (Seas) pushed me and I pushed her. I don’t think we would have run those times if we wouldn’t have pushed each other.
Minster’s girls finished third (60), while St. Henry grabbed the fourth and final spot (146).
New Knoxville’s Cassie Boyle was seventh (19:32.62).
Division II at Tiffin
Van Wert will send both of its teams to the state meet.
On Saturday, the Van Wert boys’ team finished second to Western Buckeye League-rival Defiance, 71-104. Bryan was third (108) and Lexington was fourth (127)
Leading Van Wert was Connor Holliday (seventh, 16:23.37). The rest of Van Wert’s scorers were Connor Shaffer (16:47.13); Daniel Perry (16:50.21); Jordan Butler (17:09.12) and Cade Fleming (17:24.83).
On the girls’ side, Van Wert finished fourth (161).
Andi Foster led the Cougars with a 16th-place finish (19:47.57). The rest of Van Wert’s scorers included Amanda Clay (19:55.84); Schealissa Williams (20:07.55); Chloee Gamble (20:40.71) and Megan Barnhart (21:20.20).
“This is the first time in school history that both teams have qualified for state in the same year,” Van Wert coach Brendon Moody said. “We’ve had many good teams in the past, but we just haven’t been able to put it together with both teams on the same day. So, we’re pretty overwhelmed right now.”
Also in Division II boys, Ottawa-Glandorf’s Matias Trampe-Kindt (15th, 16:41.29) and Celina’s Cole Mertz (12th, 16:34.43) both advanced. In Division II girls, St. Marys’ Kristen Dammeyer finished 13th (19:37.72).
In the Division I girls race, Wapak’s Allie Zofkie, the only area qualifier in that division, finished 66th with a time of 20:37.