HEBRON — Last fall, Ottoville’s Brendan Siefker made a serious run in the postseason, finishing second at the Division III state cross country meet to Colonel Crawford’s Chad Johnson.
Heading into this season, Siefker knew the state title, once again, would have to go through Johnson.
At last Saturday’s regional meet at Tiffin, Johnson pulled away from Siefker after the first mile and went on to win the regional title.
At Saturday’s Ohio High School Athletic Association State Cross Country Championships at National Trail Raceway, Johnson got out fast and gapped Siefker early, en route to winning the state title in a time of 15 minutes, 33.3 seconds. Siefker finished second in 15:45.5 on the 5,000-meter course.
“This year, (finishing in) top two was really my goal,” Siefker said. “I wanted to give Johnson a good run. He led it pretty well at the (first) mile. I just kind of respected that and settled into my own race and finished second. So, I was really happy with that.”
Siefker knew he could not afford to fall too far behind Johnson, if he wanted to be in the hunt.
“Once you get gapped that much early, it’s hard to get back in it,” Siefker said. “You kind of have to make a really important decision early in the race – ‘Am I going to try to run with him when he does that, or am I going to run my own race?’
“It’s kind of risky, because if I run with him, maybe I will have a better shot. But on the flipside, maybe you could die out too. So, it’s kind of a risky decision. I just went with what I felt today and I decided to run my pace.”
By 1,200 meters into the race, it became more of a battle for second, as Siefker found himself running with Liberty Center’s Cameron Stark, who finished a close third (15:51).
Siefker was a little surprised at the pace of Saturday’s race.
“After maybe the first 1,000 meters, I felt like we were still running pretty hard,” Siefker said. “So, I tried to get back into a pace a little bit. I was kind of wrong about that, because we came through the (first) mile and we were about maybe 5, 10 seconds slower than what I wanted to be. Then, it was kind of the same thing at the 2-mile. I wanted to be around 9:55 at the 2-mile, and I was at 10:05. So, it was kind of an odd race. I felt like we were going fast, but the times weren’t quite there. Maybe it was because the course was kind of chewed up and really soft. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it, or if it was the way it was led today.”
Siefker said he doesn’t like to lose, but said he wasn’t ashamed of losing to a runner of the caliber of Johnson. Johnson will be competing in track and cross country next school year at Iowa State.
“Johnson is a great runner. It will be exciting to see what he does in college. So, I’m glad I got to run against him. I think he made me a lot better,” Siefker said.
The top 25 placers in each race on Saturday, earned all-Ohio honors. Besides Siefker, St. Henry’s Devin Huelskamp earned all-Ohio honors, finishing 22nd in 16:29.
In the Division III boys’ team standings, Lincolnview had the best area performance Saturday, finishing 14th out of 20 teams. St. Henry came in 16th, while Minster was 18th.
Title successfully defended
Coming into Saturday’s Division III state meet, a lot of people wondered if Minster could defend its state title. Winning back-to-back state crowns isn’t an easy task in any sport.
However, Minster left no doubt Saturday, as the Wildcats defeated its closest competitor, Mount Gilead, 34-131.
Minster sophomore Emma Watcke put an exclamation point on the Minster team victory, by pulling away late in the race to win in 18:38.4. Minster put three runners in the top nine overall spots.
“It’s just a testament to the girls on what they do, day in and day out,” longtime Minster girls’ coach Jessie Magoto said. “Everyone trains hard. They’re all aggressive. I tell them to be confident, and leave it all out there.”
Watcke broke away from a pack of runners late in the race to nab the state title.
“She’s just a very smart runner,” Magoto said about Watcke. “She’s a confident person. She’s smart, savvy and knows how to read the competition and be patient. That’s the biggest thing about her – she knows how to be patient. When the time comes to lay down the hammer, she’s a fierce competitor.”
Rounding out the top five runners for Minster were Gwendolyn Meiring (fourth, 19:03), Kaitlynn Albers (ninth, 19:12.6), Mackenzie Bohman (13th, 19:15) and Ella Boate (22nd, 19:26.5).
Sreenan earns all-Ohio
It’s been a long road back for last year’s Division III state champion, Lima Central Catholic senior Emily Sreenan.
After suffering a stress fracture in her shin, earlier this season, Sreenan battled back and made a return to the state meet.
On Saturday, Sreenan stayed with the frontrunners for the first two miles, before she fell off pace, en route to an 11th-place finish (19:13.7).
“I was like in fourth until about the 2-mile mark, which was way better than I expected,” Sreenan said with a smile. “At the beginning of the race, I went out really hard, because that’s my style and I wanted to see how this would go. I figured I might die at the 2-mile mark, but it was my last race. So, I wanted to go out and do my best.”
“The shin felt OK. Like, the last mile, it started to hurt a little bit. I think I just gutted it out the last mile. So, I was proud of that. I’m glad I got to come out here and race my best.”
Grove girls eighth
Alyssa Ellerbrock led the Columbus Grove girls to an eighth-place finish in Division III. Ellerbrock finished 15th overall in 19:17.5.
“I was really hoping to get on the podium,” Ellerbrock said. “That was my goal. Every person I passed, I just kept thinking that it’s one more spot up on the podium. I was hoping for a PR, but I was happy at how I placed.”
Other area girls’ Division III teams that competed Saturday were St. Henry (13th) and Lincolnview (20th).
Van Wert boys 13th
The Van Wert boys’ team placed 13th in Division II. Jacob Wasson led the Cougars with a 31st-place finish (16:43.6).
Defiance girls 8th,
boys finish 15th
The Defiance girls’ squad finished eighth in Division II on Saturday. Shay Soukup led Defiance with a 30th-place finish (19:17.9).
The Defiance boys’ 15th-place team was led by Mhalicki Bronson’s 19th-place finish (16:01.4).
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0451.