ADA — The Ohio Northern University cross country and track-and-field programs could be two of the best-kept secrets in the area.
The Polar Bears have consistently been one of the best programs in the Ohio Athletic Conference, year-in and year-out.
ONU head coach Jason Maus is one of the main reasons why.
In his first eight years as the head cross country coach at ONU, Maus notched six Ohio Athletic Conference team titles, between the girls’ and boys’ teams combined.
In his first eight seasons, his men’s teams have posted an impressive 852-176 overall record, a winning percentage of .829.
The ONU women’s program has compiled an overall mark of 687-316 (.685 winning percentage) in Maus’ first eight years of being in charge.
Maus now has the distinction of being tabbed the winningest cross-country head coach in school history for both the men and women.
This fall, in his ninth season at the helm, Maus nailed down one more OAC crown, as his boys’ squad won its third consecutive conference title, which marked the first time in school history an ONU team has won three straight conference titles.
At the OAC Championships, junior Ian McVey won the individual conference title in 25 minutes, 4.3 seconds, while senior teammate Matt Molinaro finished second overall (25:09.6) on the 8,000-meter course. ONU placed three of its runners in the top-five overall spots in the conference race. St. Henry product Spencer Schulze, a junior, was ONU’s fifth runner at the conference meet (25:52.1). Freshman Travis Sutter (Fort Recovery) was ONU’s sixth runner (27:11.1).
The ONU men (80-17) are ranked 18th in the nation, according to the United States Track & Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association poll (Division III).
On the women’s side, the Polar Bears finished fourth at the OAC Championships. Senior Emily Richards and junior Ashlie Baumann led the Polar Bears. Richards finished second on the 6,000-meter course in 22:04.4, while Baumann came in sixth (22:42.9). The ONU women are 68-29 overall.
Both the ONU men and women compete Saturday at the NCAA Division III Great Lakes Regional Meet at Liberty Park in Powell, Ohio. The regionals are hosted by Ohio Wesleyan University. The top two teams, along with the top seven individuals not on a qualifying team, automatically advance to the NCAA Division III Championships on Nov. 18 at Elsah, Ill. Teams that place beyond the top two qualifying squads at regionals are then eligible for at-large bids.
Heading into Saturday’s regionals, Maus’ overall career record stands at 932-193 (.828 winning percentage) for the men’s program, and 755-345 (.680) on the women’s side.
Maus, a former Van Wert standout distance runner, graduated from Heidelberg in 2002, where he was a three-time Academic All-American in track and cross country.
Maus then joined the ONU staff in 2002, and was an assistant coach for both the cross-country and track-and-field programs up through 2008.
In 2009, Maus took over both programs.
Last cross-country season, the ONU men sported a stellar 114-20 overall record and won the OAC Championships. That same squad finished 14th out of 32 teams at the NCAA Division III Championships in Louisville, Ky., which was the second-best finish in school history.
In 2015, the men’s squad recorded a 134-9 record, an incredible winning percentage of .937.
But, it’s not just cross country that reins at ONU. The Polar Bears have also been very successful on the track.
In track-and-field, ONU is coming off a banner year in which the women’s team finished first at the OAC Outdoor Championships, and the men finished second.
Richards is a five-time national champion in track. Richards won the 800-meter run at the 2016 Outdoor Nationals, and went on to win both the 800 and 1-mile national titles at the 2017 Indoor National Meet. She then went on to notch both the 800- and 1,500-meter titles at the 2017 Outdoor National Meet. Richards also competed at the 2017 USA Championships in the 800 in Sacramento, California, where she finished eighth (2:01.74).
On the boys’ side in track, Molinaro finished third in the 800 at nationals (1:51.39), while teammate Kase Schalois (Van Wert), who has since graduated, finished third in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Maus has garnered a total of five OAC titles in track (men and women combined).
So, in his ninth season at the helm, the secret may finally be out.
When it comes to cross country and track-and-field, ONU is definitely a school to contend with.
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0451.