Making it to the state cross country meet is a huge accomplishment for any high school cross country runner.
For some runners, getting there isn’t enough.
Columbus Grove senior Jake Graham is hoping his third trip to the state meet is a charm.
Graham’s first-place finish at last Saturday’s Division III regional meet at Tiffin’s Hedges-Boyer Park helped lead his team to a fourth-place finish and a trip to the state meet.
The top four teams as well as the top 16 runners advanced to Saturday’s state meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
Graham’s sophomore season at the state meet, he finished 38th in a time of 16 minutes, 38.70 seconds. Last season, he placed 30th in a time of 16:42.81.
Throughout this season, Graham has been out in front of every race. He set a personal best at this year’s Galion Cross Country Festival, clocking an impressive time of 15:49.71.
Graham has high expectations, both individually and for the team.
“Top four is definitely our goal at state. Our pack has really gotten better,” Graham said.
The Bulldogs have been impressive this season. They won the Northwest Conference Championships and the Division III, District 2 title at Liberty Center.
The rest of the Columbus Grove pack includes Alex Shafer, Colton Grothaus, Grant Schroeder, Jerry Kesselmeyer, Logan Douglas and Nick Schmiesing.
FLEMING POISED TO GO FOR TITLE
Van Wert senior Jared Fleming has been here before. Last season at the Division II state meet, he finished 10th in 16:14.15.
This past weekend, Van Wert finished fifth at the Division II regional meet at Tiffin, so the team did not advance. However, Fleming, who won the Div. II race in 15:57.31, will make the trip to Hebron with teammates Kase Schalois and Connor Holliday. Schalois finished ninth (16:29.09), while Holliday finished 14th (16:37.81).
Fleming kicked down Defiance’s Abel Flores down the stretch to nab the win at Tiffin.
COLDWATER LOOKING TO CONTEND
The Coldwater girls will be looking to contend for the Division III state title on Saturday. The Cavaliers won the district title Saturday at Tiffin.
At last year’s state meet, Coldwater finished second to Liberty Center, a team it beat at last week’s district meet.
Leading Coldwater all season has been sophomore Sarah Kanney. Kanney won both the regional meet and district meet.
“I’m excited. …Our team is really coming together,” Kanney said. “We were state runners-up last year. So, we’re hoping to make our mark at state this year.”
Sarah Kanney’s personal-best is 17:43.41, which she set at this season’s district meet at Liberty-Center.
The rest of the Coldwater pack includes Jill Kanney, Christina Seas, Stephanie Honigford, Megan Kinninger, Lauren Seas and Ashley Schoenherr.
“We are where we want to be right now,” Coldwater coach Marty Schoenherr said. “Our (No.) 4 (runner) is coming on, Lauren Seas. She’s running really well. And I knew she was going to do this, because of the kind of competitor she is. Then, my No. 5 (runner), Ashley Schoenherr, she’s been dealing with leg issues all season. We finally got it figured out and she’s running healthy now.”