TIFFIN — When it comes to cross country, there’s always a race that leads up to the next race.
For Ottoville senior standout Brendan Siefker, Saturday’s Division III Tiffin Regional was a good prelude of what is to come.
Siefker, last year’s D-III state runner-up, faced last season’s state champion, Colonel Crawford’s Chad Johnson, at Tiffin’s Hedges-Boyer Park on Saturday.
At last year’s state meet, Johnson pulled away from Siefker, and went on to win the state title. The week before, at the Tiffin regional, Johnson pulled away from Siefker for the regional crown.
On Saturday, both Johnson and Siefker got out fast. But once again, Johnson gapped Siefker early in the race, en route to a winning time of 15 minutes, 48.91 seconds on the muddy 5,000-meter course. However, Siefker was able to close the gap a little, finishing in 15:55.80. Liberty Center’s Cameron Stark, who was on Siefker’s heels throughout the race, finished third (16:02.39).
Those same frontrunners will vie for a state title next Saturday when they compete at the state meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
“Last week at districts, I thought I went out a little too fast,” Siefker said. “I was at 4:45 at the (first) mile mark (last week). So, I kind of wanted to be a little more conservative today. I was at 4:55, hanging with Johnson at around the mile. After that (first mile), Johnson took off and it seemed to be just me and Stark running together for the rest of the race. He (Stark) ran really well today. He paced me well. But, the other pack wasn’t too far behind. So, there was a lot of good competition today. It really helped push me.”
Siefker realizes he will need to run his best race next Saturday in order to bring home the state title.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Siefker said. “I don’t know if he (Johnson) ran his hardest today. I ran for place. I just wanted to get a good time and qualify to get out. Next weekend could be altogether different. I know it’s supposed to warm up a little bit. It’s a really flat course; there are no hills. So, we’ll have to see how it goes.”
In the Division III boys’ race, the top seven teams, along with the top 28 individual placers advanced to the state meet.
Liberty Center won the D-III boys’ team title, defeating second-place New London 113-123. Minster had the top area performance, placing third (195). Lincolnview finished fourth (195), while St. Henry (208), Colonel Crawford (235) and Sandusky St. Marys C.C. (268) rounded out the top seven squads in the 23-team field.
In the Division III girls’ race, Minster’s strong pack of runners was just too much to overcome. The Wildcats placed its top four runners in the top 10, en route to a stellar score of 40 points. Pettisville was a distant second (136), while Columbus Grove finished third (140).
The top eight teams, along with the top 32 individuals, advanced to the state meet.
Other area teams placing in the top eight spots were St. Henry (fourth, 166) and Lincolnview (seventh, 233).
Minster sophomore Emma Watcke won the D-III race in 19:00.10.
“I hate being a broken record, but we just wanted to move on,” Minster girls’ coach Jessica Magato said. “We have to move up our back few (runners) to get a little better, but I was very happy at how they ran.”
For Columbus Grove, sophomore Alyssa Ellerbrock led the way with a seventh-place finish (19:29.99).
“We ran a good race today,” Columbus Grove girls’ coach Jason Jay said. “The way they competed today – I was really proud of that. They ran well. It’s the same game plan. You come out and do what you have done all season. I think they stepped it up a little bit, as far as their competitive level.”
For last year’s D-III state champion, Lima Central Catholic’s Emily Sreenan, it’s been a long road this season.
Sreenan, a senior, battled back from a nagging injury over the summer, and then later on suffered a stress fracture, which she is still dealing with.
On Saturday, Sreenan got out fast and stayed near the front of the pack, en route to a fourth-place finish (19:23.08).
“Today, I didn’t lose my breathe as early as I usually do,” Sreenan said. “I felt good for the entire race. It was cold out, so I wasn’t super hot. I think on this course, I’m focused more on strategy. So, I definitely felt better today, and my mental state was a lot better.”
In the Division II boys’ race, the top three teams, along with the top 12 finishers, advanced to the state meet.
Van Wert notched the third and final spot on Saturday, edging out fourth-place Milan Edison 94-110. Lexington won the regional title (42), while Shelby came in second (62).
Cal Wolfrum led Van Wert with a ninth-place finish (16:32.10), while teammate Jacob Wasson was close behind in 16th (16:50.53).
“That was the best, complete race we’ve run this season,” Van Wert coach Ryan Holliday said. “We’ve been talking every week for the last month, that each week we have to improve.”
In the girls’ Division II race, Lexington won the team title, 42-68, over second-place Defiance. Milan Edison (130) and St. Ursula Academy (131) rounded out the top four qualifying teams. Celina had the best area performance, placing seventh (214).
The top 16 individual finishers advanced to the state meet. There were no area D-II girls who qualified for the state meet.
In boys’ Division I, Defiance (55) placed second behind first-place Toledo Whitmer (36) to advance. The top three teams advanced to the state meet.
Leading Defiance Saturday was Mhalicki Bronson (fifth, 16:08.26) and Bryce Mendenhall (sixth, 16:09.33).
In Division I girls’ competition, Sylvania Northview won the regional crown. The top eight individuals advanced to the state meet. Wapakoneta’s Paige Schneider placed 15th (20:34.66).
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0451.