VAN WERT — It’s all about forming a strong pack of runners.
All season long, Lincolnview cross country coach Matt Langdon has been emphasizing the importance of moving his top five runners closer to the front of the pack of competitors.
The past few meets, the Lincolnview boys’ team has started to shore up its pack. Last season, Lincolnview placed 14th at the state meet in Division III.
At Saturday’s Van Wert Health Invitational at the Van Wert Reservoirs, the Lincolnview boys’ squad placed three runners in the top nine overall spots, en route to winning the team title over second-place Parkway 59-94. Van Wert (107) finished third, Shawnee was fourth (117) and Ottawa-Glandorf (135) came in fifth. Crestview (173), Coldwater (220) and Elida (230) rounded out the top eight teams in the 15-team field.
Leading the way for Lincolnview on Saturday was Alek Bowersock, who finished a close second to Parkway’s Matt Gaerke. Bowersock covered the 5,000-meter course in 16 minutes, 52.3 seconds. Gaerke won in 16:50.5.
Rounding out the top five runners for Lincolnview were Karter Tow (fourth, 16:59.3), Jacob Keysor (ninth, 17:26.2), Devon Bill (20th, 18:00.3) and Joe Sadowski (27th, 18:23.9).
“They’re running well,” Langdon said. “They had a really good day, today – in terms of placing in the meet. Alek (Bowersock) was second overall. He’s had a really good season so far. Karter (Tow) was right behind him. Jacob Keysor was third (on the team). He ran a lot better today. He was in our top 10.
“Some of our JV boys ran really well today. We’ve had a huge gap between our varsity and JV; and today that changed. They were pretty excited. They are starting to become legitimate (No.) 7, 8, 9, 10 guys (on the team).”
Lincolnview’s top three runners typically finish close together at most meets.
“Last year at regionals, they finished like within three seconds of each other,” Langdon said about his top three runners. “We really haven’t quite done that yet (this year), but I think it’s coming. Then with Devon (Bill) – he’s having a great season. Our No. 5 (runner) was actually sick today. But, Joe (Sadowski) has been running really well. He PR’d today. We have three guys up there, almost four. But, down the road, like in the regional race, we’ll need to get those guys closer, because it starts to add up pretty quickly.”
Parkway’s Gaerke found himself in a tight battle with Bowersock for the top spot in Saturday’s race. Last season, Gaerke was a Division III state-qualifier.
“The main goal today was just to go out hot, because I knew the weather was going to be pretty good,” Gaerke said. “I haven’t had a good race in a couple weeks. So, I wanted to set the tone early. I think at about 800 (meters) in, I had the lead. Alek Bowersock from Lincolnview came up on me. He ran with me for probably the first 2 ½ miles. Then, when we took the last couple turns, he went ahead a little bit. Then, probably with 400 (meters left), I started my kick, caught him and went on to win.”
Gaerke wants to get the team back to the state meet – something Parkway accomplished two years ago.
“That’s the main goal,” Gaerke said. “Last year, I think we were off by like two points (of qualifying for the state meet). So, that was kind of hard to swallow. It was really nice two years ago, going as a team. It’s a totally different atmosphere.”
Gaerke’s teammate Kyle Roth, finished third Saturday in 16:59.2. Roth also was a state-qualifier last season for Parkway.
In Saturday’s girls’ race, Coldwater took home the team title. The Cavaliers defeated second-place Lincolnview 46-69. Rounding out the nine full teams in Saturday’s race were Shawnee (third, 77), Delphos St. John’s (fourth, 92), Crestview (fifth, 129), Van Wert (sixth, 149), Parkway (seventh, 179), Ottawa-Glandorf (eighth, 211) and Paulding (ninth, 237).
Langdon was pleased how his girls’ team ran Saturday.
“We didn’t run well last week (second at O-G Blue/Gold Invite),” Langdon said. “I got on them this week. We had some pretty intense talks. (Today) they fought the last mile and they flipped the race and probably got ahead of St. John’s and Shawnee in the last mile or so. We haven’t been doing that. … We haven’t been fighting hard enough. But today, every girl caught somebody.”
Van Wert’s Caylee Phillips won Saturday’s race in 19:50.5. Phillips’ closest competitor was Coldwater’s Haley Alig (20:20.9).
Phillips felt confident, coming in, on her chances of winning Saturday’s race, since her times were faster than the field.
“I kind of knew (the chances were good), because I talked to my coaches before the meet,” she said. “So, I had to be in the mindset of kind of running by myself.”
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