For a distance runner, November is a special month.
Every high school cross country runner wants to be competing the first Saturday in November.
If the athlete is still competing after October has come and gone, that means he or she has made it to the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Cross Country Championships.
This Saturday, many area runners will toe the starting line at National Trail Raceway in Hebron in pursuit of completing the perfect season.
For most area programs, this season has been a work in progress.
For the past few months, area coaches worked hard at developing a solid pack of runners, in hopes of being a contender in late October.
One of the programs that was successful in accomplishing this was the Lincolnview boys’ squad.
This season, longtime Lincolnview coach Matt Langdon solidified his pack, coming down the stretch. Now, the Lancers look to make some noise at Saturday’s state tournament.
At this past Saturday’s Division III regional meet at Tiffin, the Lincolnview boys’ squad finished second to New London (143-129) and advanced to the state meet. The top seven teams in the D-III boys’ race advanced.
Lincolnview is an experienced group. Senior Alek Bowersock led the Lancers at the Tiffin regional, finishing third overall on the 5,000-meter course in 16 minutes, 25.69 seconds.
Behind Bowersock were seniors Jacob Keysor (16:54.29) and Karter Tow (16:55.04). The rest of Lincolnview’s pack included junior Devon Bill (17:38.91), senior Collin Puckett (17:45.78), freshman Daegan Hatfield (18:18.13) and junior Joe Sadowski (18:31.90).
Last season, Lincolnview finished 14th at the state meet.
“They’re so steady,” Langdon said about his top three runners. “The younger kids feed off that. They understand the mental preparation. And they just bring a certain confidence, because they’ve been there.
There’s no doubt in their eyes that it’s going to go OK. It’s going to be tough to see that group go. Jacob (Keysor), Alek (Bowersock) and Karter (Tow) have been to state all four years.”
The Lincolnview girls’ team placed fifth in the Division III race at Tiffin and qualified for the state meet. The top eight teams in that regional race advanced.
Leading the way for the Lincolnview girls’ squad at Tiffin was Coach Langdon’s two daughters, sophomore Madison (20:08) and senior Brayden (21:06.77). Rounding out the pack for Lincolnview were junior Victoria Snyder (21:08.02), freshman Julia Stetler (21:28.69), seniors Madeline Snyder (21:51.46) and Rylee Byrne (22:43.88), and sophomore Dylann Carey (24:15.98).
The Northwest Conference will be well-represented at Hebron.
Just like Lincolnview, Columbus Grove will be sending the boys’ and girls’ teams to the state tournament.
The Columbus Grove boys finished fourth at Tiffin. Leading the way for the Bulldogs is junior Johnny Schmiedebusch, who finished second at Tiffin (16:21.61). Last season, Schmiedebusch competed as an individual at Hebron. This weekend, Schmiedebusch will have some company.
Freshman Carson Closson (17:16.76), senior Jordan Bellman (17:17.46), freshman Caleb Stechschulte (17:27.43), juniors Breece Pingle (18:02.83) and Tanner Smith (18:05.69) and freshman Tayden Pingle (18:46.66) rounded out the rest of Columbus Grove’s pack at Tiffin.
This season has posed some challenges for the Bulldogs.
“We suffered a great loss when No. 2 (runner) Grant Mumaugh went down,” Columbus Grove boys coach Terry Schnipke said. “He had some shin splints and some other mechanical issues; and he hasn’t been able to come back at all. When you think about trying to replace a kid that runs a 17:02, that’s tough. But, Jordan Bellman went from 17:50 to 17:12 and has been stable for us. Then today (at the regional meet), a freshman, Carson Closson stepped up. It’s been a fun group. They’ve been really fun to coach.”
On the girls’ side, Columbus Grove’s girls team placed sixth at Tiffin and advanced to the state meet.
The Bulldogs are led by junior Alyssa Ellerbrock, who finished 11th (19:34.16) at Tiffin.
Rounding out the seven Columbus Grove runners at Tiffin were sophomore Erin Downing (20:05.84), junior Leanndra Price (20:41.80), sophomores Morgan Deffenbaugh (21:59.43), Emily Schumacher (22:28.75), Zoe Stechschulte (22:34.34) and freshman Hannah Schroeder (23:21.11).
The Crestview girls team grabbed the eighth and final qualifying spot at Tiffin. Junior Ragen Harting led the way for the Knights at regionals, finishing 18th (19:54.28). The rest of the Knights included freshmen Emily Greulach (20:56.04) and Lauren Walls (20:56.84), senior Lizzie Bowen (21:39.56), sophomores Adalynn Longstreth (23:25.90) and Kenzie Leeth (24:20.07), and junior Lydia Saylor (24:42.79).
Individually, Spencerville freshman Lillee Stewart qualified for the state meet with a 30th-place finish (20:20.47) at Tiffin. The top 32 finishers advanced.
When it comes to representing the Midwest Athletic Conference, the Minster girls program seems to always be at the forefront. The Wildcats will be vying for their third consecutive state title this Saturday.
At the Division III Tiffin regional, Minster ran away with the crown, out-scoring second-place Archbold, 35-102. Minster placed its five scorers in the top 16 overall spots.
Defending state champion, Minster junior Emma Watcke, pulled away for the win at Tiffin (18:27.77). Coming into Saturday’s state meet, Watcke looks to be the front-runner once again.