CELINA — The first cross country invitational of the season usually produces some optimism.
However, most coaches remain cautiously optimistic.
Saturday’s Celina Rotary Invitational at the Lake Campus of Wright State University produced a lot of positive vibes as many area cross country programs competed.
One of the high school programs that came away with a great deal of hope for a successful season was St. Marys.
The Roughriders finished second in the girls and boys Division I-II, 5,000-meter races Saturday.
On the girls side, St. Marys finished second to Celina, 74-61. Kenton was a close third (76), while Jay County (Indiana) and Woodlan (Indiana) came in fourth (83) and fifth (95), respectively, in a field of eight full teams.
In the boys competition, St. Marys competed well, but came up short to a very strong Decatur Bellmont (Indiana) squad 64-18. Benjamin Logan came in third (107), while Celina (109) and Elida (127) rounded out the top five schools.
Bellmont placed its top five runners in the top seven overall spots in Saturday’s race. Bellmont’s Kyle Lawson won in 16 minutes, 46.68 seconds. Bellmont claimed the next two spots as teammates Isaac Fuelling (16:54.62) and Jordan Garlinger (17:06.77) were close behind.
Longtime St. Marys cross country head coach Rob Cisco is pleased with his program’s good start. However, he also wants to keep it all in perspective.
This past Tuesday, St. Marys swept the Auglaize County Meet.
“I’m really happy with the performance here — with us getting second in both races. I’m really excited about that,” Cisco said. “Last year, we had a good start like this. We don’t want to get too happy about being second here. … I want to watch them progress. I felt like last year, we stepped back a little bit. So, I’m really pushing the kids to think, ‘This is great, but let’s get ready for Columbus Grove (Invitational) next week and keep this positive momentum going.’ We know that everyone that ran here today is going to get better each and every week. But, we’re happy with this good start.”
Noah Tobin led St. Marys on Saturday with a fourth-place finish (17:42.55). Rounding out the top five runners for St. Marys were Craig Stuttler (ninth, 18:25.09), Jordan Heitkamp (15th, 18:58.79), Tyler Birt (20th, 19:20.04) and Michael Crites (21st, 19:25.32).
“This is the first year that I’ve coached, where I’ve had a strong veteran team,” Cisco said about his boys squad. “In the 12, 13 years that I’ve been here, I’ve never had a team that had this many seniors running at this level.”
Cisco also is optimistic about his girls squad. Briana Cisco was the top St. Marys runner Saturday, finishing seventh (21:27.10). Woodlan’s Abbey Gentz won the race in 19:28.68. Celina’s Kaylie Dameron (20:07.21) and Joscelyn Dameron (20:41.15) finished second and third, respectively.
“We have a pretty good, veteran team,” Cisco said about his girls squad. “I had a couple freshmen step up and that’s really exciting for us. We were concerned about our depth; and today it was our depth that carried us.
“I’m proud to see our program get to this level. The seniors have stayed the course and are now seeing the fruits of their labor.”
In the boys Division III race, South Adams won the team title, edging Fort Loramie 54-60. Blackhawk Christian (67), Parkway (98) and Marion Local (151) rounded out the top five squads in the 10-team field.
Parkway senior Kyle Roth pulled away for the victory in 17:12.65. Blackhawk Christian’s Gabriel Connelly was second (17:18.07).
Roth made a move late in Saturday’s race, and took control.
“The course is very hilly,” Roth said. “There’s a hill over there where you can just stride down and really open up the gap on people. I really took advantage of that on our second loop and got away from the Blackhawk Christian kid.”
Roth is a two-time Division III state-qualifier. He also went to the state meet his freshman season with the team.
Roth said, coming into Saturday’s race, he was fully aware of the Blackhawk Christian standout.
“I knew who was going to be here,” Roth said. “So, I just tried to get out front and stay out front.”
Roth is coming off a victory at this past Tuesday’s Mercer County Meet, where he clocked a time of 16:42.77. Parkway also won the Mercer County boys team title, edging Celina, 49-57.
In Saturday’s girls Division III race, Fort Loramie won the team title, decisively, over second-place South Adams 29-78. St. Henry (89), Coldwater (130) and New Bremen (138) rounded out the top five teams.
Coldwater’s Haley Alig won the D-III race (19:39.39)
St. John’s Invitational
DELPHOS — Columbus Grove swept the boys and girls team championships.
The Grove boys finished with 45 points, two points ahead of runner-up Anna with Van Wert (110) and Lincolnview (132) finishing third and fourth respectively among the 12 with team scores.
CG’s Carson Closson (fourth), Caleb Stechschulte (fifth) and Tanner Smith (ninth) all finished among the top 20 individually. Perry’s Brady Yingst was second behind race winner Hayden Schmidt from Anna.
Van Wert’s Hunter Sherer (third) and Gage Wannemacher (10th), Ottoville’s Nolan German (sixth) and Kalida’s Ryan Lucke (eighth) also had top-10 finishes.
The Columbus Grove girls triumphed with 52 points with Van Wert (72), Anna (108), Delphos St. John’s (121) and Lincolnview (147) also finishing in the top five among the 12 that had team totals.
Race winner Alyssa Ellerbrock was joined by Grove teammates Erin Downing (third) and Leanndra Price (eighth) with top-10 finishes. Also among the top 10 were Van Wert’s Caylee Phillips (second), Lincolnview’s Madison Langdon (fourth), Leipsic’s Lola Wensink and DSJ’s Kambrynn Rohr (1oth).
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.