TIFFIN — Longtime Shawnee cross country coach Russ Holly, like most veteran coaches, preaches the importance of running as a pack.
In a competitive cross country meet, every spot is important.
At Saturday’s Division II regional meet at Tiffin’s Hedges-Boyer Park, the Shawnee girls team finished third and advanced to next Saturday’s state meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
The top four teams, along with the top 16 individual placers in the Division II race, qualified for the state meet.
“Our top six (runners) were all within a minute of each other, which is really important,” Holly said. “The score was tight. So, that was important we ran well as a pack.”
Holly points to his team’s commitment, as the key to its success.
“The ticket is, you have to sell out. You have to be willing to suffer a little pain and put out the effort, because it hurts. The other thing is, they worked hard all season,” an emotional Holly said.
Leading the way Saturday for Shawnee was Celia Spieles, who finished 16th in 19:33.7 on the 5,000-meter course.
“It’s pretty cool. … It’s honestly, pretty amazing,” Spieles said about Shawnee qualifying for state. “I knew we could do it. We just all had to work really hard and push each other. … And here we are.
“We were practicing at Faurot Park (this past week), since we knew there were some hills here. That really helped, because we got here and we were ready to go.”
Rounding out the pack for Shawnee were Molly Stump (27th, 20:15.4), Lily Cleaves (31st, 20:23.7), Alaina Williams (41st, 20:45.8), Lexie Marshall (49th, 20:59.7), Emily Bryan (54th, 21:04.7) and Katie Curl (72nd, 22:18.6).
Spieles also plays soccer during the fall. So, splitting her time between the two sports has been a challenge.
“I probably got to about half of the meets, and I really could never get to cross country practice,” Spieles said. “This was really my first (full) week of going to cross country practice.”
Holly is excited about getting his girls squad to the state meet.
“I have never taken a girls team to state,” he said. “The last time I think we took a girls team to state was maybe when we won state back in the ’80s.”
The Shawnee girls were state champs in 1983.
Lexington won the D-II team title Saturday, outscoring Ontario 30-74. Celina was close behind Shawnee (131-135), nabbing the fourth and final qualifying spot.
This marks the first time since 2000, that Celina has sent a full team to the state cross country meet.
“In this meet (regionals), you don’t know what’s ahead of you,” longtime Celina coach Dan Otten said. “I told them that finishing even 50th is not bad. It’s really hard to tell how you stack up with all the individuals in there. But they all ran really well.”
Leading the way for Celina on Saturday was Kaylie Dameron, who finished eighth in 18:57.6. Sister Joscelyn Dameron was the next Celina runner, placing 16th (19:46.3). Caleigh Ross (23rd, 19:54.8), Zoey Aukerman (45th, 20:54.3) and Rose Kraner (69th, 22:08.9) rounded out the top five for Celina.
Qualifying for state, individually, on Saturday were Van Wert’s Caylee Phillips (sixth, 18:42.6) and Defiance’s Shay Soukup (12th, 19:25.9).
On the boys side in Division II, the top three teams and top 12 individuals, advance to the state meet.
Defiance won the D-II regional team title Saturday.
Mhalicki Bronson led Defiance with a second-place finish in a stellar time of 15:07.7. Shelby’s Caleb Brown pulled away from Bronson for a winning time of 14:57.9.
Shawnee had the top area performance in D-II, as it finished sixth with 143 points. Western Buckeye League foe Ottawa-Glandorf came in seventh (154).
Shawnee sophomore Isaiah Johns grabbed the 12th spot (16:29.2) to qualify for the state meet.
Johns said he was aware of where he stood, throughout the entire race.
“A lot of people told me where I was,” Johns said. “There was someone behind me in 13th and I felt him come up on me. That’s when I just took off. I wasn’t going to let him catch me. The last mile, I pulled away from him.
“My goal was 16:20. But with these conditions, you just have to come out and do your best. That’s what it’s all about – getting to state.”
For Waynesfield-Goshen freshman Taylor Spencer, running a 5K wasn’t something she thought she would be doing at this level.
Throughout her middle school years, Spencer excelled in the 800 meters and 1,600 meters on the track.
So far, it appears the transition is going quite well.
At Saturday’s Division III regional at Tiffin, Spencer placed fifth in 18:46.6 to qualify for next Saturday’s state meet.
In the girls D-III race, the top 28 placers and the top seven teams qualify for the state meet.
“It’s a lot different,” Spencer said. “I’m used to going at it a lot harder like in the mile. In a 5K, you have to pace yourself, or you will die out in the first mile. It’s been a big transition, but my coaches and teammates have all been very supportive. I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Longtime W-G coach Jim Hennon said it took some persuasion to get Spencer out for cross country.
“For two years, we’ve been trying to get her to run junior high (cross country),” Hennon said. “She also plays volleyball. We had a few meets when she played volleyball and didn’t run.
“When we ran the county meet (this season), she won by 2 minutes, 16 seconds. … She runs a 19:08 on her very first meet. She had never run in a 5K race before that.
“We’ve only had three girls ever make it to regionals. We’ve never had anyone make it to state. So, we’re really excited,” Hennon said.
Minster won the D-III girls team title Saturday. The Wildcats defeated second-place Liberty Center 62-91.
Ella Boate led Minster with a second-place finish (18:34.1). Liberty Center’s Hope Oelkrug won the race in 18:26.3.
“I thought they ran well,” longtime Minster girls coach Jessie Magoto said. “The bottom line is that all I want them to do, is advance. No matter what place you are, you’re still running in November.
“So, we got some PRs and the girls worked together. Overall, I’m pretty happy at how they ran.”
Columbus Grove placed third Saturday to advance.
“They take the top seven (teams to state). So, obviously, that’s the goal – move on to the next week,” Columbus Grove girls coach Jason Jay said. “We had a target of coming in and getting top two. That would have been really great for the seniors to get the medallions and regional trophies. But, top three is not too bad, because that’s some pretty good company to be associated with.”
Alyssa Ellerbrock led Columbus Grove with a seventh-place finish (18:52.5). Ellerbrock, a senior, has qualified for the state meet all four years.
“It was really exciting,” Ellerbrock said. “That was our best finish at regionals since my sophomore year. So, it was really nice to see.”
Rounding out the rest of the pack for Columbus Grove were Erin Downing (49th, 20:50.1), Ellie Keehn (67th, 21:11.7), Addison Schafer (73rd, 21:18.3), Leanndra Price (93rd, 21:35.3), Sydney Witteborg (126th, 22:17.9) and Zoe Stechschulte (131st, 22:26.4).
Delphos St. John’s also qualified for the state meet. The Blue Jays finished seventh Saturday.
Kambrynn Rohr led St. John’s with a 46th place finish (20:44.6).
The rest of St. John’s pack included Catherine Kopack (52nd, 20:50.9), Jenia Freewalt (63rd, 21:05.9), Rylee Pohlman (83rd, 21:28.7), Adara Fuerst (139th, 22:38.3) and Abby Shafer (161st, 23:26.5).
Those qualifying individually Saturday included Coldwater’s Haley Alig (sixth, 18:48.6), Crestview’s Ragen Harting (18th, 19:36.3), Lincolnview’s Madison Langdon (19th, 19:37), St. Henry’s Leah Heitkamp (24th, 19:47.9) and Spencerville’s Lillee Stewart (26th, 19:51.5).
On the boys’ side in Division III, the top seven teams and the top 28 placers all advance to the state meet.
Minster was the lone area boys D-III team to advance. The Wildcats placed fifth.
Perry sophomore Braden Yingst had the best area performance, placing 11th overall (16:36.8).
“I’m extremely happy,” Yingst said. “Last year, I came to regionals and didn’t have a great race as a freshman. I knew this year that I could make up for it. I didn’t run quite as fast as I wanted, but I’m happy that I’m going to state.”
Also qualifying for the state meet in D-III were Coldwater’s Isaac Schoen (15th, 16:44.1), Parkway’s Kyle Roth (22nd, 16:53.4) and Lima Central Catholic’s Quentin Potempa (26th, 16:55.6).
Wapakoneta’s Page Schneider did not advance out of the Division I race, finishing 27th in 20:29.8 behind race winner Lauryn Mick (17:55.96) from Notre Dame Academy.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0468.