COLUMBUS GROVE — The Columbus Grove boys cross country team was hungry.
After the COVID-19 pandemic put an abrupt halt to the spring track season, the Columbus Grove boys distance crew was anxious to get back out and compete.
At Saturday’s Columbus Grove Invitational, the Bulldogs’ pack of runners led the field, en route to the team title in the Gray Division. There were three divisions on Saturday.
Columbus Grove scored 60 points to win the Gray Division. Tinora was second with 78 points. Anna was close behind with 82. Minster (100) and Liberty-Benton (110) rounded out the top five squads in the 15-team field
Junior Carson Closson led Columbus Grove with a fifth-place finish in a personal-best time of 16 minutes, 35.67 seconds in a field of 121 runners on the 5,000-meter course, that wound around the Columbus Grove campus and finished on the track inside Clymer Stadium.
“I felt good. … I knew I would be around the top 10 (overall finishers),” Closson said. “I just tried to stick in that area for the whole race, and I did. I PR’d by two seconds. I was focused on my splits.”
Teammate Caleb Stechschulte was hot on Closson’s heels, finishing sixth in 16:41.12. Rounding out the rest of Columbus Grove’s scorers were Trent Koch (11th, 17:01.18), Caleb Morman (18th, 17:35.84) and Roy Langhals (20th, 17:40.35).
Closson said he and his teammates are excited about this season.
“We only lost two of our top seven (runners). So, we’re doing pretty good,” he said.
Longtime Columbus Grove boys coach Terry Schnipke is pleased at the strong start of his team, despite the challenges of working through a pandemic.
“Our theme this year is, ‘Carry the Fire’,” Schnipke said. “That can mean a lot of different things to different people. But for most of our guys — with not having their track season — they came out pretty hungry this year. They worked really hard this summer. This week, they worked really hard to get ready.
“Obviously, we wanted to defend our home course. This is a big meet for them. Usually, all their family, loved ones, cousins are all out on the course watching. It didn’t happen today, but they still made the most of it.”
Individually, in the boys Gray Division, Minster junior Alex Albers just edged out Anna’s Hayden Schmidt for the win. Albers’ official time was 15:49.22, which is a new school record. Schmidt crossed the finish line in 15:49.77.
Albers said Saturday’s conditions were ideal for a fast race.
“It was unbelievable,” Albers said. “This morning (race time) was 8 a.m. We practice in the mornings, all summer. So, you’re in that mindset anyways. There was no wind. … And if there was any wind, I didn’t have to take it. I can thank Hayden Schmidt from Anna. He paced me through that entire race. I’m not good at pacing. If I have to run a 5:05 per mile (pace), I either go way too fast or go too slow.”
In the girls Gray Division, Minster placed its top five runners in the top 10 overall spots, en route to the team title.
Minster scored 29 points. Woodmore was the nearest team with 81 points. Anna (101), Liberty-Benton (113) and Carey (129) rounded out the top five teams in the girls Gray Division. Columbus Grove placed sixth (147). There were 11 full squads.
Carey’s Sarah Reinhart (18:21.19) edged out Minster’s Ella Boate (18:40.58) for the individual title in the girls Gray Division.
In the boys Red Division, Botkins won the team title (36). Lincolnview was second (75), while Kalida was a close third (79). Fayette (103) and Hopewell-Loudon (130) closed out the top five teams. There were eight full teams.
Botkins’ Alan Fullenkamp won the boys Red Division race in 17:00.18. Kalida’s Ryan Lucke (third, 17:25.39) had the best local finish. Lincolnview’s Daegan Hatfield was close behind Lucke in fifth (17:31.74). Kalida’s Will Zeller was sixth (17:31.75).
“This is my best time, by far, this season,” Lucke said. “Last year, my best time was 16:54. So, I’m trying to work down to that time.”
In the girls Red Division, Botkins ran away with the team crown, defeating second-place Edgerton, 35-71. Hopewell-Loudon (88), Antwerp (89) and Lincolnview (115) closed out the top five teams. There were seven full teams that figured into the scoring in the Red Division.
Brittany Arnold from Botkins won the Red Division (19:41.71), while teammate Emma Koenig was close behind in second place (19:51.43).
Lincolnview’s Madison Langdon had the best area performance. The Lincolnview senior came in third (19:58.74).
In the boys White Division, Perrysburg won the team title (52). St. Francis (66) came in second. Van Wert had the best area finish, placing fourth (98).
In the girls White Division, Perrysburg won the team title (21). Van Wert had the best area performance (third, 78), while St. Marys was fourth (134).
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