ELIDA — On paper, this year’s Western Buckeye League Cross Country Championships looked to be a tight race.
On the course Saturday, the WBL races played out exactly that way.
On the boys side, Van Wert slipped past Defiance for the team title, 48-50. Shawnee finished third (68), while Ottawa-Glandorf (78) and St. Marys (164) rounded out the top five squads in the 10-team field.
In the girls race, both Van Wert and Celina scored 71 points. However, with the sixth-runner tiebreaker, Van Wert came away with the team title. Shawnee (73), Defiance (101) and Ottawa-Glandorf (121) rounded out the five teams. Both Kenton and Ottawa-Glandorf scored 121 points, but once again, the tiebreaker came into play.
“I’ve never seen races so tight, on the way the scores played out,” Van Wert head coach Ryan Holliday said. “It was great competition. We knew on both sides, that it was going to be a dogfight.”
Hunter Sherer led Van Wert with a second-place finish on the 5,000-meter course that traversed around the Elida High School campus, in a time of 16 minutes, 28.75 seconds.
The rest of Van Wert’s scorers were Asanke Steyer (fourth, 16:36.20), Gage Wannemacher (10th, 17:02.29), Jacob Wasson (11th, 17:07.19) and Gage Springer (22nd, 17:32.02).
Shawnee’s Isaiah Johns pulled away from Sherer to win the boys race in 16:20.78.
Johns and Sherer got out to a fast start, as Johns went through the first mile in five minutes flat. Sherer was still on Johns’ heels at that point of the race.
However, as the race progressed, Johns began to gap Sherer. In the final stretch, the Shawnee junior shifted into high gear and pulled away for his first WBL title.
“That first mile, I came out and felt really good,” Johns said. “I was in front of the Van Wert kid. I just took off and felt really good.
“Around mile two, I thought I had him. Coming around the last 800 meters, I kicked it in. I thought, ‘I’m not getting beat today.’”
Johns’ teammate, freshman Noah Williams, finished third (16:30.48).
Defiance was led by Eli Fortman’s seventh-place finish (16:54.76).
Defiance’s pack was tight. Behind Fortman were Josh Horvath (eighth, 16:58.77), Brennen Roehrig (ninth, 17:01.94), Nolan Morgan (12th, 17:09.37) and Eli Valle (14th, 17:15.08).
For the Van Wert girls, Kyra Welch led the way with an eighth-place finish (20:35.45).
Rounding out Van Wert’s scorers were Rachel Spath (13th, 21:12.78), Tyra McClain (14th, 21:19.87), Tayler Carter (15th, 21:22.40) and Carly Smith (22nd, 21:37.11).
“On the girls side, we felt like there were five teams that could walk away (with the WBL title),” Holliday said. “We thought we could get first or we could get fifth. It all depended on who showed up and how the other teams did. We were fortunate to come out on top.
“On the boys side, it was the same thing. For one thing, Shawnee beat us last week at Coldwater (Lions Invitational). … We were missing one in our top five (last week), but hey, they (Shawnee) are a force to be reckoned with. With Defiance, we knew they were going to come in, ready to win it,” Holliday said.
Van Wert actually swept all four races Saturday (two high school, two middle school).
“To come in with the competition that we have in our league, and be able to walk away with four team titles – two high school and two middle school – I don’t have words for how special that is. … It’s a special thing,” Holliday said.
Celina’s sister duo of Kaylie Dameron and Joscelyn Dameron, finished one-two, respectively Saturday. Kaylie Dameron pulled away from her sister to record a winning time of 18:31.05, while her sister crossed the finish line in 19:14.04.
“I try to go out fast the first mile, and then just keep picking up my speed on the second and third miles. … That’s basically my strategy,” Kaylie Dameron said.
Behind the Dameron sisters, Rose Kraner (18th, 21:28.89), Kyleah Giesige (25th, 21:54.25) and Tatum Andrew (28th, 22:08.72) rounded out Celina’s top five runners.