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Running cross country this late in the season speaks volumes. It means enduring the season-long grind, which separates the best from the rest in the state.
The best will be on hand Saturday at the state championships at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, Ohio.
Liberty Center girls and boys coach Tim Atkinson knows what it takes to still be running.
Not only is the Tigers’ girls team looking to defend its Division III state championship, the LC boys team is making its first trip to the state meet in nearly 20 years.
“We have a strong program,” Atkinson said. “We’ve started our own tradition. We have a great program, and the kids have worked very hard, and the community is really the backbone of our program.”
Liberty Center junior Brittany Atkinson, the coach’s daughter, leads a girls team that is basically intact from last season when it pulled off an unexpected state title.
Seniors Paige Chamberlain and Sarah Knapp, sophomores Olivia Kundo and Rachael Pinson, and freshmen Emma Babcock and Jenna Vollmar complete the group that won a regional championship Saturday.
LC, along with regional runner-up Coldwater and third-place Minster, figures among favorites for the D-III crown.
“Any one of these three teams can win the state title,” coach Atkinson said. “Then you throw in Gilmour Academy and I think it’s anybody’s game. It’s who has the best day. It’s going to be really an exciting race.”
For the boys, LC senior Cameron Weaks and Alan Meyer lead the way for the Tigers’ first trip to state under Atkinson. Juniors Matt Baker, Jason Hadley, Kyle Nash, and Vince Pinson, and sophomore Colin Burns helped the team claim its first regional title.
“We’ve been kind of under the radar all season long,” Atkinson said of the boys team. “The boys saw what the girls did and got excited about it and performed really well.”
Holgate freshmen Emma Willett and Gabbi Willett and Pettisville freshman Alexa Leppelmeier will also run in the D-III state meet.
Perrysburg coach Jon Monheim has a veteran group running in the D-I girls race.
The Yellow Jackets won a regional championship for the first time in school history.
Seniors Taylor Monheim, the coach’s daughter, and Courtney Clody lead the Yellow Jackets. Monheim finished 65th (19 minutes, 9.26 seconds) at state last year. She ran a personal-record time 18:41.34 on Saturday to finish third at the regional.
She’s looking forward to running with her teammates in the state competition this time.
“Individually, I hope to get All-Ohio,” she said. “As a team, I don’t know the exact place, but I know that we can go there and be one of the top teams and really show everyone we’re a good team.”
Juniors Jordan Doore, Emily Henry, and Allie Kemp, sophomore Katie Menke, and freshman Grace Lahey complete the Perrysburg lineup.
Clay also qualified in D-I as a team with sophomore Haley Hess winning the regional with a time of 18:31.26.
Senior Erin Gyurke, junior Brooke Gyori, sophomore Hannah Hess, and freshmen Sydney Hess, Caitlyn Kuecher, and Madison Miller helped the Eagles advance.
Gyurke, the district champion, has been hobbled by a hip injury and fell at the regional. She placed eighth at the state meet last year with a time of 18:10.77. At full strength, she is considered a top contender.
“We’re going to go down and give it our best effort,” Clay coach Dave Hess said. “Hopefully Erin can come back and race. She’s got another chance because of her team, so hopefully she can take advantage of that.”
Notre Dame sophomore Stephanie Sherman, Whitmer sophomore Abbigail Dorn, and Southview senior Alexandra Wainstein are individual qualifiers.
St. Francis de Sales coach James Neary is expecting a good showing by the Knights, who are among the D-I boys teams in contention.
A week after experiencing a disappointing effort in district competition, St. Francis pulled together to place second at the regional.
Paced by junior David St. John, who finished 14th at the regional with a time of 16:09.07, the Three Rivers Athletic Conference champions are hoping to finish strong. Seniors Ryan Maraldo and Dan Siebenaller, juniors Jacob Baugh, Eric Halicek and Jason White, and sophomore Mitch Kaiser are the team’s top runners.
“It’s always nice to race in November,” Neary said. “We’re going to really be caring ourselves with a great focus and training. We always look forward to having a chance to run with the best at the end of the season.”
St. John’s Jesuit junior Tevin Brown, who placed second overall at the regional at 15:45.31, is a top-10 contender, as well as Central Catholic junior George McCartney, who ran at state last year. Findlay sophomore Isaiah Gaines and Fremont Ross senior Louis Guardiola are also state-bound.
Wauseon’s girls team is also heading to the D-II state championships with high hopes of contending for a title.
Paced by two-time regional champion junior Taylor Vernot, the Indians are running at their best, according to first-year coach Joe Allen.
Senior Megan Beck, juniors Aleea Volkman and Aneesa Volkman, sophomore Seneca Wyse, and freshmen Kylie Achibeque and Lindsey Archibeque complete the roster.
Eastwood senior Maddie Jackson and freshman Hannah Sponaugle are qualifiers.
Among the D-II boys, Bryan advanced to state with seniors Evan Morr, Jacob Will, and Jordan Spiess, juniors Kenny Beucler and Levi Carr, and sophomores Brandon Krupp and Michael Sheridan.
But it was Wauseon junior Quintin Reiser who claimed the regional title with a time of 15:59.38.
"I’m just looking forward to running with the fastest kids in the state," Reiser said, of his expectations heading into the state finals. "Hopefully I’ll run another P.R. (personal record)."
Lake senior Tyler Rickman, Oak Harbor junior Tyler Sievert, Eastwood junior Tim Hoodlebrink, and Otsego junior Brandon Avers also advanced.