|Graham, Schalois top area runners at Hebron|
|Monday, November 05, 2012 2:36 PM|
By JIM METCALFE
HEBRON — The best of the best cross country runners in the state of Ohio converged on National Trail Raceway in Hebron on a pleasant fall Saturday morning and afternoon for the State Cross Country Meet, the 84th annual for the boys and the 35th for the girls.
The area had several performers in the event in the Division III and II ranks.
The top Tri-County finisher in the Division III boys race was Columbus Grove senior Jake Graham, who registered a 15:45.66 to end up seventh. He was 30th last year as the Bulldog boys were seventh in the first-ever state race at National Trail.
Despite his finish, the senior was disappointed.
“I was hoping to get the school record but didn’t; I was three seconds off and this was my last time to do it,” Graham noted. “I wanted to get top 10 and I did that but the goal was the school record.
“I wanted to keep up with the leaders in the first pack without burning myself out but they pushed the pace quickly from the start. I have never gone out as fast as I had to today but the leaders made me; it was 4:42 pace from the get-go. I kept up for about 2 1/4 miles and then they started to pull away some. I stayed somewhat close but (Versailles’ Samuel) Prakel — the eventual winner — was such a strong runner. He beat me by almost 30 seconds.”
Graham’s effort led a sixth-place finish for the team.
Still, head coach Terry Schnipke wished for more from Graham and his team as a whole.
“I really felt Jake could be top-5 and he ended up seventh. They just started out so fast that it was tough to stay with the pack,” Schnipke reflected. “I really thought we’d all do better as a whole. I thought we were ready to go from the start; it seemed as if we were in the right frame of mind. For some reason, we just didn’t run as well as I figured and that’s disappointing.”
Senior Alex Shafer was 42nd (16:38.63), junior Colton Grothaus 43rd (16:38.85), senior Grant Schroeder 76th (17:09.66), sophomore Jerry Kesselmeyer 93rd (17:29.57), junior Logan Douglas 100th (17:38.11) and senior Nick Schmiesing 109th (17:47.57).
Schnipke noted how much effort goes into getting this far.
“A lot of fans don’t realize that there’s a lot of preparation that goes into this. It’s not just what you do the day of a race,” he added. “These kids have to give up so much to excel in this sport. They put in a lot of miles in the off-season and during the season. They don’t drink pop and really watch the junk food. They were talking about what they had waiting for them after the race but I credit them for their discipline and sacrifice.”
Crestview sophomore Mycah Grandstaff put in a 40th-place finish in the boys race (16:37.40).
“I was down here last year and finished 55th (17:04.69), so I took almost 30 seconds off my time. I was more prepared this year because I knew what I was getting into,” Grandstaff said. “I think I went out too quickly last year and didn’t have much left at the end; it’s such an emotional thing the first time and you’re too excited. I didn’t go out as fast this time and had more left at the end when I could pass people; it started falling off some around the 2-mile mark and I was still feeling pretty good. I’m happy with how I ran today and hope I can keep coming back. I have to put in the miles and the work.”
The top finisher amongst the girls was Kalida senior Jessica Doepker, who clearly showed the toll the race took afterward after finishing 16th in her third state appearance.
“I gave all I had; I couldn’t do any more. I didn’t think I’d have nerves after having been down here the last two years but they hit me as I got here this morning; this would be my last race and I wanted to give it everything,” she said. “It was a fast race from the gun and it never really let up. I stayed as close as I could but the other runners are just so good down here. I’m happy overall that I set my PR.”
Her 19:01.93 was a career best and that got her 16th this time; her time this day was five seconds faster than her time in last fall’s state meet when she was eighth.
Freshman Katelyn Siebeneck finished 65th (20:01.30) in her first state classic.
“That beat my PR by 15 seconds; I couldn’t have run any faster. I’m happy,” Siebeneck noted. “I’m excited. I had the nerves early but they disappeared as soon as the gun went off.
“This just gives me incentive to work hard and get back down here next year and the next two years; it’s such a great atmosphere and we have such great support from our fans. The fans all were great and made things exciting; I’m excited.”
The Spencerville girls finished 16th overall with 325 points.
“We were about where I thought we’d be. Coming in, we were in the bottom two or three and I was hoping we could move up but we had to race very well and hope other teams didn’t race their best; it didn’t happen and you really don’t expect it to,” long-time Bearcat mentor Brian McMichael explained. “I told the girls before the race to forget about the crowd and the atmosphere — about where you are at — and just to focus on their race and try to catch the girls in front of them.
“We got here as a team, so we ran well at the right time. We peaked at the right time to get here, so I’m pleased with that. There were a lot of good runners here and the times just seem to be getting better each year, which means you have to keep getting better.
“It’s always the goal to get here, the ultimate race, as an individual and as a team and we accomplished that.”
Junior Karri Purdy was the highest placer in 48th (19:41.34), along with the 82nd of sophomore Cierra Adams (20:29.46), the 99th of sophomore Kacie Mulholland (21:02.06), 107th for junior Tori Hardesty (21:21.03), lone senior Jennifer Burnett’s 124th (22:05.96), sophomore Schylar Miller’s 113rd (22:38.54) and junior Tesa Horton’s 139th (23:55.50).
“We only lose one girl that raced today, Jennifer. You feel bad for here that this is her last cross country race,” McMichael added. “Six of our top seven will return and this is a great experience for them. They know what it takes to get here and now they know what it takes to do well here. The girls will be nothing but better for this and I look forward to next year already.” In Division II, Van Wert had a trio in the boys event: senior Jon Kase Schalois ran a 15:58.23, by far his career best as it was the first time he had clocked under 16 minutes in a 3.2-mile race, that was good for sixth and a top-line podium finish; sophomore Conner Holliday registered a 16:57.19, which clinched 68th; and senior Jared Fleming was 105th (17:34.28).
“It was my PR by about six seconds. I just felt really good today and just ran a steady race,” Schalois noted. “I really didn’t try to run with the top guys but I wanted to stay near them, which I did. I tried to keep passing guys and keep moving up and that got done.”
He was moved by the asthma attack that befell Fleming in front of him.
“He had fallen flat on his face around the 2-mile mark; I saw him but knew I couldn’t stop to help him up, so I just told him to get up,” he added. “I felt bad for him because he’s been our leader all year and he was hoping to be right there among the leaders and maybe win it. That kind of motivated me to keep going hard and finish the best I could.”
Cougar coach Brendon Moody was ecstatic for the effort from Schalois.
“When he started as a freshman, he ran an 18:30. He has worked as hard as anyone I’ve seen to get better,” Moody asserted. “He has worked so hard to get here and is a prime example of what hard work can do for you. He really learned how to race and get better and was extremely coachable; to see him run under 16 for the first time is an incredible performance. He saved his best for last — against the best.”
Holliday and Fleming struggled in this race.
“You feel bad for Jared; he had an asthma attack today and he tried to gut it out. It’s happened to him before in competition and it was just wrong timing,” Moody added. “For it to happen in his final high school race is just heart-breaking. Conner just didn’t have it today; it happens. You really have to be at your best if you’re going to stay with the competition here today.”
Van Wert junior Andrea Foster battled through injuries this fall to finish 45th in her girls race.
“She ran a great race today. To end up 45th with the injuries — especially the ankle — she battled through and the level of runners she faced today was tremendous,” Moody added. “Our job was to get her to the starting line and she got there. For her to run a 19:42.32 was a great effort. She is only a junior and this gives us a lot of expectations for her next year. She just needs to get healthy right now and we need to keep her healthy. I’m so proud of her effort.”