Since 1987 the Mid-East Cross Country Championships have brought together states in the Mid-East to match-up their top senior runners against one another. This year six states compete in the field. Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania are bringing some of their best to earn regional bragging rights.
Mid-East Cross Country Championships Meet Preview
Date: November 17, 2007
Location: Kittering, Ohio
Seven state champions and a wealth of deep talent collide in Kettering, Ohio Saturday. The strength of this year's field compares to other years up top, but the depth is amazing. Indiana enters the competition as the strong favorite, bringing ten of their top fourteen from their state meet, led by state champion Mike Fout (LaPorte). The success of Fout's season ranks him among the greatest of all time in Indiana. Third place finisher Anthony Witt (Shakamak) and fourth placer Zach Gates (Hamilton Southeastern) follow Fout up front.
Indiana's depth shines but Michigan's front runners are the strongest through three. State champion and Michigan Mr. Cross Country Maverick Darling (Ovid-Elsie) provides Fout a strong challenge, as Darling easily proved he is the best in Michigan this season. The Division II champion Addis Habtewold (St. Clair) and DII runner-up Bobby Aprill (Dexter) exhibit Foot Locker level talent, backing up Darling to give Michigan the best 1-2-3 combination in the race.
While Michigan and Indiana battle for the team title, Illinois' talent is nothing to look past. Fourth place AAA finisher Mat Smoody (Palatine) leads the way, having a shot to run with Fout and Darling. Behind Smoody comes Nathan Troester (Lincoln-Way East) and Rich Eber (Brother Rice). Both Troester and Eber finished in the top ten at the Illinois State Meet, both showing their strength in numerous races all season long. Illinois misses their top three seniors, as Chris Derrick (Neuqua Valley), Kevin Havel (Hersey) and Tom Achtein (York) decided to skip the competition.
Ohio shows two state champions at the front of their pack. Division II winner Cory Leslie (Sandusky Perkins) and Division III winner Walt Luttrell (Dayton Christian) lead the way for the squad, while third place A finisher Dave Rafailedes (Massillon Jackson) and Division III second placer John Luttrell (Dayton Christian) give the squad some depth.
Showing similar team strength as Ohio is Pennsylvania. Their squad follows the lead of 3A state champion Mark Dennin (Boyertown), who's victory two weeks ago came as a surprise, but gives him all the confidence that he can run with the best. North Penn's Zach Montijo finishing sixth in the 3A race, helping his team to the state title, while Tyler Jones (Central Bucks West) finished fourth in the 3A race and should place in the top three for Pennsylvania Saturday.
Kentucky meanwhile, while not showing the same depth as other states, does show a few front runners that should compete. State AA champion Willie Polio (Owensboro Catholic) and third place AAA finisher Eddie Griffin (Fern Creek) give Kentucky two runners that can run with other states' top runners. If their pack can step it up a notch the state may be able to beat a state or two.
Just like the boys race, the team to beat is Indiana. With five of their top nine state meet finishers running in the competition, their front running power is stronger than any other state and their depth matches all. Led by state champion and Foot Locker finalist Alex Banfich (Culver Acadamies), third place finisher Lorna Whaley (Avon) and fourth place finisher Maggie Bingham (Westfield), Indiana holds the best 1-3 combination on the day.
Behind Indiana are Illinois and Ohio. Illinois' roster hosts three strong front runners in Foot Locker contender Caitlin Comfort (Peoria Notre Dame), class A state champion Olivia Klaus (Eureka) and eleventh place AAA finisher Colleen Standridge (Palatine). Those three give Illinois a strong chance of a top three finish, while their chase pack easily has the talent to step up and beat Indiana's.
Claire Durkin (Worthington Kilbourne) leads the way for Ohio. Durkin won the Division I title this year, while also establishing herself as a definite Foot Locker contender. In the past two weeks her performances pushed her into the MileSplit Foot Locker National Power Rankings. Durkin and Banfich could put on quite a show for spectators Saturday. Behind Durkin come Emily Pritt (Massillon Jackson) and Erika Alpeter (Hilliard Davidson). The two finished fourth and fifth respectively in Division I, and give Ohio a shot at winning the team title.
The perenially strong Michigan team is once again set to compete. Sloan Secord (Gaylord) leads the way after earning the Michigan Miss Cross Country award, and earning the DII individual championship. Tiffany Abrahaman (Rochester) is another runner on Michigan's roster to front run after she improved her stock by finishing fifth in the DI race at state.
Pennsylvania and Kentucky follow the other four states in terms of strong front running ability. Pennsylvania's top runner is Meghan Lutz (Nazareth) who finished a strong fifth in the 3A race at state, while Meg Eaker (Penn Manor) finished tenth. Kentucky's leader Rebecca Shelton (Model) finished fourth at the Kentucky State Championships.