It's one of the best times of the year. From falling temperatures to some well deserved time off from whatever it is you are doing, the change from October to November is always exciting and what is more fun than the OHSAA Cross Country State Championships?
This season, not only are there numerous races up in the air for both the individual and team titles, but competitors this season will be greeted by another challenge: a brand new host for the event. After spending the past nine seasons as host to the state cross country meet, National Trail Raceway will no longer host the event and instead, the meet will be held at Fortress Obetz, a 50-acre multi-purpose sports complex with a 6,500-seat grandstand located in Obetz, Southeast Columbus.
Of course, this state championship will already be different than any other we have ever witnessed to date as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect many across the country. Between learning a brand new course and maintaining sustainable safety procedures, the 2020 state championship promises to be an exciting event.
You can never predict the future and for cross country as there seems to always be an upset or two. It is near impossible to predict the Ohio state meet this season, but I am going to try my best.
D3 Boys - Can Amicon Repeat?
In 2019, Derek Amicon of Grandview Heights battled to a two second victory to win his first ever state championship, pulling off an upset over pre-race favorite Noah Fisher of Ayersville. Amicon, now a senior, returns to the state championship looking to repeat his performance from the year before.
Along with Amicon, five other runners from the top 10 in 2019 return, including Eli Fullerton of Belpre, who finished fifth in the event in 2019, enters Saturday's state meeting with the fastest time in Division 3 having run a 15:28 at the Jeremy Anderson Invitational in September.
Thomas Caputo of Fredericktown is another threat in Division 3 looking to win his first state championship. Caputo enters the state championship undefeated, including victories over Derek Amicon and Eli Fullerton, who Caputo beat by .14 last Saturday at the Regional Championship in Pickerington. Caputo has the second fastest time in Division 3, having run a 15:34 at the Dublin Jerome Celtic Clash.
Ethan Wallis of Cedarville, who enters Saturday's race having run a 15:51 on the season, has pulled together a string of fast and consistent victories in recent weeks. Wallis is the fifth best returner in Division 3 from last year's state meet.
Brody Rupe of McDonald is a runner to keep an eye on as Rupe has only come up short of finishing first just once, when he came in 3rd at the Oscar Grant XC Invitational in early September. Rupe has quietly and consistently put together a string of impressive victories, including winning the Boardman Regional last Saturday. Rupe, who finished third at the 2019 state championship, is definitely a runner to watch heading into Saturday.
As far as the team standings go, this is anybody's race.
Mount Gilead may enter the meet with a slight edge over the field, led by two sub 16:20 runners Michael Snopik and Brett Shipman, but there is a pack of teams behind them who have the same chance of winning as Mount Gilead.
Fredericktown, who is also led by two sub 16:20 runners in Caputo and Titus Krabill, very quietly owns the fastest average time in Division 3 with a 16:38 and is very much a threat to walk away state champions.
You can not count out East Canton, who finished third in this event last year and have established themselves as a threat at this race year in and year out. Cedarville, Columbus Grove, Canton Central Catholic, and 2019 state champion Summit Country Day are still all in the mix for a team title as well.
D2 Boys -Anybody Could Win
There are many races that are "up in the air" for Saturday's state championship, but none are quite as unpredictable as the Division 2 boys race. Losing two Team Nationals qualifiers from 2019, Division 2 has a lot of question marks around this year's race.
Dylan Lauck of West Liberty-Salem enters the race on Saturday with the fastest time in the Division 2, having run a 15:41 at his District meet just two weeks prior to the state championship and is considered a favorite entering Saturday's meet.
Kevin Agnew of Carroll enters with the seventh fastest time in Division 2 and is the third fastest returner from 2019, posing as another potential winner for the Division 2 race. Agnew has clocked sub 16 performances on five separate occasions in 2020.
The team battle will be hotly contested. Unioto, who finished second in 2019, enters Saturday's meet with only 43 seconds separating their top seven, which could serve as a massive advantage on Saturday.
As always, Bay and Woodridge will find a way to be successful at the state championship and should compete with Unioto for the title. Marlington, Carroll, and Waynesville should compete for top 5 finishes, as well.
D1 Boys: Nathan vs. Nathan
It would appear as if the Division 1 boys state championship is coming down to Nathan Mountain from St. Xavier, who has run a 14:46 which ranks at an OH No. 1 and US No. 7 and Nathan Moore from Uniontown Lake, who has run a 14:51, which ranks at an OH No. 2 and US No. 13.
If you have followed Ohio High School cross country for a while, you have seen a matchup like this before; several actually. In 2018, there was Conant Smith vs. Vincent Mauri. In 2017, there was Zach Kreft vs. Zak Kirk in Division 2. In 2016, there was Hunter Moore vs. Arjun Jha in Division 1. Ohio is no stranger to two of the nation's best dueling it out at the Ohio state meet.
This year, the two favorites have seemingly been heading towards this matchup for the entire season - they also just so happen to have the same name.
Let's not overlook some of those chasing the two on Saturday either. Connor Ackley from Hilliard Davidson, Owen Karas from St. Charles, and Sean Carney from Hilliard Darby are all threats to the state championship race for Mountain and Moore.
Despite these threats, I still expect it to come down to Mountain and Moore. The two have gone head to head three times since the 2019 State Championship and Moore has pulled it out on all three occasions.
Mountain, along with Conor Bohrer, will look to lead St. Xavier to a second straight state championship on Saturday. Following quickly behind, Lakota West and Hilliard Davidson both bring in impressive squads and will not make this an easy victory for St. Xavier and both teams could make a case to be the favorite and even bring home the state championship on Saturday.
D3 Girls -Johnson seeks first XC state title
Allison Johnson from Mount Gilead enters Saturday's meet with the top time in Division 3, running a 17:47 at the Denny Stevens Invitational in September and will look to win her first cross country state championship.
Behind Johnson, Taylor Spencer from Waynesfield-Goshen and Sarah Reinhart from Carey also pose threats to winning the Division 3 state championship, entering Saturday ranked second and third respectively.
Two freshmen, Caleigh Richards from Maplewood and Addison McAuley from West Liberty-Salem, will make their state championship debut, entering the meet ranked fourth and fifth respectively in Division 3. Both hope to kickstart their high school careers with a cross country state championship.
Top returner Megan Adams from West Liberty-Salem enters Saturday's state championship ranked ninth in Division 3, running a 18:49 in September and will hope to win her first cross country state championship, as well as trying to capture a team state title for West Liberty-Salem as well.
West Liberty-Salem enters Saturday's competition ranked first in Division 3, hoping to improve on their second place finish in 2019.
D2 Girls - Three in a Row for Gilson?
Ella Gilson from Hawken heads to the cross country state meet for the fourth time in her career. Posting the top time in Division 2, Gilson has her eyes set on winning her third consecutive state championship.
Just behind Gilson, Grace Hartman from Oakwood, Halle Hamilton from Lexington, and Sarah Watts from Gallia Academy follows just behind Gilson and will all be in play for the state championship on Saturday.
Lexington enters the meet looking for their fourth straight championship, which would be an incredible feat for the graduating senior class.
D1 Girls: Who will replace Ewert?
Division 1 must fill a hole that has not needed to be filled since 2018, when Taylor Ewert from Beavercreek won her first of two state championships. Now, with Ewert running for Arkansas, a new state champion will emerge.
Katie Clute from Olmsted Falls, who has run a 17:59, and Alex Bauer from Uniontown Lake, who has run a 18:06, ranks second and third respectively in Division 1 and will compete for a chance to win their first cross country state championship.
A group of five girls sit just behind Clute and Bauer, all having run in between 18:11 to 18:17. Carly Spletzer from Lakota East, Olivia Gang from Green, Kelsi Harris from Lakota East, Kailey Zagst from Massillon Jackson, and Juliann Williams from Beavercreek all will be in the mix to bring home a state championship on Saturday.
Several teams are in position to knock Beavercreek off the top of Division 1, who have won the state championship the past two years.
Hilliard Davidson enters Saturday's meet with a 1-5 split of 34 seconds and an average time 18:44, which would have not only put them in consideration to win the state championship, but be a national qualifying team if there was such an event.
Just behind Davidson, Mason and Centerville both will have the chance to win on Saturday as well. Mason enters with an average time of 18:58 and Centerville enters with a 18:56. Lakota East, Kenston, and Loveland will all look to compete for top 5 positions as well.