Well, we did it. Athletes, coaches, meet officials, parents, pat yourselves on the back. We successfully completed the 2020 cross country season in Ohio. This year challenged us all. Sure, some meets were cancelled in the process, but there was a huge sense of fulfillment after the OHSAA State Championships concluded on Saturday afternoon.
Besides social distancing, the OHSAA State Championships looked a little different this year. The meet had a new host in Fortress Obetz located in Southeast Columbus. This meant, funny enough, each race would result in a course record in that respective division. A relatively flat course, athletes produced faster times than in previous years. Each race produced their own unique battles and results.
Starting in Division 1, the boys individual title battle was a spectacle to watch. A group of 15 runners opened the race up with a blazing 4:47 mile split. Then, a move made by Nathan Moore of Uniontown Lake and Nathan Mountain of St. Xavier turned it into a two-man race. Both runners went through two miles in 9:42, and at that point Moore made his move and never looked back. Moore, who finished runner-up last year, went on to beat Mountain by 26 seconds, running 14:59.50. Mountain hung on for second-place, helping St. Xavier to runner-up finish in the team race. Taking the team title was Lakota West, narrowly edging St. Xavier 73-75. Lakota West, fascinatingly, ran a team of all seniors, led by Zach Beneteau and Kaleb Martin.
In Division 1 girls action, Centerville's duo of Mia Robillard and Emma Bucher finished first and second, respectively, to lead their team to a state championship. For most of the race the duo battled Juliann Williams of Beavercreek before breaking away in the last 400 meters. The Elks scored 128 points, taking down a strong field, with Hilliard Davidson finishing runner-ups with 138 points.
In the Division 2 boys race, Woodridge looked to defend their team title. In their regional tournament last week, Woodridge was taken down by Bay 77-84. Woodridge's Ryan Champa took the individual title in 15:42.90. Drennan Akins of CVCA moved up significantly in the last mile to secure a runner-up finish. With Champa leading the way, Woodridge defended their state title, scoring 113 points. Finishing as runner-ups was Waynesville, beating Unioto in a tiebreaker at 149 points.
For the Division 2 girls race, Ella Gilson of Hawken looked to capture her third individual state title. Oakwood's Grace Hartman was runner-up to Gilson the past two years. With Hartman as a challenger yet again, the two separated from the pack early running stride-by-stride. The race came down to a photo finish where there was a 0.1 second difference between the runners. Ultimately, Hartman edged Gilson, winning in 18:04.10 and claiming her first cross country state title. Halle Hamilton of Lexington finished third overall, which led her team to win the team title. Lexington won with 113 points, while Oakwood finished second with 127 points.
In the Division 3 boys race, Derek Amicon of Grandview Heights returned as the defending champion, but there was a large group of challengers in this race. Each mile of this race had a different leader, but ultimately Fredericktown's Thomas Caputo took the win in 15:31.50. Eli Fullerton of Belpre finished runner-up in 15:36.40. Defending champion Amicon finished third. Led by Gabe Shilling, East Canton claimed the team title over Summit Country Day winning 126-131.
The Division 3 girls race featured a group of talented freshmen competing up front. The top freshman of the day, Maplewood's Caleigh Richards, took the race by storm winning the individual title in 18:22.30. Finishing second from Carey was Sarah Reinhart in 18:24.00. West Liberty-Salem put three girls in the top 10 to secure the team title with 55 points. Ella Boate of Minster led her team to a runner-up finish with 83 points.