Previewing OHSAA Division I State Championships

The 2021 OHSAA cross country season culminates on Saturday with the State Championships taking place at Fortress Obetz.

Following Division III races in the morning and Division II contests commencing at midday, the athletes from Division I will close what is sure to be an electric day of XC competition. 

Related Coverage - 

  • Division II Preview (Coming Thursday)
  • Division III Preview (Coming Friday)

Division I Boys

Fueled by a dominant performance at Region Troy, Mason enters the state meet full of momentum. The Comets tallied just 51 points last weekend to earn an emphatic 48 point victory over fellow state power St. Xavier.

Similar to the other regional venues, Troy offered runners a slick and muddy layout. Mason successfully negotiated the elements and now have an opportunity to prove themselves in what calls for much improved weather conditions this coming Saturday. 

Mason currently resides at the top of the latest OATCCC poll, as they garnered 11 of 12 first place votes in Wednesday's release. St. Xavier, the 2020 state meet runner-up team and the 2019 champions, checked-in at second. Both programs boast an incredible amount of depth and feature non-varsity groups that could be highly competitive at big in-season invitationals. 

Hilliard Davidson has led the way in the Central Region throughout the 2021 campaign. Victorious at their Hilliard Darby District meet and the Pickerington North Regional, the Wildcats most impressive performances this fall have come out-of-state.

Wins at the McQuaid Invite (NY) and Michigan-based meets, the Spartan Invite and the Portage Invite has gained Hilliard Davidson well-deserved national recognition. They are the lone Ohio entry in the MileSplit50 subjective team rankings, where they're stationed at No. 20. 

Coming out of the Boardman Region, the champions from Louisville and the runner-up squad from Lakewood-St. Edward should not be overlooked. They've both been fixtures near the top of the OATCCC rankings this season and will look to challenge the aforementioned big three on race day. 

Individually, Hilliard Davidson's Connor Ackley and Little Miami senior William Zegarski figure to battle each other up front. The duo met once prior this season, at the OHSAA Early Season Opener where Ackley prevailed by a 6-second spread.

Since that time, Zegarski has been on a tear winning nine consecutive races and running the state's fastest 5k time, a 14:47.8 effort at District VOA. Ackley owns a season's best mark of 15:03.08 from the OCC - Central Division meet. His best showing of the season, however, may have been his win at McQuaid where he was Speed Rated at 192. 

Other contenders to look out for are Evan Jarold, Kiefer Bell and a pair of Dublin natives, Liam Shaughnessy and Sam Ricchiuti. Shaughnessy, a junior from Coffman, raced up front in seven of his eight starts this season and picked up four victories. Despite his underclassman status, Jerome's Ricchiuti has considerable high stakes racing experience. He was the top performing freshman, and non-senior, at last year's Division I state meet (9th place in 15:48.0).

Jarold is ranked third overall in Ohio with a season's best 5k clocking of 15:16.1 and Bell, who's competed sparingly with only five race starts in 2021, has crossed the line as the victor or runner-up on each occasion. His trio of meet titles came at Seneca East, the SWOC Championships and District Cedarville

Division I Girls

Loveland set the tone for their season way back in August winning the OHSAA Early Season Opener. They met Hilliard Davidson, Perrysburg, Centerville, Medina and Mason, all current top 10 teams per the OATCCC, that day and came out on top by a 53 point margin.

A lot has changed since then and while the course will play much differently on Saturday and the caliber of competition will be vastly higher, perhaps that early look at Memorial Park's layout will pay dividends for all of the aforementioned squads. 

In recent weeks, Loveland has taken a convincing win at Region Troy and put on an absolute clinic at District VOA in their 1A Division race, placing at 1-3-4-5-6 with all scoring members producing sub-19 minute finish times.

The Tigers gained valuable big meet experience when they made the trek to California in September to test themselves at one of the nation's premier offerings, the Woodbridge Classic

Teams that Loveland knows well due to geographic proximity, 2019 Division I champions Beavercreek, 2020 Division I champions Centerville and Mason all figure to push their Southwestern Ohio rivals. 

Beyond the stable of Troy-based teams, Dublin Coffman, the champions from Region 3, plus Central neighbors Hilliard Davidson figure to be in the mix up front, as well. They're ranked 8th and 6th, respectively, by the OATCCC. 

Boardman Region champions Shaker Heights and the champs from the Tiffin Region Perrysburg round out the state's top 3 entries according to the OATCCC. 

The Raiders' season resume is complemented by a low 36 point effort en route to winning District Madison and an epic battle with the talented Pine-Richland team from Pennsylvania at the Legends Meet. There Shaker Heights narrowly came second to Pine-Richland (74-72). 

Perrysburg took second to Shaker Heights at both the Midwest Meet of Champions and the Tiffin XC Carnival. Among their season's highlights was a trek to the Northeast Region, where they won at Strongsville over the OATCCC No. 2 ranked team in Division II, Woodridge

Individual honors in girls Division I is admittedly difficult to forecast with half a dozen (or more) runners heading into Saturday's action with a legitimate shot at securing gold.

Defending champ Mia Robillard has won three consecutive races and owns a season's best mark of 17:48.8. Gahanna Lincoln senior Alyssa Shope is stationed at the top of Ohio's Division I rankings over the 5km distance (17:26.3) and has finished first or second in six of her eight races. 

From the Northeast Region Sarah Peer (Westlake) and Katie Clute (Olmsted Falls) have gone head-to-head multiple times this season and have been neck and neck on each occasion. Peer is ranked second in Division I (17:37.1) and Clute trails directly behind at No. 3 (17:44.28). 

Mia Compton-Engle (Shaker Heights), freshman Milly Leonard (Dublin Jerome), Savannah Dennison (Mentor) and Evelyn Prodoehl (Lakota West) also clocked sub-18 minute finishes in what has proven to be a deep collection of high-end individual talent at the Division I level.