Previewing OHSAA Division II State Championships

Ohio's high school cross country season comes to a close on Saturday in Obetz at the State Championship meet.

The athletes from Division II have been assigned midday duties, as they'll take over Memorial Park's 5km course beginning at noon with the women's contest followed by the men with a 1:00 pm start time.

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Division II Boys

In the latest OATCCC poll, the Alliance-based team from Marlington were firmly stationed at the top of the list sweeping all twelve first place votes. And for good reason. Following their Regional performance at Boardman, the Dukes have to be considered the team to beat in Division II.

They scored at places 1-2-5-9-14 for a low 31 point tally, which provided an 88 point separation from the runner-up squad from Woodridge, Ohio's 3-time reigning state champions.

Marlington's No. 1 Noah Graham has been lights out and front-running all season long with eight individual titles in nine starts on his resume. He won handily at Boardman, posting a 16:41.7 mark despite facing challenges galore weather-wise. 

Colin Cernansky, the Region 5 individual runner-up, gives Marlington a formidable 1-2 punch. The sophomore has come into his own of late, racing to a second place finish, as well, the week prior at District GlenOak, where he clocked a personal best over 5km with his 16:01.24 mark. 

Marlington wasn't the only Division II squad to display a dominant performance last Saturday. The same can be said for the Shermans from Unioto. They placed at 2-4-9-19-23 for 57 points, and a 71 point cushion over the second place team Hebron-Lakewood, to win Region 7 at Pickerington North

In addition to their work at Pick North, wins at District Rio Grande, Galion along with their OATCCC No. 2 ranking anchors the Matt Paxton-led team's 2021 accolades. 

Carroll came out of the Troy Regional on top by virtue of their 49 point showing. Led by individual champ Jack Agnew (16:28.8), the Dayton-based team separated themselves by 32 points from the second place finishers West Liberty-Salem. Per the OATCCC, Carroll is Ohio's 3rd ranked Division II team while West Liberty-Salem checks-in at 5th. 

No. 6 ranked Lexington won the Tiffin Regional over Lima Shawnee 64-76 to punch their ticket to Fortress Obetz. The Minutemen have been a fixture at the State Championships over the years with the program hoisting gold in recent times at the 2015 and 2017 editions of the meet. 

And speaking of hoisting gold, it'd be unwise to count the aforementioned team from Woodridge out. We already spoke of their consecutive titles dating back to 2018, and you can make that a total of an even ten for the Bulldogs going back to the 2006 season. They were recognized as the state's No. 4 entry according to the OATCCC following Wednesday's pre-state meet release. 

Individually speaking, two of the candidates who we expect to contend for the honor of state champion include the previously discussed Noah Graham and Jack Agnew. They rank third and sixth, respectively, in Ohio's Division II with season best clockings of 15:42.9 for Graham and 15:45.8 for Agnew.

The path to securing victory, we feel, also goes through Joshuah Taylor (Bryan), Connor Shingleton (Minerva), Drennan Akins (Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy) and Eric Board (Maumee). 

Taylor, a senior, resides at the top of the state's rankings at 15:31.52 and has collected five wins on the season, including the CVNP Invite, where he emerged at what has to be considered one of the state's most difficult courses, a route that requires true toughness to conquer. 

Shingleton has collected five 1st place finishes on the season and none bigger than his most recent two outings, a Regional title at Pickerington North and a District triumph at Cambridge. The senior classman also ran a career best 15:38.08 en route to his victory at the Stark County Championships

Akins, the runner-up to Ryan Champa at last year's state meet, has been a model of consistency in 2021 with top 5 finishes, including three wins, in all nine of his starts. No stranger to high stakes racing, Akins earned 1600 meter gold, as a junior, at the 2021 Division II State Track and Field Championships. That experience could pay dividends for the senior on Saturday. 

The Tiffin Regional champion Board, a high quality runner in the first three years of his high school career, has taken matters to another level as a senior. He earned five individual victories this fall and established his personal best mark over the 5km distance, a 16:08.12 outing at District Findlay Owens.

Board edged the previously mentioned Joshuah Tayor on his way to winning Region 6. 

Division II Girls

Following their Region 7 victory at Pickerington North, the team from Minerva were rewarded with a No. 1 ranking, per the OATCCC's pre-state meet release. They outpaced Granville, Ohio's No. 3 ranked team, 43-71 to charge into the end-of-season showcase with considerable momentum.

Woodridge and Revere came out of the Northeast Region as the top two teams, following their tight battle at Region 5, where Woodridge prevailed by a 5 point margin. 

Waynesville proved to be the class of the Southwest with their 66 point effort (and 23 point victory) at Region 8. They're currently ranked at No. 4 state-wide by the coaches association. 

Like Woodridge and their history of success on the men's side, the same can be said about the Lexington women's program. The 4-time reigning state champions should never be counted out, as winning is just a part of their DNA.

They rank at No. 6 via the OATCCC poll and are coming off a Regional victory at Tiffin, where they outlasted a tough Eastwood team by 17 points (76-93). 

While we acknowledge that anything can happen when it comes to high school sports, it's difficult to foresee a scenario where Grace Hartman isn't celebrating her second consecutive state title come Saturday afternoon.

The senior from Oakwood, and NC State Wolfpack commit, has won five of her seven starts, she's eclipsed the 18 minute benchmark on five occasions (three times by very substantial margins) and recorded her all-time best mark of 17:17.7 at the District Cedarville

Knowing her high level of focus, we're quite sure that Grace isn't looking past Saturday, but that doesn't prevent us arm-chair quarterback types from doing so. We're eager to see how Hartman performs on the national stage. She is a confirmed early commit to the RunningLane XC Championships, scheduled for December 4th in Huntsville, Alabama

The top two finishers at Boardman Region, Morgan Monesmith and Bella Graham, a pair of Granville athletes Regina Rose and Zoee Lehman, Springfield Shawnee senior Audrey DeSantis and Oakwood junior Bella Butler are all poised to battle in Hartman's chase pack. 

Butler owns the top time this season from the named group at 17:57.8, while DeSantis has racked up five wins this fall. Rose and Lehman have team title aspirations in mind and look to lead their Blue Aces squad with strong finishes. 

The Monesmith, Graham rematch on Saturday is an appealing one. They raced shoulder-to-shoulder at Region 5 for much of the contest before Monesmith pulled away late to secure the win.