Previewing OHSAA Division III State Championships

Girls Individuals

A great race in girls Division III is looming with a trio of the state's top ranked competitors set to share the Memorial Park XC Course start line on Saturday at Fortress Obetz with a scheduled 11:45 am sounding of the gun.

Jaylee Wingate (Norwayne), Megan Hipple (McDonald) and Paige Steinke (Anna) occupy the top three positions in the divisional rankings with their respective season's best marks of 17:15.10, 17:17.80 and 17:19.90. 

More importantly than the impressive clockings the group has produced throughout the fall campaign is that they've all consistently shown the ability to win. To the tune of 30 individual meet titles among them. Wingate has collected nine triumphs in ten starts, Hipple has broke the tape in ten of her eleven contests and Steinke holds an unblemished record through eleven races this season. 

Steinke is the Region 12 champion and owns half a dozen marks under the 18-minute benchmark. Hipple matches that number with six sub-18 minute efforts of her own. Her latest showing was an 18:14.70 Region 9 title winner on the notoriously challenging Boardman 5-kilometer lay-out. There, Hipple edged Wingate in their lone head-to-head meeting of 2022. Heading into Regionals, Wingate, a Tennessee Volunteers verbal commit, had crossed the line first on each occasion she lined-up. She counts three sub-18 showings on her resume leading into the State Championships. 

Also expected to contend for individual honors is two-time reigning Division III state champion Caleigh Richards. The Maplewood junior has been a model of consistency over the past few months, securing top 3 finishes in seven of her nine races. She crossed the line third in the ultra-tough Region 9 with an 18:34.70 mark. One of the great intangibles that Richards has displayed throughout her career is a history of stepping up when it matters the most. 

Macie Miller, the Region 10 champion, will be in pursuit of state meet gold, as well. The Old Fort junior dominated competition in Northwest Ohio this season, earning wins in nine of ten starts. She's peaking at just the right time with her season's best of 18:04.90 coming at the Tiffin Region 10 meet. 


Boys Individuals

The boys from Division III will toe the line at 11:00 am where a rematch will ensue from one of the best finishing sequences we've seen in recent memory last weekend at Region 9. Luke Snyder (Rittman) edged Brylan Holland in a razor-thin battle to the line. Snyder's 16:05.30 mark netted him the regional title, while Holland's 16:05.40 secured the runner-up spot. 

Showing that no adjustment period is needed to racing at the high school level, Snyder, a freshman, owns ten wins on the season and a 15:37.70 PR effort at the Wooster Invite in the only contest where he wasn't victorious. Holland, who's a seasoned veteran at this point, is a senior classman and a runner who's consistently faced high stakes racing as a member of the formidable East Canton program throughout the duration of his prep tenure. He launched his season with an all-time best 15:40.12 at Riverside and went on to taste individual victory a total of six times this fall. 

Similar to Snyder and Holland at Region 9, Landen Eyre and Will Baker engaged in an entertaining duel for the Region 11 top prize. Baker went 15:51.80 to record a 4-second win over Eyre (15:55.05). Baker earned five wins on the season and placed 10th in the Championship Division race at Saturday Night Lights, which brings in Ohio's best talent plus elite runners from neighboring states. Likewise, Eyre notched five wins over the course of the season and he was pushed by one of the top Division II teams in Unioto to his career best mark of 15:39.06 at the Shermans home invite. Both just sophomores, who share the same region, expect battles for years to come from this duo

In one of the more convincing regional meet performances, Asher Long claimed the Region 12 title with a 20-second margin of victory. The junior from Covington has won nine times this season and went a career best 15:54 flat during his triumph at Anna. 

Ottawa Hills' Riley Nixon was the champion of Region 10, where he put his career best 15:49.90 on the board. The junior classman has won six of eight races in 2022 and was the runner-up at one of Ohio's premier annual meets, the Tiffin Cross Country Carnival. 


Girls Teams

Minster will be in search of the repeat in team competition after their 66-point first place outing in 2021. The dynasty program from the Northwest Region has claimed titles going back to 2016 each year save for West Liberty-Salem's triumph in 2020. 

For what it's worth, on paper, Minster should be favored heavily heading into Saturday's race. The OATCCC pre-state poll has them sweeping all twelve 1st place votes and MileSplit's XC Team Scores feature also has them leading Division III by a significant margin. 

The Wildcats are led by senior Taylor Roth with an 18:46 season's best, but feature a balanced attack 1 through 7 with Margaret Hemmelgarn, Chaney Cedarleaf, Annie Hemmelgarn, Maria Niekamp and Morgan Ketner all running under 20 minutes. Ava Stammen was just a shade over that mark with a 2022 best of 20:00.70. 

Fort Loramie, the Region 12 champions, who are led up front by Camille Borchers, Lauren Moore and Colleen Borchers, could challenge Minster. 

Following the state's top two ranked squads are Colonel Crawford, West Liberty-Salem, Patrick Henry and Liberty Center in positions 3 through 6 according to the OATCCC. In large part, MileSplit's Team Scores rankings holds true with that rundown albeit in a slightly different order. 

West Liberty-Salem were the runner-up team to Fort Loramie in Region 12 while Colonel Crawford, Patrick Henry and Liberty Center went two through four behind Minster in the loaded Tiffin Region 10. 


Boys Teams

Like Minster on the girl's side, East Canton have made their mark on the OHSAA history book in recent years winning multiple times since 2017. The Pacmen took third in their Region (No. 9) behind high quality Maplewood and Black River teams and those three will get a crack at one another again on Saturday. 

The coach's poll and the team scores feature suggest Central Ohio-based Mount Gilead is the squad to beat and beyond rankings of any kind, subjectively, that's hard to argue. Led by the previously mentioned individual contender Will Baker, Mount Gilead holds a scoring team average of 16:20.09 and feature All-Ohio candidates Reed Supplee and Parker Bartlett. They earned the Region 11 championship last weekend decisively with just 42 points. 

Anchored by front-runner Riley Nixon, Ottawa Hills holds the No. 2 spot in both the state poll and the MileSplit rankings following their Region 10 victory on Saturday in Tiffin. The top two teams coming out of Region 12 are Summit Country Day and West Liberty-Salem. Summit Country Day, the 2019 state champions, demonstrate a tight 17.20 second spread between the top 5 on their depth chart. West Liberty-Salem had a solid outing in their second place effort to the Cincinnati-based team at regionals (74 to 53). They're listed as the No. 4 overall Division III team in the pre-state OATCCC poll and in the No. 5 spot in MileSplit's XC scores.