Previewing OHSAA Division II State Championships

Boys Teams

Among the individuals and teams across all divisions who have an opportunity to repeat on Saturday, few enter as heavily favored to do so as the formidable group representing Alliance-Marlington.

The champions from 2021 with a 77-point out-put, they've arguably only gotten stronger from a year ago despite losing state meet runner-up Noah Graham to the college ranks (Walsh University). Junior classman Colin Cernansky has seamlessly slid into their No. 1 position during a fall campaign where he's hit the line first, individually, on all but one occasion. 

Michael Nicholls and Nash Minor prominently fill the team's number two and three positions with season best marks of 15:39.10 and 15:41.90, respectively, and Cohen Boyce, Logan Citino, Luke Ryan and Jase Brock, who round out the group, consistently provide the Dukes with high quality contributions. Their scoring unit averages 15:51.28, but numbers aside this team is accustomed to being in the fire and they know how to come out on top. 

If Marlington is to be unseated as state champions on Saturday, there's a good chance that comes at the hands of the team from Dayton-Carroll. The Region 8 champions are led by reigning state champion Jack Agnew and boast a solid 1-2 punch behind him in Logan Arnold (16:05.10) and Seth Tivakaran (16:14.10). Both of whom should both be vying for All-Ohio honors, individually. 

While Marlington occupied much of the Region 5 headlines this season, their inter-region rival from Woodridge should not be discounted. In the Division III preview, we cited Minster as a dynasty program, so the same would absolutely apply to the group from Peninsula. The Jeff Howard coached Bulldogs have hoisted state meet gold four of the last six years and an incredible ten times since the turn of the century. 

Look out for other contending teams in Region 6 champion Shelby, Region 7 champion Fairfield Union and highly ranked squads via the OATCCC pre-state meet poll in Granville (No. 5) and Unioto (No. 6). The Division II contest is set to commence at 1:00 pm. 


Which team will win the Division II boys title?

Girls Teams

On the shortlist of favored teams entering Saturday are regional rivals Granville and Minerva. The duo had a great battle at Pickerington Region 7 with the Blue Aces narrowly prevailing (65-68) and who could forget their epic clash at last year's state meet, where Minerva won in a thriller. They'll look forward to testing each other one more time this season at Obetz's Memorial Park 5-kilometer lay-out. 

Granville has the fastest team average from Division II (18:54.94) and are led by senior Zoee Lehman, a recent Ohio State Buckeyes verbal commit, who's statistically projected to place inside the top 5. The line-up goes 7-deep with Ella Johnson, Lillian Eckels, Kara Bergeron and Sophia Poling all running well under 20 minutes in 2022 and Lily Kronk producing a season's best just over that number. 

Senior Hera Hoffee leads the attack for the defending state champion Minerva squad. Their scorers average 19:26.65 and they reside at No. 3 in both the OATCCC rankings and the MileSplit Ohio team scores feature. 

Lexington, who occupies the No. 2 spot in the OATCCC and MileSplit listings, bring one of the state's winningest traditions with them to Obetz. They netted state titles in 2015 and 2017 through 2020. They are the epitome of a program who doesn't rebuild, but rather reloads and that notion certainly applies to their 2022 roster. 

Emma Wise, Kenley Miller and Brailey Slone are all performers well under the 19-minute benchmark, while Elyana Weaver and Maddie Haring provide them with considerable depth at the four and five positions. 

Mercy McAuley, Carroll, Waynesville and Eastwood are also likely to be in the mix for what will mark the State Championships' fourth race of the day with a 1:45 pm scheduled start time. 

Boys Individuals

At the 2021 state meet, Jack Agnew unleashed a furious kick over the finishing sequence to edge Marlington's Noah Graham for gold. 

It's a likely scenario that we could see another Agnew and Marlington battle to the line come Saturday. This time, presumably, that Dukes representative would be the aforementioned Colin Cernansky. Both runners have raced nine times this season and collectively they hold 17 victories in those 18 starts. Their stats basically mirror one another's and they both enter the competition with the intangible quality of a winning pedigree. The odds are that this duo goes 1-2 overall, but the order in which that happens is an absolute toss-up. 

While favored up front, it's by no means a two-man race, however. If Charles Putnam (Portsmouth), Daniel Kearns (West Geauga) Ezra Minard (Marietta), Xander Fackler (Bryan), Marcus Runkle (Fairfield Union) or Huck Finnegan (Shelby) put together a career best race, they could threaten the aforementioned pre-meet favorites for the top prize. Notably from that group, Putnam won Region 7 and Finnegan was victorious at Region 6. 

Girls Individuals

In the girls contest, we could see an Oakwood 3-peat only this time it won't be via Grace Hartman. Hartman, the 2020 and 2021 state champion, has departed for the college ranks, where she's displaying her talents for the NC State Wolfpack in Raleigh, Wake County. 

Assuming her spot at the top of Oakwood's depth chart is senior Bella Butler, who's demonstrated some of the best consistency this season from any individual runner, nation-wide. Butler has raced half a dozen times and has won on five occasions with her six efforts ranging from 17:25 to 17:47, as far as finishing marks.  

On Butler's radar will be Ohio's other regional champions, Bella Graham (Marlington, Region 5), Kayla Gonzales (Shelby, Region 6) and Zoee Lehman (Granville, Region 7), as well as fellow Region 8 stand-out Samantha Erbach (Waynesville)

They rank 2 through 5 in the MileSplit Ohio Division II rankings: Ebach (17:57.90), Gonzales (18:06.80), Lehman (18:09.40), Graham (18:11.20) and collectively they account for 21 meet titles in 2022.