Photo Credit: David Nguyen - MileSplit
By Mark Dwyer - MileSplit
Obetz, Ohio -- 2023 OHSAA cross country got underway on Saturday at Fortress Obetz and Memorial Park with the annual state association sponsored Early Season Invitational.
An eight race line-up featured Division I and Division II/III athletes contesting their own scored events plus a variety of Open category competitions compiled by combined divisions.
All but a pair of races traversed what is the official OHSAA State Championship 5-kilometer course. The other two contests, intended to help showcase newer runners to the sport, ran a modified 2-mile route.
Girls Division I Scored Race
Girls from Division I schools were tasked with meet opening duties, as their race led off at 9:00 am.
The Mason Comets pursuit for a Division I state championship repeat in 2023 began with a victory in their first outing of the season.
The Comets scoring tandem was rounded out by Atalia Hawkins (38th scorer) and Addison Stephens (45th scorer). Mason entered the meet as the top ranked team in Division I according to the OATCCC Pre-Season Poll, where they gathered six of twelve first place votes.
Evelyn Prodoehl appeared in mid-season form, as she put her Fortress Obetz experience on display crossing the line first, decisively.
The junior was the 5th place finisher at the 2022 state meet.
Similar to Prodoehl, Westlake's Sarah Peer capitalized on her knowledge gained from previous trips to the venue, as she secured the second spot. Peer, who earned runner-up honors at last year's State Championships, launched her season with an 18:01.96 mark.
Bentley Thomas had a career best day on grass with her 3rd place showing. An 11th place finisher at the 2022 Voice of America District meet, Thomas' effort on Saturday bodes well for a big season ahead. The senior from Cincinnati Ursuline Academy clocked 18:05.05.
Boys Division I Scored Race
Showcasing three athletes in the overall top 15, Worthington Kilbourne took 1st in the team standings with 117 points. Ryan Smith in 1st, Steven Miller in 14th and A.J. Hawkins with a 15th place finish along with solid supporting efforts from Jackson Deisler and Levi Knuth in the 43rd and 44th scoring sports capped it for the OATCCC No. 8 ranked Wolves.
A strong 1-2 punch from the Amherst Steele duo of Ty Perez in 7th and Luke Bowlsby in 8th guided the Comets to runner-up honors. They ended the day with 184 points. The team from Rocky River took 3rd overall with 202 points.
Smith, a senior with a host of big meet experiences across XC and track seasons, won decisively with a 15:25.04 mark. McMahon, a senior at Upper Arlington, and the sophomore Temple from Pickerington North followed in the second and third positions with marks of 15:43.09 and 15:47.60, respectively.
Girls Division II/III Scored Race
With an even 100 point tally, Lexington kicked off their XC campaign in the win column for Division II/III. The No. 8 ranked D2 team in the state leaned on a balanced attack that saw their scoring unit all reside inside the top 40.
Brailey Slone led the charge for the perennial state title contenders with a 7th place overall finish (6th scorer) in 19:45.49.
Individual champion Irelyn Johnson helped Marlington secure 2nd with 140 points. Johnson, a freshman, got her high school career rolling with an 18:23.60 mark for a 9-second gap on the runner up finisher, Sophia Szolosi out of Athens.
Boys Division II/III Scored Race
Marlington opened defense of their Division II state title from 2022 in resounding fashion with a 97 point tally that featured three Dukes inside the top 10 overall.
Marlington along with Woodridge have been the standard in Division II in recent years with the Dukes prevailing in 2021 and 2022 and the Bulldogs hoisting state meet gold the three straight years prior.
Open Division Rundown
Girls Division I/II Open - Avon (39 Points)
Boys Division I/II Open - Ottawa-Glandorf (44 Points)
Girls 2-Mile All Divisions - Ursuline Academy (50 Points)
Boys 2-Mile All Divisions - Chardon NDCL (20 Points)