The 2023 OHSAA State Cross Country Championships are scheduled for Saturday, November 4th at Fortress Obetz and Memorial Park.
We're launching our state meet preview series with a focus on teams and individuals from Division I. The girls are set to toe the line at 2:00 pm with the boys tasked for meet finale duties at 2:45 pm.
Division II Preview (coming Wednesday)
Division III Preview (coming Thursday)
The Comets have an opportunity to etch their program into the record books on Saturday by executing the extremely rare three-peat.
A feat much more commonly performed over time, for boys, at the Division II (Class AA) and Division III (Class A) levels, per the OHSAA, you have to trace through the entire history of Division I and its predecessor equivalent of Class AAA and all the way back to the One Class system to locate a team boasting such an achievement.
Again, to say the least, it is rare.
Frequently led up front by Max Liao and Jerry Xu, the team is 7-deep and then some. With many interchangeable runners throughout the line-up, just maintaining a spot on Mason's varsity roster is an accolade in its own right.
They'll come to Obetz as Region 4 champions and the No. 1 ranked squad in the Coaches Poll. The experienced group ventured out of state multiple times this season to test themselves against regional competition.
Mason had quality outings at Nike XC Town Twilight (IN) and Richard Spring (IL) not to mention at some of the best in-state meets available on the Ohio schedule (Saturday Night Lights and their own home invite).
St. Xavier, also out of Region 4, heads to the state meet in peak form and is poised to have another great battle with Mason. St. X took the runner-up position last weekend at Troy (97-to-82).
They're ranked No. 4 by the OATCCC and in the third spot within MileSplit's Division I team scores feature. Senior Evan Trapp has run up front for the team all season. He's one of eight Ohioans to have eclipsed 15-minutes over the 5-kilometer distance in 2023, a 14:59.5 effort at Nike XC Town.
While every region presents its challenges, it's difficult to mount an argument there's one tougher to advance through than Pickerington Region 3. The most recent poll had six of the top 10 teams noted from Pickerington, so merely surviving race-day is no easy task.
Coffman, Orange, North, Scioto and Lancaster emerged, punching the five available qualifying tickets with the quintet of teams only separated by a range of 36-points (112-to-148). They'll have an opportunity to showcase the Pickerington site's considerable depth against the rest of the state on home region soil.
Ohio No. 2 ranked Massillon Jackson won Youngstown Region 1 with 94-points and were led by individual champion Eli Ilg. The team has hovered near the top of the OATCCC standings throughout the season and figure to be a major factor when the Division I starting gun sounds on Saturday.
Mason and Hilliard Davidson went 1-2 at last year's state meet with the Comets prevailing and they shared the top spots in the coaches rankings throughout the course of 2023 with the Wildcats occupying poll position for the last several releases in a row.
The Region 4 and Region 3 champions are on a collision course and are poised for what should be an epic showdown on Saturday.
Looking at the numbers, not much separates the two. Our virtual rankings reflect the latest OATCCC release with Davidson holding a slight edge. Great coaching, deep line-ups and being battle tested against high quality in-state and out-of-state competition are the hallmarks of both clubs.
Efa Paschka has led Mason all season and Davidson showed a well-balanced attack last weekend in Pickerington with two runners in the top 10 (Sophie Lane and Celia Schulte) plus their top ranked team member Erica Kaulen (18:16.22) in 14th place.
They'll all look to set the tone for their respective teams in what could go down as the match-up of the day.
Lakota West (No. 7) and Olentangy Liberty (No. 9) scored runner-up finishes at Region 4 and Region 3 with 95 and 113-point performances. Lakota West, anchored by individual champion Evelyn Prodoehl, resided just 7 points behind the winners from Mason.
The 2021 titlists from Perrysburg displayed a decisive 1st place effort at Region 2 scoring 28-points for a 41-point margin of victory. Ava Beeks, Hannah Kersten and Natalie Sanders crossed the line in places 2-3-5 for the Yellow Jackets.
The largest qualifying pool at Division I came out of Youngstown with eight invites available. The top three teams from Region 1 heading to Obetz will be Wadsworth (140), Shaker Heights (146) and Westlake (150).
Ranked at No. 10 by MileSplit and No. 14 in the pre-regional coaches poll, Wadsworth, with a regional title secured, make their way to Obetz full of confidence and peaking at the right time.
Westerville North senior Ben Gabelman will look to keep his unblemished individual record intact when he toes the Memorial Park start line. He's raced more sparingly in 2023 than the other top contenders with only six appearances, but he's been razor sharp on every occasion.
He's broken 15-minutes four times and was just over that number at OCC - Capital. The Syracuse Orange commit is stationed at No. 2 in the state rankings with a '23 best mark of 14:49.4.
Emerging with a win at Region 3 was a formidable task for Gabelman, however. Familiar regional rivals Sam Ricchiuti (Dublin Jerome), Thomas McMahon (Upper Arlington) and Ryan Smith (Worthington Kilbourne) helped to comprise the fastest up front regional placements, state-wide, by all going under 15-minutes in the process.
Expect this quartet from the Pickerington site to hold little separation from one another when they meet again at Obetz.
At the top of the state leaderboard is Tippecanoe sophomore Landon Kimmel. He went 14:42.65 at Trinity/Valkyrie and gave national talent Will Conway (Floyd Central, IN) an incredible challenge, as the two authored one of the nation's most memorable individual battles this season. Conway broke the tape in 14:41.25.
Kimmel is ranked nationally as the No. 1 member of the 2026 grade class and at No. 16 overall.
Out of Region 1, Eli Ilg negotiated the always difficult Boardman course, winning in 15:26.9. The junior classman owns a season's best mark of 15:03 flat from Wooster, which stations him at No. 7 in the Division I rankings.
Evelyn Prodoehl will seek her 10th consecutive victory of 2023. The 5th place finisher a year ago, the junior from Lakota West has been nothing short of dominant this season, not only winning but winning handily in most of her appearances.
Triumphs at the Early Invite, GMC, District Voice of America and Region 4 anchor her stellar resume. Prodoehl has run well under 18-minutes during every race and boasts a career best mark of 16:59.1 from GMC, which ranks her No. 20 nationally.
The Dublin Jerome duo of Helen Randolph and Natalie Fouts went 1-2 at Region 3 and reside at the No. 4 and No. 6 spots in the MileSplit Division I state rankings with Fouts at 17:40.4 and Randolph at 17:50.47.
A half dozen victories, including Riverside to open the schedule and Stark County are among her top performances. Her lone occasion not on the top of the podium was a 2nd place finish at Boardman, where she trailed only national standout Wren Kucler (North Allegheny, PA).
Article Reference Resources