Previewing OHSAA Division II State Championships

The 2023 OHSAA State Cross Country Championships are scheduled for Saturday, November 4th at Fortress Obetz and Memorial Park. 

Our state meet preview series continues with a focus on teams and individuals from Division II. The gun will sound for the girls at 12:00 pm with the boys taking over the course at 12:45 pm.


State Meet Information

State Meet Entries I State Meet Predictions

Speed Ratings Projections

Division I Preview

Division III Preview (coming Thursday)

Boys Teams

You have to trace back all the way to 2017 to find a Division II champion (Lexington) that didn't reside from the Youngstown Region 5 site. 

More specifically, it has been nothing short of a Marlington--Woodridge stranglehold on the team title front with the Dukes winning the past two years and the Bulldogs prevailing the three consecutive years prior. 

'The more things change, the more things stay the same'. 

Why would we think that'll be any different in 2023? 

First, the argument for... 

Elite coaching, veteran clubs, winning cultures, clutch performers, experience overcoming adversity and confidence are qualities that define both Northeast Ohio power programs. 

They've been at or near the top of the coaches poll all season long with Woodridge having the upper hand in recent weeks. The latest edition has the Bulldogs at one with 10 first place votes and the Dukes in second and owning the remaining two first place votes. 

Last week at Boardman, Woodridge recorded the regional win besting Marlington to the tune of 108-137 and overcoming front-running 1st and 3rd individual placements by the Dukes (Colin Cernansky and Michael Nicholls) in the process. 

Woodridge placed their entire scoring group inside the top scoring 30 and were led by a great effort from senior Sam Su, who took 4th place in 16:08 flat. 

The all too familiar friendly rivals will look to test each other once again on Ohio's biggest stage Saturday at Obetz. 

Now, the argument against... 

Look no further than the incredibly deep Region 5. Kenston, Field, Hawken and Bay will get another crack at the region's top two entries. 

Notably from that group, Field displayed that the only thing that matters is what happens in between the lines after the gun sounds, as they far outperformed any lead-in metric (MileSplit team rankings and OATCCC coaches poll). 

After years of being a Division I contender, the still somewhat new to Division II Bombers are settling in nicely to their current classification. 

Trailing Marlington by only 10-points and finishing 3rd sets-up them up well for State, as they appear to be legitimate threats for the top of the podium.

If the Division II trophy is secured by a non NE Ohio entry, the most likely candidates are Region 7 winners Fairfield Union. Ranked third by the coaches and ranked first by MileSplit, the team went an impressive 1-3-8-10-25 for 47-points and a decisive victory at Pickerington. 

They lost one of the state's top runners to graduation last year in Marcus Runkle, but have showed no sign of slowing down with junior Andrew Walton firmly overtaking their No. 1 role. He is Ohio's top ranked individual in Division II with a season's best 14:57.7 mark at Lancaster Bob Reall.

Girls Teams

In seemingly one of the more wide-open races heading into the Championships, each Regional winner mounts an interesting case for hoisting gold hardware on Saturday. 

Woodridge rolled at Region 5 winning by 17-points over Tallmadge. Big efforts from Reese Reaman, Lola Mullen and Marissa Boone in 2nd, 3rd and 8th fueled the Bulldogs charge. They've sat atop the coaches poll over the past four weeks and are ranked No. 1 by MileSplit. 

Coming out of Region 6 victorious was the historic program that is Lexington. While every year and every team is different, noting a school with a stronger tradition of excellence is no easy task.

Similar to Woodridge on the boys side, the Lexington girls have won or contended for the state title for many years running. They were champs in 2015, the runner-up team in 2016, titlists from 2017 to 2020 and then after an uncharacteristic 8th in 2021 they were the 3rd place team last year. 

The state champions from 2021 Minerva handily won Region 7 with 68-points going 6-11-15-16-20. The OATCCC have them rated as the No. 3 squad state-wide per their latest release. 

In one of the closest Regional team battles from last weekend, Oakwood, Waynesville and Carroll left it all on the line at Troy. 

The Lumberjacks emerged by the narrowest of margins, scoring 56-points to edge the Warriors by a single point.

The Patriots were not far behind in third with their 83-point effort.

Freshman Sylvia Gallagher Yerman setting a new PR of 20:31.8 as the 5th scorer was critical to Oakwood's success.

Boys Individuals

While they both have team title aspirations in mind, the individual crown is shaping up to be a Colin Cernansky--Andrew Walton duel. 

Cernansky was the champion a year ago and has the opportunity to place himself into truly elite company with a trio of repeat champions over the past 15-years, where the feat has been accomplished by some of the best Division II runners the state has ever seen.

Namely Zach KreftBuckeye Valley ('16-'17), Joe Bistritz, Chagrin Falls ('14-'15) and Michael Brajdic, Bay ('09-'10). 

Walton has won 10-times this fall with the only occasion not crossing the line first being a 3rd place effort where he mixed it up with two of the best runners that Division I has to offer in Ben Gabelman, Westerville Northand Ryan Smith, Worthington Kilbourne.

Girls Individuals

Among the most emphatic individual wins last weekend was Samantha Erbach's 18:05.4 showing at Troy where she won by a 53-second margin. 

The senior from Waynesville has collected a half dozen wins on the year, but perhaps her most impressive efforts were where she didn't break the tape. Second at Lebanon, third at Trinity/Valkyrie and third at Centerville demonstrated that she can run with anyone in the Midwest, regardless of division. 

On the topic of winning, look no further than Sophia Szolosi. Following a runner-up finish at the Early Invite to open her fall campaign, the sophomore out of Athens has run the table, winning her last six race starts. She has three sub-18 marks in '23 with a 17:55.68 at the Panther Invite representing her career best. 

A duo from Region 5 in Madelyn Begert and Reese Reaman also figure to have their say when it comes to appointing Saturday's individual winner. A clear victory for Begert at Youngstown stations her in a strong position heading into State. The Canal Fulton Northwest sophomore has scored nine wins on the season and holds a career best of 17:59.2 from Wooster. 

The aforementioned Reaman first and foremost has a team title in mind, however the top ranked runner from Division II could come away with individual honors, as well.

Among her season highlights are wins at the brutally difficult Billy Goat Challenge and CVNP Invite courses plus a second place performance at Boardman Spartan and a nationally ranked 17:38.2 winning mark at Dublin Jerome.

Article Reference Resources

MileSplit Rankings I MileSplit XC Team Scores

OHSAA Cross Country History I OATCCC Coaches Polls