Recapping 2023 OHSAA State Cross Country Championships

Photo Credit: Christian Lisle - MileSplit

By Mark Dwyer - MileSplit

Results: OHSAA State Championships

Race Videos: OHSAA State Championships

Obetz, OH -- The state's top teams and individuals descended upon the Central Region on Saturday for the culmination of the 2023 Ohio high school cross country campaign. 

Fortress Obetz and Memorial Park once again hosted the end-of-season spectacle that is the OHSAA State Championships, a showcase of the best talent that Ohio's Division I, Division II and Division III has to offer. 

Division I Boys

Massillon Jackson secured their first boys Division I team title in program history, decisively, with an 86-point performance to distance themselves by 62-points from the second place squad, and reigning champions, Mason

Led by individual runner-up Eli Ilg, the Polar Bears went an impressive 2-14-19-23-28 to get the job done on Ohio's biggest stage. 

Trailing the Comets by 3-points at the 2-mile marker, Jackson poured it on late. Complementing Ilg's front-running was senior Elliot Zuckett in 25th, William Prato in 37th, Cael Ball in 49th and Sean McNulty in 57th. Those cited placements reference overall finishes and include the vast pool of individual runners in the race. 

During his individual title pursuit, Ilg produced an outstanding second place mark of 14:59.7 to fuel the team's charge. 

In second, Mason's bid for a 3-peat came up short, but the Comets still closed an outstanding OHSAA season with another trip to the awards podium. 

Senior Max Liao was their top finisher in 11th at 15:28.2. 

It was all about perseverance for 3rd place Olentangy Orange, both at State and throughout the entire postseason tournament, for that matter. 

They were second at District, second at Regional in lead-up, demonstrating that making your way through the ultra-tough Central Ohio landscape can be an ideal set-up for the State Championships. 

They were in 7th place at the mile, 5th place at the 2-mile and continued to claw their way up the charts to ultimately achieve 3rd overall, the top finish in school history. As they have been all season long, the team was led by senior Saketh Rudraraju, who finished 6th in 15:18.0.

Individually, Ben Gabelman officially ran the table on his OHSAA season winning for the seventh time in as many appearances and none bigger than his latest, obviously. 

The Syracuse University bound senior from Westerville North produced a 14:51.7 mark to outpace the aforementioned Eli Ilg by 8-seconds. 

Fourth place a year ago at State, Gabelman has been on another level in 2023. We'll be very interested to see how he fares against regional and national caliber competition in the weeks ahead, presuming he elects to contest some of the various post high school season series'. 

A tenacious battle ensued for 3rd with Tippecanoe's Landon Kimmel narrowly edging Dublin Jerome's Sam Ricchiuti at the line. Kimmel, a sophomore, clocked 15:02.1 while the senior classman Ricchiuti posted a 15:02.3 mark.

Division I Girls

Claiming their second title in three years were the Yellow Jackets from Perrysburg

The Region 2 champions scored at 4-6-12-39-41 for 102-points. They led at 2-miles by 25-points over Hilliard Davidson and ultimately hung-on for a 22-point spread over the runner-up Wildcats (124-points). 

Hannah Kersten in 8th, Ava Beeks in 10th and Natalie Sanders in 22nd anchored Perrysburg's efforts. With three of their five scorers returning next year, the team appears poised to contend for gold hardware again in 2024. 

The perennial title contenders from Davidson take second place for the third time in four years and, like Perrysburg, return a large portion of this year's team indicating they're likely to be right back in the title mix again next year. 

They were led on Saturday by Celia Schulte, who clocked 18:39.3 for 23rd place overall.

For individual honors in the women's contest, it was nothing short of the Evelyn Prodoehl show. 

The junior from Lakota West made it look easy, winning by 28-seconds and blazing a new Obetz course record time of 17:23.8, in the process. 

Now being 10-for-10 during the fall campaign, Prodoehl has proven she's the class of Ohio. Perhaps underrated beyond our state lines, we feel she can more than hold her own with anyone in the country. 

We're highly intrigued in seeing her test her skills and further elevate her game whether it be through the Nike, Footlocker series' or at the RunningLane Championships, if she elects to pursue any of those opportunities. 

Notably, in second and third, were sub-18 minute finishers Bentley Thomas and Natalie Fouts, respectively.

Ursuline Academy's Thomas produced a 17:51.5 mark and Dublin Jerome's Fouts authored a 17:59.2 finishing time.

Division II Boys

As many observers anticipated leading-in the men's race came down to a good old-fashioned Region 5 Marlington--Woodridge duel. 

The Dukes prevailed scoring 108-points to the Bulldogs runner-up tally of 123-points. 

They both leaned on top individual efforts from their No. 1's with Colin Cernansky, Marlington, in second overall and Sam Su, Woodridge, one place behind him sporting marks of 15:21.9 and 15:41.2. 

Reviewing their respective one through five men, little separates the Northeast Ohio duo. Marlington gets the upper-hand in 2023, but it appears each program continues to elevate the other.

Amazingly, between them, they now own the last six awarded OHSAA Division II state meet titles. 

Individually, Andrew Walton cruised through the line with a 15:00.2 clocking to record the win. Just a junior, the Fairfield Union standout is the consensus favorite to repeat in our way too early 2024 state meet projections. 

Next in to the finish was the aforementioned Colin Cernansky. The 2022 champion posted a 15:21.9 mark for second.

Division II Girls

An exceptional Division II race saw first to fifth place separated by only 33-points. 

In the end it was Minerva hoisting the gold trophy, for the second time in program history and second time in three years. 

Woodridge (157), Lexington (166), Tallmadge (171) and Ottawa-Glandorf) (177) made up the top five positions and truly cemented the considerable depth and talent Ohio's second biggest division exhibits. 

The Lions prevailed with 144-points, leaning on Katie Ison, Kayla Crissman, Hannah Ison, Annabelle Crissman and Makenzie Beavers for their scoring. 

Katie Ison set the tone for the club, as their first finisher, in 17th overall at 18:59.4.

Tied at the 2-mile marker, Woodridge's Reese Reaman hit the gas pedal late producing an emphatic finishing stretch that saw her earn individual honors by a 6+ second margin. She closes a tremendous high school XC career with her first individual title. Reaman's winning mark was 17:52.3. 

In second was Athens' Sophia Szolosi, who clocked 17:58.7. Just a sophomore, Szolosi figures to be a top of the podium threat at State for years to come.

Photo Credit: Mark Altstaetter, Sportswriter for the Lima News

Division III Boys

One the best and most entertaining aspects of high school cross country is its ultimate unpredictability.

Pre-meet metrics such as the OATCCC coaches poll, the MileSplit team rankings and our subjective stances all leaned heavily toward Mount Gilead repeating. 

Further reaffirming the only meaningful input once out on the course following the sound of the gun, however, was the belief Columbus Grove had in themselves. 

An absolutely phenomenal effort was displayed by the Bulldogs en route to their first ever team championship. 

It was their 23rd team appearance at the state meet and what a memorable one it was. 

Led by senior Luke Ellerbrock in 12th (16:06.2), the squad scored at 6-16-26-27-47 for 122-points and the right to bring the gold hardware back to Northwest Ohio. 

Evan Pitts, Caiden Squillante, Levi Bryan and Bryce Bonifas scored in positions two through five for Columbus Grove

After winning a year ago, Mount Gilead settled for the second spot with 128-points and with 166-points, it was Maplewood placing third overall.

Displaying the confidence and experience that he's been there before, Luke Snyder won the Division III title in 15:23.1. Contending as a freshman with a runner-up placement in 2022, there was no stopping the Rittman sophomore this year. 

His mark stands as a new Division III state meet record for the Obetz venue, overtaking the 15:29.4 established by Lima Perry's Brady Yingst during the 2021 campaign. 

Whiteoak's Landen Eyre finished just 3-seconds behind Snyder, taking second in 15:26.1, officially. We're already looking forward to another great battle from this talented duo at the 2024 state meet.

Girls Division III

In the day's opener, Minster handily claimed team honors with a 2-3-10-23-24 (62-point) showing to almost double-up second place Rittman (123-points). 

Chaney Cedarleaf in 6th (18:43.1), Margaret Hemmelgarn in 8th (18:46.1), Maria Niekamp in 21st (19:00.2), Annie Hemmelgarn in 44th (19:42.2) and Claire Bohman in 46th (19:44.7) comprised the Wildcats scoring unit. 

The superlatives run deep and are difficult to even properly articulate with this team and moreover this program. It's their third consecutive Division III state title and, remarkably, their 15th dating back to 1999. 

Returning four members of their varsity seven, Minster, unsurprisingly, stands a great chance to continue their Division III dominance as we move into 2024. 

Behind the aforementioned Rittman and rounding out the top three was the team from West Liberty-Salem, who produced 175-points.

In the closest race finish of the 2023 OHSAA State Championships, Rebecca Geiss held off Caleigh Richards over the thrilling final sequence to earn the title by a narrow 17:55.0 to 17:55.1 margin. 

A furious sprint to the line on behalf of both athletes, leaving it all on the course, had it appear to be an absolute toss-up who would get there first. 

Geiss, a sophomore, would emerge victorious and brings the individual crown back with her to Heartland Christian. She'll presumably have great chances to add to her state title trophy case in the years ahead. 

For Richards, a Youngstown State commit, that's the close of a highly distinguished high school cross country career that saw her claim two wins, a 3rd and now 2nd place finish at State. 

Smithville's Kaitlyn Carr rounded out the top 3 with her 18:02.7 performance.