RUSSIA — Russia’s girls cross country team will be making its sixth consecutive trip to the Div. III state cross country meet on Saturday at Hebron’s National Trail raceway. The Raiders qualified for state by finishing fourth at the Troy Div. III regional race last Saturday.
“Definitely (you don’t want to be the team that ends the streak),” Claire Meyer said. “I think if we can finish in the top 10 teams (at state), that would be pretty good.”
Russia was led by two top ten finishes at the regional meet.
Senior Megan Frazier was sixth with a time of 20:11, while freshman Becca Seger was ninth in 20:28.
“I think a top 10 finish (as a team) would be good,” Frazier said. “I think being All-Ohio (top 25) would be a good goal for me. I have finished as high as 30th (at state).”
Seger is looking to put a stamp on an impressive freshman season.
“I don’t know,” Seger said. “It is just exciting to be running at state.”
Meyer, a junior, was 26th at regionals in 21:13, while junior Anna Fiessinger was 46th in 21:59. Fiessinger knew it would be a battle with Covington for the fourth spot at the regional.
“I was kind of surprised by how far we finished ahead of Covington,” Fiessinger said. “We have been there every year, so you don’t want that to end. We know the course and are familiar with things over there. I think the goal is to be in the top 10 (teams). That would be pretty good.”
Russia coach Doug Foster agreed.
“I felt like we were a top four team in the regional at the beginning of the year,” Foster said. “We just hadn’t really showed it (until the regional meet). All-Ohio is a good goal for both Megan (Frazier) and Becca (Seger). The girls have worked hard. When you look at it, there are some really good teams. I think we can finish in the top 10 if we run well.”
Sophomore Clare Caldwell was the fifth runner at the regional meet for Russia, taking 56th in 22:24. Senior Becky Pinchot was 82nd in 23:56.2 and junior Emma DeLaet was 84th in 24:14.13.
“Clare (Caldwell) really stepped up at the regional meet,” Foster said. “She had been running in a lot of pain. She thought it was a stress fracture. When she found it wasn’t, I think that relieved her and I think that allowed her to run really well. This will be our sixth straight trip to state and it is nice to be going back.”
With high hopes of a top 10 finish.
Versailles back for first time since 2014
Versailles’ girls team is also aiming for a top 10 finish in the D-III state meet.
“We’re sitting maybe 13th or 14th out of the 20 teams that will be there so we’re going to shoot for the top 10,” Versailles coach Mark Pleiman said. “We’d like to be in that top half. We understand that we don’t have five girls running in the 19s maybe like a Minster does, but our goal is for everybody to have their best time of the year. On and off the course we’re going to have a lot of fun.”
This is the first time since 2014 that Versailles has sent a full cross country team to the state championships. Of the Lady Tigers’ seven runners – Hannah Bey, Maria Mangen, Kenia McEldowney, Kennedy McEldowney, Megan Rismiller, Dana Rose and Liz Watren – only Kenia McEldowney has previous experience running at state.
Now a senior, Kenia McEldowney will try to use her experience to help lead the Tigers.
“I try to be (a leader),” she said. “Give them some advice, tell them to calm down, it’s OK.”
Some other Versailles runners have attended the state meet before to watch their sisters. Kennedy McEldowney, the younger sister of Kenia, said she remembers the excitement of watching her sister run at state and is glad they get to run together this weekend.
“It’s very exciting being able to run with her since this is her last year and my first year,” the Versailles freshman said. “So I’ll cherish it.”
Watren watched her sister, Camille Watren, run at the state cross country meet back in 2013. Watren does have some personal experience competing on the big stage as a two-time state track and field qualifier, which she thinks will help prepare her for Saturday’s state cross country meet.
“I feel like track is a bigger atmosphere, like more intense kind of,” the Versailles junior said. “I watched my sister at state (cross country), and we pretty much sat in the stands the whole time. It’s such a big course and you barely see them, but like at track they see you the whole time.”
Having experience competing at state is invaluable, Pleiman said, so he’s glad the Tigers made it back to state this year while they still had some experience on their roster.
“It’s very important as a program to get your school there kind of consistently,” he said. “With Kenia being the only one there as a freshman, we’ve got a little bit of that leadership that can say, OK, this is what it’s going to feel like, this is how you’re going to feel during your run, and that’s very difficult to instill that back into the kids once we lose that as a team. So it was really important that we got back to it this year with the team, and now these girls are going to be able to be the leaders for next year’s team and go on and keep that tradition going.”
While most of the current Tigers don’t have experience competing at the state meet, they do have a lot of experience running against the state’s top competitors including Fort Loramie, Minster, St. Henry and Russia – teams they’ll face again this weekend.
“It should be fun to have a competition that’s really competitive with some great runners in it,” sophomore Hannah Bey said.
Even though the Tigers have run against some of the fastest girls in Ohio, they know this weekend will be much bigger than what they’ve experienced before.
“It just feels like there’s 10 times more energy than there was for (the Midwest Athletic Conference meet),” freshman Maria Mangen said. “Like MAC is starting to feel a little smaller, and I’m just more proud for my team that they made it this far.”
No matter how the race goes on Saturday, Pleiman is anticipating that the Tigers will have a great time this weekend.
“It’s a lot more fun bringing a whole team, having that team aspect to it,” he said. “Last year was special bringing my own kid (Noah Pleiman) plus Joe (Spitzer), but the girls, they’re all excited about it. It’s kind of neat to be able to bring that back to the school.”
The D-III girls race starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Versailles’ Joe Spitzer is back
Joe Spitzer hopes to finish his Versailles cross country career as one of the state’s fastest runners on Saturday in the Division II boys state race.
“This year my goal is probably to be second,” Spitzer said. “There’s Zach Kreft (from Delaware Buckeye Valley), he’s going to be there, and he’s probably the fastest in the country. Behind him there’s a kid from Lexington (Ryan Johnston) who was right in front of me at Tiffin, so I feel pretty confident that I can beat him and get second at state.”
Kreft is the fastest cross country runner in Ohio history with a personal-best time of 14:29.95, which also is the fastest time among any high school runner in the nation this year.
“It’s a bit intimidating going up against someone like him,” Spitzer said. “Just got to do what you can, run you race, run the best you can.”
Spitzer ran against Kreft earlier this season at the Tiffin Carnival. Kreft won the individual championship while Spitzer finished third with Johnston in between them.
“Everything else has been nothing but winning for Joe,” Pleiman said.
At last year’s state championships, Spitzer beat Johnston, and he hopes to do so again on Saturday.
“I’m going to get out there and give it my all,” Spitzer said.
Spitzer has gained confidence from competing against the best runners in the state. He finished ninth overall at last year’s state cross country meet behind Kreft and seven runners who were seniors last year. More recently he finished third in the 3,200 meter run at the OHSAA state track and field meet.
“It’s definitely nice to get that experience running up there at the top,” the three-time state cross country qualifier said.
Spitzer has continued to get faster and has a personal-best time of 15:41.70, which is second fastest in Versailles cross country history behind two-time state champion Sam Prakel.
Pleiman would like to see Spitzer finish his high school career with a new personal-best time.
“You can’t control what everybody else does,” Pleiman said. “So we’d love to say he’s going to be on top of the podium, but I know there’s a couple of guys with some pretty good times that he’s going to be running against so I’d love to see him top three and standing on the podium once again.”
Whatever happens on Saturday, Spitzer already has proven to be one of the fastest runners around, which he displayed last week at the regional meet in Troy by briefly passing the utility vehicle that was supposed to lead the runners.
“Apparently I’m the only person at Versailles to ever pass the Gator,” he said.
The D-II boys race starts at 2:15 p.m. on Saturday.
Kyle Shaner is the sports editor of the Greenville Daily Advocate, and Kiser is the sports editor of the Piqua Daily Call. Shaner can be reached at (937) 569-4316, and Kiser can be reached at (937) 451-3334.