HEBRON — A total of 88 points separated Minster and Fort Loramie’s girls cross country teams at the state championships Saturday. Off the course, the Wildcats and Redskins showed they were much, much closer.
As anticipated there was no photo finish needed to decide the Division III girls state championship, won by Minster over runner-up Fort Loramie. But there was a photo after the finish that demonstrated the respect between the neighboring programs.
Following the trophy presentations the two teams joined together for a group photo.
A podium finish for the Redskins’ girls wasn’t the only reason for Fort Loramie to smile. The boys team captured its second D-III state title in three seasons with an 18-point victory over Cincinnati Summit Country Day.
“Give credit to Minster. We knew exactly what we were up against with them,” Fort Loramie coach Dennis Prenger said. “Best case scenario, we felt confident we had a shot to be on the podium twice today. We didn’t count on it happening but we certainly thought it was within the realm of possibility.”
Fort Loramie’s boys were fourth — and trailing by 26 points — after two miles of the 3.1-mile race at National Trail Raceway near Hebron. That’s when Prenger told his runners to pick up the pace.
“We got on them and said we’re going to need (to pass) five or 10 guys,” Prenger said. “They were making significant moves down the stretch. That was the difference in the race what those guys in the three through five spots were willing to do in the last mile.”
As they have all season, seniors Joe Ballas and Jake Rethman battled for the win. Ballas finished third overall in 16:42.8 seconds and Rethman fifth in 16:43.6.
Freshman Colton Gasson finished 30th (17:20.4) and passed 22 runners in the final mile. Freshman Colin Gasson finished 68th (17:45.5) and moved up 17 positions. Junior Jordan Drees (96th, 18:02.9; passed nine), senior Gavin Schulze (128th, 18:27) and freshman Evan Eilerman (159, 19:15.4; passed four) also contributed heavily.
“That is the key thing to winning a state championship,” Ballas said. “You need five guys, not two or three. Our three, four and five, they came through today for us huge. They are the heroes of the story.”
Entering the meet the Redskins were ranked fourth in the state poll. Four teams, though, received first-place votes. The Redskins were one of them.
“I feel like there wasn’t a clear victor (coming in),” Rethman said. “It left it up to the team that came in and handled the delay and the course conditions. It was up to anyone to grab that state title. I feel like we had a good mentality coming into the race. Like Mr. Prenger says, ‘Go out and compete.’ I think we did that today.”
The state meet was scheduled for Nov. 3, but heavy rain flooded the course and forced OHSAA officials to postpone the meet to Saturday. The course was muddy, mucky and slippery in spots. The weather was cold and windy. But the Redskins overcame all those obstacles to stand atop the podium as state champions.
“I was out ahead a little bit and I think Joe passed me and he said, ‘C’mon Jake you can do it.’ At that point we had to finish for the team,” Rethman said. “Neither of us got first or second, but honestly, if you asked us we’d much rather choose the team title over an individual title. It’s so much more fun.”
Fort Loramie’s girls were led by freshman Olivia Borchers, who finished ninth in 19:27.1. Joining her were junior Danielle Berning (33rd, 20:26.7), sophomore Caitlyn Gasson (43rd, 20:40.8), sophomore Dani Eilerman (51st, 20:45.9), freshman Claire Rethman (72nd, 21:12.3), freshman Anna Detrick (85th, 21:30.4) and sophomore Corynn Heitkamp (107th, 21:54.6).
“That’s super cool we’re both on the podium,” Minster coach Jessie Magoto said. “They’re great girls. We know them and we know their coaches well. Good people. They train hard. It’s cool.”
Minster’s girls, meanwhile, captured their third straight state title and 12th overall. The Wildcats have won their past three state titles by 88, 96 and 57 points. And with no seniors among the top seven runners the program should challenge again next season.
Junior Emma Watcke came within 1.7 seconds of defending her D-III state championship. She finished second overall to Badger junior Miranda Stanhope.
“She’s a fighter,” Magoto said. “But I know Emma well. She’ll use that for next year. I’m sure she’s disappointed coming that close but, man, she’s a fighter and she’s strong. She’s going to use that feeling to her advantage in the future.”
Sophomore Ella Boate, who missed the district and regional meet with a nagging hip injury, finished 10th in 19:30.0. She was followed by junior Gwendolyn Meiring (11th, 19:42.7), senior Kaitlynn Albers (15th, 19:51.8), junior Mackenzie Bohman (17th, 19:54.4), senior Madeline Magoto (38th, 20:30.6) and sophomore Mason Pohl (45th, 20:41.4).
“I’m still trying to register what they did,” Magoto said. “They ran well. They ran as a pack. They did what they did all year. That’s what we hoped. But when you see it still takes awhile to realize it really did just happen.”
Also competing at the state meet Saturday:
In D-III boys, Houston senior Tristin Freistuhler finished 81st in 17:52.7in D-III and Minster junior Luke Barga was 107th in 18:10.
In D-III girls, Houston freshman Ava Knouff was 83rd in 21:25.2 and Botkins sophomore Emma Koenig was 142nd in 22:43.3.
The Versailles girls also competed as a team in the D-III meet and finished 15th overall. Running for the Tigers were freshman Madelyn Holzapfel (84th, 21:29.1), sophomore Maria Mangen (105th, 21:50.5), senior Liz Watren (112th, 22:04.2), senior Kara Spitzer (123rd, 22:14.4), sophomore Lauren Menke (140th, 22:41.3), freshman Delaney Barga (158th, 23:36.1) and junior Emma Peters (160th, 23:47.5).