WEST MILTON — The Minster High School girls cross country team is no stranger to the state cross country meet. And this season the Wildcats boys plan on reacquainting themselves, too.
The Wildcats kicked off the season — joining 1,788 high school and junior high runners at Milton-Union High School — for the Bob Schul Invitational on Saturday. The Minster girls finished second with 40 points, trailing West Liberty-Salem’s 30 points.
Minster’s boys finished fifth, a good showing for the first meet and especially by sophomore Alex Albers. He finished second overall in 16:38.8. Cedarville’s Ethan Wallis won the 3.1-mile race in 16:29.8.
“I was happy with what Alex did today,” Minster boys coach Larry Topp said. “Last year he didn’t really have a chance to shine because of an injury. It’s fun seeing him get a chance to get out there and do it.”
Albers was followed in the Wildcats’ top seven by senior Luke Barga (17:31.3), senior Austin Felice (18:34.2), junior Joel Berelsman (18:34.7), sophomore Joseph Slonkosky (18:51.3), freshman Noah Walter (18:55.1), sophomore Tyler Prenger (19:16.6) and senior Devon Schultz (19:41.2).
“(Barga and I) push each other, which is really awesome. We have a lot of high-level seniors this year and they’re all great leaders,” Albers said. “I’ve always (teased) coach Topp, ‘Hey, you might have your best class right here (with the sophomores).’ We’re just trying to prove it. I think we have a really bright future. We just thank God. This wouldn’t be possible without him.”
Minster’s girls, the three-time defending Division III state champions, were led by junior Ella Boat’s sixth-place finish. Freshman Taylor Roth (20:15.3), senior Mackenzie Bohman (20:16.9), senior Gwendolyn Meiring (20:28.3), freshman Cameo Cedarleaf (20:45.8), junior Mason Pohl (21:02.5) and senior Rachel Kitzmiller (21:41.4) rounded out the top seven.
“The boys are trying to rally around getting better,” Albers said of following the girls to state. “It’s not difficult (seeing their success) because you’re so proud of the girls team. But the guys team wants to make itself known, too. The girls are a great example to have for us.”
The Russia Raiders girls tossed their spikes into the running for state, too. The Raiders finished third with 120 points. Junior Becca Seger led the Raiders after finishing 11th in 20:28.2.
“I’m very proud of them today sitting in the top three up against tough competition. Our pack ran strong for us,” Russia first-year coach Mark Travis said. “Our goal is to be heading to state. We’re working hard with the group to stay healthy and position ourselves at regional. There’s lots of talent so getting out will be tough but we hope to be there, too.”
Sidney’s boys finished 12th out of 18 teams in the D-I and D-II big school meet. Senior Ian Bonifas led the Yellow Jackets in 75th in 19:04.0. Sophomore Grant Hoying (76th, 19:05.4) and freshman Gavin Musser (77th, 19:05.5) were steps behind.
Sidney’s girls finished 14th overall and were led by sophomore Montana Stephens (99th, 24:18.6).
In the small-school meet:
• The Botkins boys finished fourth behind sophomore Collin Watterson, who finished 11th in 17:21.4. Junior Alan Fullenkamp also finished among the top 20 (20th, 17:38.0). The Botkins girls were eight and led by junior Emma Koenig (5th, 19:57.8).
• The Versailles girls placed fifth and were led by sophomore Madelyn Holzapfel (27th, 21:58.9). Versailles’ boys, led by junior Matt Cromwell (55th, 18:36.6), finished ninth.
• Russia junior Nicholas Caldwell (35th, 17:58.5) paced the Raiders’ boys to 10th.
• Houston’s boys were 11th behind senior Blake Jacobs (32nd, 17:54.0). The Houston girls were 15th and led by sophomore Ava Knouff (22nd, 21:36.0).
• Jackson Center finished 18th and was led by Christopher Elchert (17th, 17:33.9). Freshman Kellen Reichert also finished inside the top 20 (19th, 17:37.4). For the girls, junior Jasci Baum was the highest finisher (139th, 27:45.1).
• Fairlawn was 21st behind senior Jonah Brautigam (59th, 18:41.1). Freshman Jocelyn McDonald led the Fairlawn girls (32nd, 22:17.4).
• Lehman Catholic’s girls were 13th behind sophomore Agnes Schmiesing (50th, 23:13.40). Lehman Catholic’s boys were 29 behind Scott Petersen (254th, 22:51.2).