CEDARVILLE — The momentum from its first league title since 2005 put the Anna Rockets’ boys cross country team in a good place entering the district championships Saturday.
And that’s exactly where sophomore Lucas Smith found himself, too, with a mile to go in the Division III race.
Smith and Cedarville junior Ethan Wallis were shoulder-to-shoulder battling for the lead during much of the 3.1-mile race on the Elvin R. King course at Cedarville University. The duo thrilled the spectators lining the final stretch with a frantic sprint to the finish, with Smith winning by 0.20 seconds.
Smith won the overall meet in 16:09.41 seconds and Wallis followed at 16:09.61.
Smith and Wallis also raced the Cedarville course at the Friendship Invitational on Sept. 14. Wallis finished 44.1 seconds ahead of Smith.
“My plan was to shoulder for the first two miles,” Smith said. “Right at the two mile I passed him and tried to take it. He caught back up and when we reached about 400 meters he was about 10 meters ahead. I had nothing to lose. I dug deep and caught him right at the end.”
Both Smith and Wallis earned individual district titles. The district meet combines two races, meaning the top two individual and top two team finishers per race are named district champions. Fort Loramie’s girls also won a district title after finishing second overall in the D-III race.
Anna’s boys placed first overall with 75 points to again edge Cedarville by the closest of margins. Cedarville, also a district champ, finished with 78 points.
The district title was the fifth in seven seasons for the Rockets. They won four straight D-III district titles from 2013-16. The competed in D-II in 2017 and 2018.
“Hopefully we can do the same thing next week at regional and maybe even state,” Smith said.
Anna sophomore Hayden Schmidt finished fifth in 16:41.75. He was followed by junior Jacob Robinson (10th, 17:04.7), senior Caleb Gaier (23rd, 17:33.2), junior Nick Fry, (36th, 17:57.4), sophomore Collin Frilling (44th, 18:10.48) and junior Connor McKinney (59th, 18:34.38).
The Rockets advance to the regional championship meet Saturday in Troy. The top four teams and top 16 individual qualifiers in the D-III meet qualify for the state championships.
Anna won the Shelby County Athletic League meet on Oct. 12 with 36 points behind Smith’s individual title and Schmidt’s runner-up finish. Botkins finished second with 44 points. The Rockets are ranked No. 9 in the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country coaches poll. Botkins is No. 13.
“We’re pumped. We’re coming into the postseason really motivated,” Smith said. “We came out of a really big conference win against Botkins. … It’s fun to run in a really competitive conference. If you win individual or team awards it’s a really big deal.”
Botkins finished third and Fort Loramie fourth to claim district runner-up finishes and also advance to the regional meet. Russia finished sixth and Houston finished eighth to also qualify.
Botkins’ boys teams included sophomore and district runner-up Collin Watterson (16:33.57), junior Alan Fullenkamp, junior Donovan Brown, freshman Keaton Schnippel, senior Elliot Goubeaux, freshman Carter Pleiman and sophomore Cole Steinke.
Fort Loramie’s boys were led by sophomore district runner-up Colten Gasson (16:30.75), sophomore Colin Gasson, freshman Frank Rethman, senior Jordan Dress, sophomore Evan Eilerman, senior Evan Luthman and senior Kaden Mescher.
Russia’s boys included junior Nicholas Caldwell, senior Andrew DeLoye, junior Jonathon Bell, junior Jacob Goubeaux, sophomore Sam York, freshman Zane Shappie and sophomore Aiden Shappie.
Houston’s boys included senior Blake Jacobs, sophomore Hunter Mowery, senior Patrick Meiring, senior Joseph Earl, sophomore Justin Pollock, sophomore Ryan Ely and freshman Ethan Davis.
Fort Loramie’s girls district title team included district runner-up and sophomore Olivia Borchers, junior Dani Eilerman, freshman Ava Turner, junior Corynn Heitkamp, sophomore Claire Rethman, junior Caitlyn Glasson and sophomore Anna Detrick.
Versailles finished third and Russia fourth to earn district runner-up honors in the girls D-III meet.
The Tigers team included junior Maria Mangen, junior Lauren Menke, sophomore Madelyn Holzapfel, senior Emma Peters, senior Hannah Bey, sophomore Kaylee Phelan and junior Renea Schmitmeyer.
Running for the Raiders were junior Becca Seger, sophomore Ella Hoehne, sophomore Sophie Francis, freshman Anna Meyer, freshman Kayli McClenan, senior Sarah Pinchot and senior Andrea Monnin.
Anna’s D-III girls regional qualifying team that finished sixth included freshman Grace Bensman, sophomore Bethany Althauser, sophomore Kaylie Kipp, freshman Reagan Paulus, sophomore Hope Bixler, sophomore Breann Reaman and sophomore Madison Prenger.
Jackson Center senior Christopher Elchert and freshman Kellen Reichert also advanced to the D-III regional boys meet. Houston sophomore Ava Knouff and Botkins junior Emma Koenig qualified in the D-III girls race.