TROY — Anna High School’s Dean Stewart has seen just about everything during a standout career coaching cross country. But on Saturday he witnessed a first at the Division III regional championships.
Anna’s boys and girls teams navigated both a competitive field and a slick 3.1-mile course to qualify for the D-III state championships. The boys qualified for the 11th time and the girls the second, but it’s the first time both have gone in the same season.
“I’m glad for the boys, but I’m really happy for the girls,” Stewart said. “They’ve worked so hard. They’ve put a lot of miles in.”
Botkins’ boys also qualified for state as did the Fort Loramie and Versailles girls.
Jackson Center sophomore Kellen Reichert and Fort Loramie juniors Colten Gasson and Colin Gasson qualified as individuals in boys. Botkins senior Emma Koenig and freshman Brittany Arnold and Russia senior Becca Seger advanced in girls.
Stewart was more confident in the boys finishing among the top four teams at regional, but the Rockets had to do it Saturday without No. 3 runner Lucas Smith.
Two of the spots in the girls regional were practically guaranteed to West Liberty-Salem and Fort Loramie. That left Anna, Botkins and Versailles to battle for the final two spots.
Anna edged Versailles by one point and Botkins by nine to reach state for the first time since 2006.
“We knew we really had to go for it today,” junior Bethany Althauser said. “We knew we had the potential. We just had to run our best races.”
Sophomore Grace Bensman led the Rockets in 10th in 20:17.6. She was followed by Althauser (15th, 20:32), senior Kaylie Kipp (35th, 21:27.4), freshman Paige Steinkie (39th, 21:37.4), junior Breann Reaman (53rd, 22:09.8), junior Hope Bixler (61st, 22:33.2) and junior Kayli Brewer (67th, 22:47.5).
“We’d been all week feeding our minds with positive thoughts and I think that helped,” Althauser said. “Our hard work really paid off. This feels great.”
The boys join them after finishing third behind top-ranked Cedarville and defending state champion Cincinnati Summit Country Day.
Junior Hayden Schmidt finished second overall in 16:30.4 and was followed by senior Jacob Robinson (7th, 16:58.2), senior Nick Fry (31st, 17:41), senior Ethan Kitchen (41st, 18:04.4), senior Carter Beam (42nd, 18:11.3), freshman John Young (60th, 18:40.9) and junior Collin Frilling (61st, 18:44.8).
As for Botkins, The Bus — a group of Trojans who typically run in a pack — is heading to Columbus.
“We knew we were going to have a good season so we started working all together,” sophomore Carter Pleiman said. “We called it The Bus because our jerseys are yellow.”
And on Saturday The Bus was rolling. Literally. Pleiman and freshman Grant Flora both slipped on a muddy and dew-covered hill but recovered to keep their positions.
“One of the funniest parts of the year, I’m not going to lie,” Pleiman said. “We tried to get up as quick as we could. We rolled like three times. I don’t think (our feet) ever touched the hill. We just fell down it so fast.”
Botkins grabbed the fourth spot to edge out Fort Loramie by 10 points. The Trojans were led by senior Alan Fullenkamp’s 10th place finish in 17:01.1. Also competing was Pleiman (28th, 17:40.3), freshman Parker Schnippel (30th, 17:40.5), Flora (32nd, 17:41.7), senior Donovan Brown (33rd, 17:46.8), sophomore Keaton Schnippel (34th, 17:50.9) and junior Cole Steinke (43rd, 18:12.6).
Fort Loramie finished fifth behind individual qualifiers Colten Gasson (5th in 16:50.7) and Colin Gasson (13th, 17:03.7). Russia, led by senior Nicholas Caldwell (20th, 17:20.6), was sixth. Houston placed 10th and was led by junior Hunter Mowery (24th, 17:34.1).
Jackson Center’s Reichert placed eighth in 16:58.3.
Fort Loramie’s girls qualified for the fifth straight time and 19th overall. The Redskins finished 29 points behind West Liberty-Salem ranked No. 1 in the state in D-III.
Junior Olivia Borchers finished second overall in 19:15.5 and was followed by junior Claire Rethman (7th, 19:42.2), senior Dani Eilerman (13th, 20:27.5), junior Aniva Detrick (16th, 20:36.3), sophomore Ava Turner (21st, 20:55.5), senior Corynn Heitkamp (23rd, 21:01.7) and Caitlyn Gasson (27th, 21:09.5).
“I felt like all seven kids that raced today put together the race we needed from them,” Fort Loramie coach Dennis Prenger said. “Next week we know it will take another level.”
Versailles advanced to state for the 19th time and fourth straight season. Freshman Meredith Barga led the Tigers in 19th in 20:49.7. Senior Maria Mangen (26th, 21:07.7), senior Lauren Menke (31st, 21:22.1), junior Madelyn Holzapfel (34th, 21:26.5), freshman Holly Langenkamp (44th, 21:51.8), freshman Carly Graves (45th, 21:54.1) and senior Mallory Subler (46th, 21:56.5) round out the state team.
Botkins, led by Arnold (4th, 19:31.4) and Koenig (11th, 20:19.5), finished fifth. Russia placed seventh behind senior Becca Seger (9th, 20:12.9).
The state championships are held Saturday at Fortress Obetz, a multi-purpose sports and entertainment complex. The State of Ohio and Franklin County Departments of Health are limiting attendance to 1,500 per division. Attendance is limited to parents and immediate family.