FORT LORAMIE — The Fort Loramie High School girls cross country program has qualified for the state meet 19 times overall. So when Redskins coach Dennis Prenger says this might be one of the deepest teams yet, that’s saying something.
The Division III girls field, however, is just as deep. That’s the challenge facing Fort Loramie as it enters the cross country state championships Saturday at Fortress Obetz, a sports and multi-entertainment complex southeast of Columbus. The meet moves there after being held at National Trail Raceway in Hebron since 2012.
“It’ll be the same for everybody,” Prenger said. “What we do have is the expectation of what it takes. I like our chances. Again, it’ll take seven girls having their day on the same day.”
Fort Loramie returns all seven runners from the team that finished third at state in 2019. Minster returns four runners from last year’s title team, their fourth straight and 13th overall state championship. Runner-up West Liberty-Salem has three returnees, but reloaded with four freshmen to win its regional meet.
Minster won the D-III state title last season with 79 points to beat WL-S by 10 and Fort Loramie by 11. Liberty Center and Mount Gilead, which rounded out the top five at state, are again in the mix.
“I like it, to go there and know it’s going to require you to run at your best to be on the podium,” Prenger said. “To have a meet that I think is going to be extremely competitive I’m looking forward to it.”
West Liberty-Salem enters state ranked No. 1 in the final Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country coaches poll and is followed (in order)s by Liberty Center, Minster, Fort Loramie and Mount Gilead.
Dani Eilerman, Caitlyn Gasson and Corynn Heitkamp provide senior leadership for the Redskins. They are joined by juniors Olivia Borchers, Anna Detrick and Claire Rethman and sophomore Ava Turner.
Loramie’s first trip to state came in 1985. A state title followed in 2002. As for the 19 trips to state, that ranks among the state’s top 10 programs all-time.
“Having that tradition and those expectations always helps,” Prenger said of maintaining the program’s success. “In my classroom I have the pictures of the teams that have been on the podium at state. The kids, when they’re freshmen in my class they see those kids and I think they emulate to be like them. All we ever ask of our kids is to give us their best effort.
“I felt like all seven kids that raced (at the regional meet) put together the race we needed from them. (Saturday) we know it will take another level.”
As for Minster, the Wildcats saw their streak of six straight regional titles snapped by Liberty Center. LC edged Minster by eight points.
Seniors Ella Boate and Mason Pohl guide five underclassmen at state with sophomores Cameo Cedarleaf and Taylor Roth and freshmen Chaney Cedarleaf, Maggie Hemmelgarn and Morgan Ketner.
Anna’s girls return to the D-III meet for the first time since 2006 and second overall. Juniors Bethany Althauser, Hope Bixler, Kayli Brewer, Kaylie Kipp and Breann Reaman, sophomore Grace Bensman and Paige Steinkie rallied to finish third at regional.
Versailles grabbed the fourth and final spot by eight points over Botkins to also advance with seniors Maria Mangen, Lauren Menke and Mallory Subler, junior Madelyn Holzapfel and freshmen Meredith Barga, Carly Graves and Holly Langenkamp. The Tigers have qualified for state 19 times, including the last four.
Botkins senior Emma Koenig and freshman Brittany Arnold and Russia senior Becca Seger qualified as individuals.
In the D-III boys meet Minster, Anna and Botkins enter in the same pack. Minster is ranked No. 9 in the final OATCC poll, Anna is No. 10 and Botkins No. 12. All three return to state for the second straight season.
Minster, making its 10th appearance, runs with seniors Mathew Droesch and Josh Niekamp, juniors Alex Albers and Joseph Slonkosky, sophomore Jim Trzaska and freshmen Jack Grieshop and Ryan Halpin.
Anna’s group of seniors Carter Beam, Nick Fry, Ethan Kitchen and Jacob Robinson, juniors Collin Frilling and Hayden Schmidt and freshman John Young earned the Rockets their 12th overall appearance.
This is the first time in program history both Anna’s boys and girls teams qualified for state in the same season.
“Enjoy it,” Anna coach Dean Stewart said of his advice to the Rockets. “The pressure is off. Just run and enjoy it. Use it as a stepping stone for next year.”
Botkins qualified for the eighth time overall behind seniors Donovan Brown and Alan Fullenkamp, junior Cole Steinke, sophomores Carter Pleiman and Keaton Schnippel and freshmen Grant Flora and Parker Schnippel.
Botkins grabbed the fourth and final spot at regional with a 10-point edge over Fort Loramie.
“We’re happy we made it out,” Botkins coach Ryan Gutman said. “Happy for the seniors on our team. It’s great.”
Added Pleiman, “It’s going to be fun competing with them one more time this year.”
Individually, Fort Loramie juniors Colin Gasson and Colten Gasson and Jackson Center sophomore Kellen Reichert also advanced to the state meet.
The D-III boys start the meet a 9 a.m., followed by the girls at 10 a.m. D-II follows with boys at noon and girls at 1 p.m. D-I concludes the state championship with boys at 3 p.m. and girls at 4 p.m. 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.