TROY — Eaton’s boys cross country team is headed back to state.
The Eagles turned in a “good team” race to claim the runner-up trophy at the Division II regional cross country meet at Troy on Saturday, Oct. 28, to earn a spot at state for the first time since 2004.
With two strong packs, Eaton finished with 140 points to finish behind regional champion Cincinnati Madeira, who won the meet with 80 points. The top four teams and 16 individuals qualified for state. Springfield Shawnee (149 points) and Brookville (149) also advanced.
Eaton last finished as regional runner-up in 2001 — the same year they won the Division II state title.
“Today was just an example of the way it’s been all season long. We got out of here with a good team race. We didn’t run the great race that we were hoping we could. But, we had our two packs and that is what did it for us. Without one another they never would have gotten out,” Eaton coach Randy McKinney said.
Eaton’s runners got off to slow start in the first mile, but gradually worked their way back to the front of the race.
Cole Bulach, who has been the Eagles No. 3 runner most of the season, led the way with a 15th place finish in 16 minutes, 51.70 seconds.
Alex McCarty was 28th in 17:12.73 and Tanner Titkemeyer was 30th in 17:14.46.
Eaton’s second wave of runners were not far behind as Alex Newport finished 49th in 17:41.96 and Steven Cottle was 50th in 17:41.92. Jack Bortel was 53rd in 17:43.60 and Todd Coates was 69th in 18:02.78.
“These guys had to work to get this. Like I told the coaches this is just a reminder to me of the character of this team. They did what they had to do to do what they did,” McKinney said. “It feels good because to often you see kids really, really work hard and they fall short.”
McKinney said his team, which was ranked 15th in the state last week, has quietly been reaching its goals.
“These guys have been confident. This shows me how confident they’ve been. It takes a lot of confidence to be in the position they were in early on and bounce back the last two miles and do what they ultimately did,” he said.
McKinney said the team will enjoy its accomplishment for a few days then it will be back to work.
“I know these boys don’t want to go up there and just be happy being there. They want to accomplish a few things,” he said.
The 12-year drought to qualify as team proves just how hard it is to be one of the 16 teams to advance to state.
“People don’t realize how hard it is. It’s tremendously difficult, especially in our region. Our region is a tough regional. It always has been. For our boys to finally get back there after that long of a time period of not being there,” he said. “I think tradition has a lot to do with things sometimes. When you get in a groove, get in a rhythm, I think it’s easier for the kids to come along behind, because they have that expectation. But when you have the big, long drought team wise that we’ve had I think you kind of forget what you need to do as a team to make it happen. These boys, most of them, were only a couple of years old the last time we got there.”
Eaton senior Katie Bassler closed out her career with a 23rd place finish in 20:37.04.
“Katie did everything she needed to try and do to put herself in position to be in the top 16. She just ran one heck of a race,” McKinney said. “I couldn’t be prouder of her. All in all, I think she’s pretty happy with her finish today. She beat some girls she didn’t beat last week and a couple of girls she hadn’t beat all season long.”
McKinney called Bassler’s season a “pretty special accomplishment.”
The state meet will be held Saturday, Nov. 4, at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. The first race will begin at 11 a.m. with the Division III girls. Eaton’s boys are scheduled to run at 2:15 p.m.