TIFFIN — The Eaton varsity cross country teams participated in the Tiffin Cross Country Carnival Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 10 — a performance highlighted by a ninth place finish for senior Seth Gard.
The men’s team placed 15th overall in a field of 53 teams, while the women’s team placed 25th in a field of 36 teams.
The Tiffin Invitational is one of the largest high school meets in the United States and is overall the toughest regular season high school meet held in Ohio, according to coach Randy McKinney. “I believe this meet is tougher than the OHSAA State Cross Country Championships at the end of the year,” McKinney said.
“The field of runners is enormous, the competition is unbelievable and the atmosphere is purely cross country.”
Gard led the way for the men’s team with the ninth place finish in the field of 359 runners, finishing with a time of 16:39. Gard worked his way up from 25th place in the first mile, moved into 17th place with a half mile to go, then 14th with a quarter mile left in the race before he surged ahead.
He was just “nipped” at the finish line by the seventh and eighth place runners, according to McKinney.
“Seth ran an outstanding individual race in a top-notch field of competition,” said McKinney. “Placing in the top 15 in this meet is a major achievement.”
Tanner Tikemeyer was the second Eagle finisher to come through the line, in 54th place in a time of 17:47.
“Tanner too had an outstanding day on the Tiffin course,” said McKinney. “Tanner is running very consistently with great focus and purpose, which is what it takes to race well in cross country.”
Freshman Alex McCarty was the next Eagle finisher crossing the line, in 131st place in a time of 18:43, followed by sophomore Cole Bulach who placed 141st in 18:49. The fifth eagle to cross the line was freshman Alex Newport, in 183rd place in 19:20.
Rookie sophomore Dylan Suding placed 226th in 19:55, followed by junior Steven Cottle, who placed 269th in 20:38.
“I thought the weather delay and high humidity right before the start of the varsity boys’ race played a huge factor in our overall team performance,” McKinney said. “We have a lot of young runners who have little-to-no varsity level experience, and I believe we lost our team focus just before the start of the race, which cost us in the end.
“That can happen with a younger and inexperienced team, especially early in the season. It’s just another one of those things that we have to work to overcome so it doesn’t happen again later in the season. Just a good reminder as to why we take it one week at a time as the season progresses, making sure we learn, evaluate, adapt and ultimately improve,” he added.
The Lady Eagles were led by Katie Bassler, who placed 113th in a time of 22:34, followed by Sasha Taxter at 117th in 22:39, Brooke Caplinger at 149th in 23:33; Gabby Best at 150th in 23:33.1; Destiny Brubaker at 158th in 23:40; Alexis Owen at 192nd in 24:49 and Brianna Baker at 196th in 24:55.
“The girls’ team is making progress, gaining valuable experience and making improvement each time they race,” said McKinney. “The Tiffin Invitational was a very tough meet for our Lady Eagles, but I believe it will make them better in the championship portion of our season, which is what we are training for at this point.
“I am very pleased with the attitude, effort and manner in which the girls are challenging one another each time they step on the course to compete,” McKinney said. “Even though the girls don’t want to talk about it, there is tremendous competition among them for their varsity position each time a new race starts. I like that, and just have to make sure I help them continue to transfer that into developing their team pack, which ultimately is what will make them tougher as a team and as result allow them to move up in the team standings even at tough meets like Tiffin.”
“Overall our trip to Tiffin was successful for both teams and our individuals on multiple levels,” McKinney said. “We will not run any other races quite that large the remainder of the season, especially with the overall level of talent that each race provided our cross country program.”
The team will run next on Saturday, Sept. 17, in the Eaton Invitational, at their home course at Fort St. Clair.
The Eagles split their squad on Saturday, sending some of the team members to compete in the varsity races at the Troy Invitational.
Overall, the high school men’s team placed 18th overall, but the junior high boys’ team placed first overall and the junior high girls placed fifth.
The high school boys’ team competed against a very strong and dominate Division I field of teams. The Eagles were led by Todd Coates, who placed 107th in 19:44, followed closely by LeKendrick Brown in 108th place with a time of 18:46.
Mike Arys was the third Eaton finisher in 118th place in 19:52; Gideon Smith was 169th in 20:51; Darius Benton was 188th in 21:11; Jacob Hickman was 197th in 21:26; Winsom Lam was 231st in 22:05; KeAnthony Bales was 240th in 22:15 and Isaac Rorher was 250th in 22:29, in the field of 333 runners.
The Lady Eagles competed, but did not score in the team standings because they finished with only three competitors. Five runners are needed to score as a team.
“Right now, we have three other young ladies who are recovering from injury who are unavailable to participate,” McKinney said.
Nina Albinus led the way for the Eagles, with a 99th place finish in a time of 27:32, followed by Jaque Owen at 130th in 30:00 and Maddie Meredith in 135th in a time of 30:15, in a field of 161 runners.
Splitting the squad allowed all the athletes to earn varsity points which go toward earning a varsity letter at the end of the season, according to McKinney.
“It also allows our other athletes to compete as varsity runners representing our program,” he said.
The highlight of the Troy invitational was a first place finished for the junior high boys’ team. The team placed first in the field of 17 teams with 42 points, besting runner-up Troy, who finished with 92 points.
The junior high girls placed fifth in a 13-team field behind Bellbrook, Troy, Anna and Beavercreek.
“This was an outstanding finish for both teams,” McKinney said.
For the junior high boys, in the field of 221 runners, Owen Hewitt took sixth place, Tyler Gregory took seventh, and Jack Bortel took eighth.
Austin Kopf came in 12th, followed by Garrett Sanders in 20th; Logan Cottle in 22nd; Ryan Brooks in 42nd; Beau Shepherd in 47th; Jacob Wright in 48th; Brady Cooper in 49th; Dawson Brubaker in 91st; Cole Hauser in 105th; Gavin Bach in 173rd and Jonah Brewer in 209th.
In a field of 186 runners for the junior high girls, Cari Metz took 19th place, just ahead of Allison Mowen, who placed 20th.
Maddelynn Baker placed 26th; Sophia Murphy placed 32nd; Tess Murphy placed 55th; Mara Posey placed 59th; Anna Kramer placed 60th; Alaina Webb placed 66th; Grace Murphy placed 82nd; Josie Bulach placed 86th; Grace Risner placed 99th; Alli Whitesell placed 108th; Ann Hickman placed 109th; Kyla Mize placed 129th; Olivia McCarty placed 135th; Grace Maynard placed 145th and Katie Rich placed 172nd.
Reach Oliver Sanders at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @osanders_RH