EATON — The 45th annual Eaton Cross Country Invitational was held at Fort St. Clair on Saturday, Sept. 19.
The Invite was the largest it’s ever been, hosting over 1,700 runners who represented 51 schools through 14 races during the course of the day.
“I am very pleased with the efforts and accomplishments of our athletes on Saturday,” said Eaton cross country coach Randy McKinney. “It was a great showing for our program in a very competitive field of competition.”
It rained periodically throughout the day, but the weather was just mild enough where it didn’t create severe concerns for the huge field of competition or the spectators that were there watching.
“The weather was a little rainy throughout the entire day, but we were very lucky to not have any thunder or lighting that could have created big problems when you have that many athletes and several thousand spectators revolving in and out of Fort St. Clair Park during the long day,” said McKinney.
In the Division II races, top Eaton runner Seth Gard finished first overall on the boys’ side while Sasha Taxter finished eighth on the girls’ side.
Along with Gard’s top finish, the boys finished second overall (behind Badin) on the day while the girls ended up fourth overall.
Gard ran a time of 16:32, beating his next closest competition by 11 seconds.
“Seth had about a four second lead on him with 500 meters to go and opened it up, gaining another seven seconds prior to coming in with the victory,” said McKinney. “He placed fourth overall last year so it was nice to see him cruise in with the victory.”
Ben Bassler and Mac Altom had very solid races placing as well, finishing 12th and 15th, respectively, in times of 17:46 and 17:59. Cole Bulach had a personal best race placing, finishing 18th overall in 18:06.
Tanner Titkemeyer placed 30th overall in 18:35 to round out the Eagles’ top five.
Also putting in solid showings were Steven Cottle, who placed 41st in 17:50, Wyatt Cox, placing 42nd in 18:56, Tyler Early placing 54th in 19:37, Blake Whitesell placing 57th in 19:50.3 and Cole Whitesell placing 58th in 19:50.7.
All the Eaton boys’ runners placed in the top half of the field.
On the girls’ end, the Eagles were led by Taxter, who put in an eighth place finish in 21:31.
Brooke Caplinger placed 15th overall in 22:24 followed closely by Lauren Muncy, who finished 17th overall in 22:29. Nina Albinus and Isabelle Heggs placed 36th and 43th, respectively, in 24:45 and 25:40 to round out Eaton’s top five.
Also showing for the Eagles were Destiny Brubaker, finishing 45th in 25:53, Allison Webb finishing 53rd in 27:13, Hannah Perry placing 56th in 27:20, and Cami Rivero and Maddi Meredith, placing 67th and 68th, respectively, in 31:43 and 32:22.
“All our volunteers work this meet free of charge to Eaton Community Schools, which is such a huge asset for the community, school and especially the athletic department,” said McKinney. “I also want to compliment our 63 Eaton cross country athletes who don’t just show up race day and compete, but they stay after the meet to help clean up trash, pick up cones, put away tables, put away tents, et cetera.”
On the junior high side for Eaton, the boys placed first and the girls placed fourth overall.
“I am very pleased with the progress of both the men’s and women’s teams,” said McKinney. “Our goal right now is to get better each week mentally and physically as we progress through the regular season. It’s always nice to see our athletes get the opportunity to step on the awards stand individually and as a team, and come across the finish line with a strong first place finish. All of that adds to the tradition of our program and the tradition of the Eaton Cross Country Invitational.”
Jeremy Erskine may be reached at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @jerskine_RH