HEBRON — It took 13 years for Eaton’s boys cross country team to return to the state championships and after gaining valuable experience last weekend, they’re hoping it doesn’t take another 13 to get back.
The Eagles finished 17th with 396 points at the 89th Annual OHSAA Boys State Championships on Saturday, Nov. 4, at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
“The thing that hurts us is it’s been 13 years since we’ve been here,” Eaton coach Randy McKinney said. “They were here last year to watch Seth (Gard), but experience makes a big difference no matter how the rest of your season goes. Until you’re here and competing you don’t understand that. We were 17th. I feel like we probably could have been a few more spots up. But, hey, we got here and that’s more than over a hundred and something schools in the state of Ohio can say.”
The Eagles were led by sophomore Alex McCarty, who finished 99th with a time of 17 minutes, 21.0 seconds. Senior Tanner Titkemeyer closed out his career with a 105th place finish in 17:24.4. Junior Cole Bulach was 111th in 17:30.4. Freshman Jack Bortel placed 130th in 17:46.6. Sophomore Alex Newport placed 142nd in 17:56.6. Todd Coates was 146th in 18:06.2 and senior Steven Cottle was 168th in 18:52.5.
“Time wise, I didn’t know how the course was going to run today. I knew we had some great competition out here,” McKinney said. “It ran okay. It didn’t run as fast as the state meet normally runs. But the course was good.”
Eaton got off to a fast start and was sitting 12th after the first mile. At the two-mile mark, the Eagles had fallen to 15th.
“I thought we got out pretty well. We moved pretty well, but we reached a point where we just didn’t move anymore,” McKinney said. “I think those are things kids come up here and they’re just not used to. Even though we run a lot of great competition, you have the best of the best here and that makes a difference.”
“We got a lot of experience today. We’ve got a lot of young guys. What better place to end your season or your career if your Tanner and Steven, than the state championships,” McKinney said.
McKinney credits Titkemeyer and Cottle for helping lead the team back to state.
“They had a lot of pressure. You want to make your last race your best race. You want to make it your fastest race. Sometimes neither of those things come together for you,” McKinney said. “In this sport you have to have some upper classmen that are willing to show some leadership because that’s so important. That’s one of the things that helped bring this team together this year. Two great kids. Two great additions to the program and everything we did this year is directly related to those two.”
McKinney said his team received several positive comments from other coaches.
“It’s just nice to be back here. We had a lot of positive comments from different people. I hope this is just the start of several years for these boys,” McKinney said. “We learned a lot today. I know they will be disappointed and they probably are and that’s okay. Having been in their shoes I understand that. What’s important is we take and reflect on what we accomplished and understand that was a great accomplishment.”
Eaton won the Southwestern Buckeye League championship and district championship this season. It was the first for both since 2004. The Eagles were also regional runner-up, a feat the program had not accomplished since 2001.
“Don’t let today tarnish anything that they did during the year,” McKinney said. “Hopefully, it’s a start for the future. It’s been a great season. A lot of people didn’t expect us to have the kind of season that we’ve had. Finishing 17th today didn’t make it any less of a season. It’s better to finish here than a week earlier.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH