TROY — Eaton’s boys cross country team will be making a return trip to state after placing third in the Division II regional championships on Saturday, Oct. 27, at Troy.
Eaton finished with 116 points. Springfield Shawnee was the regional champion with 92 points and Tippecanoe was the regional runner-up with 112.
The girls team, which was making its first appearance at the regional level since 2014, had its season come to an end with an 11th place finish. The girls scored 236 points. Bellbrook won the meet with 57 points. Tippecanoe was second with 75.
The state championships will be held on Saturday, Nov. 3, at National Trail Raceway, in Hebron. Eaton will run at 11:45 a.m. The first race of the day will begin at 11 a.m. with the Division III boys.
“We knew going in that we could finish anywhere from first to fourth if we just ran a solid team race. The boys were very confident, as they have been all season, in what they had to get done to earn another trip to the state championship,” Eaton coach Randy McKinney said.
When the race ended and the points were tallied the Eagles earned another trip to the state championships.
Junior Alex McCarty led the way for the Eagles placing 18th overall in 16:50, Alex Newport (junior) placed 24th overall in 17:00, Jack Bortel (sophomore) placed 27th in 17:09, senior Dylan Suding 28th in 17:09, senior Cole Bulach 52nd in 17:42, junior Todd Coates 60th in 17:55 and junior LeKendric Brown 67th in 18:08.
“It was a very tight team race with the four teams I expected to qualify on managing to do so,” McKinney said. “The overall strength of the SWBL, which I mentioned several times this season, was best exemplified by the fact that the SWBL had three of the top six teams and four of the top nine teams overall, what a great day for our league.”
McKinney said the regional race showed what racing as a team can do.
“Saturday was a great example of “team” and a team doing what it needs to do to succeed, especially when things don’t unfold as the race develops in the way you would want,” he said. “The boys did not have their strongest team race of the season, but it was the team effort that earned them a spot in the upcoming state championships. We didn’t have anyone place in the top 16 places and had several of the guys a off their normal races, but it was a true team effort that got us another trip the state championships. Very seldom does a team place in the top four places at the regional championship meet without placing one or two runners in the top sixteen places.”
McKinney said the team got off to a slow start.
“We got caught back in the pack a little too much in the first ¾ mile of the race and really had to work over the 2.1 miles of the race to move up. The course narrows down at the 400 meter mark making it difficult to pass along with a pretty strong head wind to run in on the return loop of the next 1200 meters,” he said. “The guys knew we were not in a great position after the first mile, but they worked hard over the next 2.1 miles to make up for the deficit we had helped create for ourselves in the first mile. The experience running at this meet the last three years and against this level of competition all season paid off. The guys didn’t panic they worked their way up gradually without using one another for support and confidence as the race unfolded making the best of the negative start of the race. I was able to get to a position on the course and watch as each of our guys competed over the last 100 meters of the race and I’m happy to say that not one of our seven guys give up even one place in that last part of the race. What a great team accomplishment.”
McKinney is looking forward to the state meet.
“I’m excited about what can happen for this team at the state championships this upcoming weekend. We will focus on fine tuning physically and mentally for the upcoming opportunity. We are going back with a lot of experience and most importantly an attitude to take advantage of the opportunity and to see just how good we have become this season,” he said. “The boys have felt like they have been a little overlooked in the state polls all season long. I reminded them after the race on Saturday that they have the opportunity to see where they belong and help create the final season state poll by the way they race in the championship meet on Saturday.”
This is the second consecutive year the boys program has qualified as a team to the OHSAA State Championships and the 10th time overall for our boys program.
Girls reach their goal
The girls team ended their season having accomplished their main team goal of qualifying as a team to the regional championships. The girls last team appearance at the regional championships was in 2014.
“Brooke Caplinger and Claire Meyer have worked hard as seniors this entire season to do everything in their power to encourage the underclassmen on this team to keep their focus and effort to accomplish the goal of getting the team to the regional championship,” McKinney said. “The example set and the leadership of Brooke and Claire were key to accomplishing this team goal. Our 11th place finish was not disappointing, but rather a great starting point for our girls program for the next few years to come. The seniors got to finish their season one step away from the state meet and the underclassmen gained valuable experience of competing in a regional championship and running on what is always very tough course.”
Another slow start hurt the team.
“We didn’t get a great team start, we got caught up in the back part of the middle pack and really had to work to move up from there which is always difficult to do at this meet,” McKinney said. “Inexperience, nerves and the hesitation to get out too fast played a key role at this meet for our girls.”
Freshman Ali Mowen led the way placing 41st overall in 21:02, just a second off her season best time.
“I can’t say enough positive about Ali and the progress she has made from the beginning of the season until now,” McKinney said. “She did what I hope every runner I coach can do which is take the good and bad from each race, learn from it, then use it to make your next race better than the last.
Sophomore Cari Metz was next for the Lady Eagles with a 53rd place finish in 21:32.
“She has done an excellent job this season of working hard moving up from our 7th/8th position at the start of the season to competing for our top spot the last three meets,” McKinney said. “Cari is starting to understand her abilities and really applied it to her racing the last third of the season which is very exciting for her and her future running career”
Clair Meyer was third third finisher placing 59th overall in 21:46.
“Claire worked very hard this season, leading the team as our top runner most of the season and finishes a great high school Cross Country career,” McKinney said. “Claire has been a great example and will be greatly missed.”
Brooke Caplinger placed 71st overall in 22:22 to finish up her outstanding Cross Country career as a Lady Eagle.
“Brooke did an excellent job this entire season working hard to make herself better each time out. Very few people know that she worked through the last month of the season recovering from a severe high ankle sprain which would have ended the season for most athletes in any sport, especially Cross Country,” McKinney said. “She has been a great example and will be greatly missed.”
Junior Briana Baker placed 84th overall in 22:45as the fifth finisher for the Eagles.
“Briana too has had an outstanding season learning how to step outside her comfort level this season to improve her personal best time and overall individual placement on the team this season,” McKinney said.
Alexis Owen was the sixth Lady Eagle to cross the finish line placing 93rd overall in 23:25.
“Alexis improved her time by over minute this season from last season allowing her to play a major role in the success of the team this entire season,” McKinney said.
The final Lady Eagle to finish was Rachel Buckler, who placed 96th overall in a time of 23:26.
“Rachel too was greatly improved from last season, improving her overall best race time by 38 seconds from last season while playing a huge role in the success of the team throughout the 2018 season,” McKinney said.
McKinney said he and his staff are looking forward to next season.
“The Eagle staff and I are proud to have worked with this group of outstanding young ladies through the 2018 season. We were excited to see the tremendous improvement during the season and excited about the future of the girls program,” he said. “If they take the experience they gained this season and combine it with the same efforts of the 2018 season then the 2019 season is going to be another great season.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH