HEBRON — After waiting an extra week to compete due to flooding at the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s state course, Eaton’s boys’ cross country team turned in the program’s best performance in 14 years.
The Eagles placed ninth in the Division II race on Saturday, Nov. 10 at National Trail Raceway, in Hebron, improving two places on their state-ranking heading into the meet.
Eaton, as well as the other teams, had an additional week of practice and dealt with three course changes due to the conditions of the course. The meet was originally scheduled for Nov. 3.
The Eagles totaled 255 points to earn the program’s eighth top-10 finish at the state championships. Woodridge won the D-II title with 109 points and Akron St. Vincent St. Mary’s was the runner-up with 118 points in the 20-team field.
”What an outstanding way to finish up the 2018 season,” Eaton coach Randy McKinney said. “With the postponement of the meet it would have been easy for the boys to lose focus, but they did what they knew they had to do to stay mentally and physically focused – what an amazing accomplishment alone.”
Junior Alex Newport (40th, 17:22.7) and junior Alex McCarty (49th, 17:28.7) earned second-team All-Ohio honors with their top-50 finishes.
Sophomore Jack Bortel (51st, 17:29.1) earned honorable mention All-Ohio.
Senior Dylan Suding was 98th with a time of 17:52.5. Junior Todd Coates was 121st in 18:14.1. Senior Cole Bulach finished 132nd in 18:23.3 and junior LeKendric Brown was 153rd in 18:55.2.
After the first mile, the Eagles were in seventh place and were 11th after the 2-mile mark.
Over the final mile, Eaton made up considerable ground.
Newport picked up 26 places in the last third of the race, while Bortel gained 17 places and Suding nine places.
“The boys were hoping to place higher in the team standings so much so that they’re going to need a little time to process what a great accomplishment it is not only to qualify a team to the state championships, but to finish in the top 10 is a high honor,” McKinney said. “Saturday they beat Tippecanoe, who had just edged them out two weeks earlier for the regional runner-up trophy, and Sheridan who had beat us earlier in the season at the Circleville Invitational by 12 points. The teams that placed ahead of us have been ranked week after week, all season long, in the top-10 of the state Division II coaches poll. The boys didn’t overachieve, they simply had the opportunity to help create the only season poll that ultimately matters, until next season, which is your team ranking based on the final team finish in the championship meet.”
The ninth place finish is the highest finish for the boys program in 14 years. The 2004 team also finished ninth.
This year’s team was the 10th in the last 40 years to advance to the state championship for the program.
Last year’s team placed 17th.
Newport, McCarty, Bortel and Suding also earned Academic All-Ohio honors.
“To be Academic All-Ohio in Cross Country is very difficult. You must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher on a 4.0 scale (at the end of the previous school year) and be a state qualifier to be eligible,” McKinney said.
McKinney said the team accomplished most of its goals this season.
The Eagles repeated as SWBL and District champs and qualfied for state for a second straight season.
”They would tell you that they fell a little short of a couple of private team goals, but that they already have those on their list of things to accomplish on 2019,” McKinney said. “I would tell you as their coach that they had an outstanding regular and championship season. They accomplished many things this season, any one of which many Cross Country programs across the state have yet to come close to accomplishing. They have added to the rich tradition of the Eaton Cross Country program, represented themselves, their families, the school and the entire Eaton community with class and pride with the multiple accomplishments of this season. The entire Eaton community can be proud of the way these young men have represented our community.”
McKinney said the 11 runners who competed over the final month of the season made the season one that won’t be forgotten.
“Alex Newport, Alex McCarty, Jack Bortel, Dylan Suding, Todd Coates, Cole Bulach, LeKendric Brown and alternates Austin Kopf, KeAnthony Bales, Ben Brewer and Gideon Smith did an outstanding job over the last four weeks of the season and made the journey a memorable and honorable one,” he said.
McKinney said he is looking forward to next season, but noted summerizing this season was difficult.
“This has been an exciting season that I can’t completely summarize in words. This has been an outstanding, hard working, goal oriented and talented group of young men that I have been proud to be called their coach. They have brought much excitement to our program, the school and the community with their accomplishments both team and individual,” he said. “We lose several key seniors in Cole Bulach, Dylan Suding and Gideon Smith, but we return what should be a very strong team for 2019 which gives us all something to look forward to and get excited about.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH