TROY — It was a bitter sweet day for Twin Valley South’s cross country program.
The Panthers had a pair of runners seeking their first trip to the state meet on a wet, cold and windy day, at Troy, during the Division III regional meet on Saturday, Oct. 26.
One senior moved on, while the other had an outstanding career come to an end.
Kyle Saul finished 15th overall with a time of 17:24.24 in the boys race to move on to this week’s state meet, while Zoe Utsinger finished among the top 25 runners in the region.
The top four teams and 16 individuals in each race qualified for the state meet.
Both runners were making their third trip to the regional.
“It was a tough one,” Saul said moments after the race as the rain continued to come down. “There was no traction what so ever. There was mud everywhere. They had straw and stuff but it didn’t help at all.”
It didn’t seem to bother him too much.
“I just knew it was my last year and I had to make it. So I gave that final push,” he said. “It feels great. This is the third year now and I’ve had some rough years the past two times I just wanted to go out with a bang really.”
“He survived,” South coach Richie Faber said. “That was the biggest thing coming in was to get into the top 16. Number-wise we thought he was in good shape coming in. I’m definitely proud of him for qualifying through. I’m looking forward to next week to see what he can do.”
Saul is the first South boy to advance to state since George Holman in 2010.
“Definitely it’s been a great season,” Faber said. “I guess we’ll get one more shot at a school record.”
Utsinger closed out her career as a three-time regional qualifier.
She finished 25th overall and with a time of 20:57.92.
“This is always a tough place to run. Unfortunately, it’s one of those courses that you love the atmosphere here, but for some reason it seems to impact people in different ways. Unfortunately, it’s been tough course for Zoe to run on all three years up here. Obviously, the weather didn’t help much today,” Faber said.
Faber said Utsinger has meant a lot to the TVS program.
“There are very few people that I have been happier to coach. I’ve really had a lot of fun seeing her progress, starting as an eighth grader to this year stepping up and being possibly, we’re researching this, but possibly the first girl from Twin Valley South to win the Cross County Conference in school history,” Faber said. “That’s a huge mark and its a huge impact on our program. I just hate that today is going to be the last day that I get to coach her in cross country. There is something special about this young lady and about this time of the year. She’s been a great representative and a great ambassador for this sport and for Twin Valley South. Definitely somebody we’re going to miss tremendously.”
One challenge for Utsinger is she is only one of two girls on South’s team and spends a majority of her time training with the boys team.
“It’s always a challenge and she’s handled it extremely well. We just try to mix it up to help her out as much as possible. That is one of the hardest things to do in this sport. They’ve taken her under their wing and helped her out a lot,” Faber said.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or follow on Twitter @emowen_RH