EATON — The 46th annual Eaton Cross Country Invitational was held at Fort St. Clair Park on Saturday, Sept. 17. The event included 64 schools and 1,672 runners in 14 different races. The Eaton High School girls and boys teams placed fifth and second respectively in their divisions.
The first race started at 8:30 a.m. with no rain — but the last race started at 3:30 p.m. in a heavy rain. The high school races featured 10 of the top state-ranked teams from all three divisions in both the men and the women’s races.
“Weather was a concern when the day started, but the course held up well as the rain fell and the meet moved from one race to another throughout the day,” said Eaton coach Randy McKinney. “We’ve been lucky over the years and never really had to deal with that amount of rain during the meet.”
The Lady Eagles started the morning out competing in the Division II high school varsity race. The Eagles placed fifth overall behind three state-ranked teams, Oakwood, Wyoming and Monroe, who went first through third in the team standings. Ross placed fourth followed by the Lady Eagles.
Katie Bassler led Eaton, placing 17th in a time of 22:20, followed by Destiny Brubaker who finished 29th at 22:43. Sasha Taxter was 35th in 23:14, Claire Meyer was right behind her at 36th in 23:18, Gabby Best crossed the finish line in 41st in 23:30, Briana Baker closed out in 47th in 24:19, Brooke Caplinger came in 49th in 24:23, Nina Albinus placed 66th in 28:24, Jaque Owen took 67th in 30:25, and Madi Meredith finished 72nd in 30:50.
“The girls are dropping times each week, and are really starting to understand the strength in the team pack while racing,” said McKinney. “It’s very exciting to see them help one another during the race, then work hard to beat out one another in the last 100 meters after completing the other three miles of the race. There is a lot of competition among the girls for their varsity placings, which is only going to help them continue to improve.”
The men’s team followed the ladies in the Division II high school men’s race. The men’s race also featured three state-ranked teams: Oakwood, Eaton and Badin.
The Eagles placed second behind Badin and ahead of Oakwood. The Eagles placed two in the top ten and five in the top 21 places in the race.
“Badin is tough and we are going to need to improve if we hope to catch them later in the season,” said McKinney. “I believe we will get there if we stay healthy and continue to improve.”
Senior Seth Gard led the way for the Eagles, capturing the Division II overall individual title with a time of 16:41. This is his second consecutive Eaton Cross Country Invitational title after winning in 2015, and his second consecutive title in two weeks.
“Seth took control of the race between the 800 and 1,600 meter mark and was never challenged by the rest of the field as he cruised along over the last 2.1 miles of the race,” McKinney said.
Freshman Alex McCarty was the second Eaton finisher, placing ninth overall in 17:48. Sophomore Wyatt Cox, returning from an injury that sidelined him last week, placed 18th overall in 18:08. Cox was followed closely by Tanner Titkemeyer in 20th in 18:12. Cole Bulach placed 21st in 18:16, Steven Cottle was 40th in 18:44, Alex Newport finished in 49th in 19:13, Todd Coates took 60th in 19:26, Dylan Suding placed 66th in 19:52, LeKendrick Brown crossed at 72nd in 20:12, and Jacob Hickman finished in 80th place in 20:49.
“Alex ran an outstanding race, moving from about 25th place in the first mile working his way up over the last two miles,” McKinney said. “Wyatt ran a really conservative first mile, unsure how he was going to feel, but did a great job to move up and finish strong.”
“Our junior high boys continued their championship run capturing the large school title with 79 points easily ahead of runner-up Kings, who had 106 points,” McKinney added.
“The junior high girls placed fourth in the 18-team field behind Minster, Centerville and Lakota East.”
The junior high boys placed seven runners in the top 29 places. Owen Hewitt placed sixth, Jack Bortel seventh, Austin Kopf 19th, Logan Cottle 20th , Brady Cooper 27th, Garrett Sanders 28th and Jacob Wright 29th.
The junior high girls were paced by Cari Metz who placed 15th overall followed by Allison Mowen in 19th place, Sophia Murphy 27th, Madelynn Baker 28th, Grace Murphy 38th, Rachel Buckler 44th and Tess Murphy in 49th place.
Other Eaton boys finishers were: Beau Shepherd, 38th; Ryan Brooks, 56th; Cole Hauser, 105th; Dawson Brubaker, 106th; Andale Hamilton, 135th; Gavin Bach, 173rd; Jonah Brewer, 245th. For the girls finishers included: Josie Bulach, 61st; Anna Kramer, 71st; Alaina Webb, 76th; Mara Posey, 87th; Grace Risner, 109th; Allie Whitesell, 115th; Ann Hickman, 123rd; Kyla Mize, 144th and Katie Rich, 147th.
All five county teams, Eaton, National Trail, Preble Shawnee, Tri-County North, and Twin Valley South, were slated to be action Tuesday, Sept. 20, for the Preble County Cross Country Championships at National Trail High School.
Reach Oliver Sanders at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @osanders_RH