TROY — Eaton senior Seth Gard placed third at the Division II Regional Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Oct. 29. at Troy.
With a Top 16 finish, Gard qualified to compete at the OHSAA state championships set for Saturday, Nov. 5, at the National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
The Eagles participated in regionals as a team, having qualified for the tournament after finishing third at the district championships held at Cedarville.
The team managed to finish sixth with a score of 161, which was not enough to advance to the state finals. Only the top four teams advance.
“It was a good race, I was content with it,” said Gard, who finished with a time of 16:38.
“Not necessarily happy with it, was hoping to sneak into first place, but gotta be happy with it,” Gard said. “This is my third time going to state and I’m pretty happy with that. Overall, I think I’ve had a great season and I’m ready to show what I’ve got for my final race in my career. I had control of the first two miles of the race, but the last mile, I lost my form and kind of got tired. That just happens, just have to shake it off. Gotta be ready for state, that’s where it matters, people only remember your last race. Wish my team would have qualified but it didn’t happen.”
“I think we had a great season — I think this is the best team I’ve ever run with with season-wise,” he added.
“I want to start by saying it was a great accomplishment by the team, to get here was our this year,” said Eaton coach Randy McKinney. “We never figured that getting here was an issue, and the boys did a great job of taking care of that last week.
“The wind today took a little bit out of Seth, I think,” McKinney continued. “He took the lead for the first two miles and that might have affected him a bit. Seth knows that this is just the final step to reach the finals and that is when the final thing matters. I can’t be happier with him, it’s been a joy coaching him all these years. What a great accomplishment for Seth.”
Eaton started the race in the middle of the general pack, which forced the team to fight its way out into good position during the first straightaway of the course.
This caused Eaton’s fourth, fifth, and sixth runners to fall behind the lead group of runners. Even Gard had trouble fighting for a lead position for the first half mile of the race.
Once the lines were stretched out, the rest of the Eaton runners behind Gard were hard-pressed to catch up for good final positions. Gard led for the first two miles of the course, until winner Joe Spitzer of Versailles and runner-up Mike Laughlin of Carroll took the lead during the final stretch and sprinted to the finish line, separated only by .03 of a second.
Junior Tanner Titkemeyer managed to finish in 29th with a time of 17:32. Freshman Alex McCarty had a very slow start, but passed dozens of runners to cross the line in 36th at 17:39. The trio of Wyatt Cox (69th, 18:24), Cole Bulach (74th, 18:30), and Steven Cottle (81st, 18:43) are known for racing as a pack throughout much of the season and placing one right after the other. They did their best to do so once again, but were separated by a very tight group of runners during the race.
Alex Newport was able to bring up the final position for team at 87th in 19:12.
“Titkemeyer had a great race for us, despite everyone being affected by the wind,” McKinney said. “Our freshman, McCarty, started way back in the pack and moved way up. I would not be honest if I didn’t say I was real disappointed in the outcome because we missed out on an opportunity and all we had to do was run our normal race to finish fourth. We were 28 points back and it’s tough when you don’t have five guys where they need to be. Today, we just missed out.”
“The good news is that, other than Seth, we get everyone back for next year, so hopefully, the underclassmen take what they have learned today to prepare for next year,” McKinney added.
Reach Oliver Sanders at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @osanders_RH