HEBRON — Seth Gard capped off a stellar cross country career at Eaton High School by earning All-Ohio honors at the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s 88th Annual Boys’ State Cross Country Championships Saturday, Nov. 5, in Hebron.
Gard finished 21st in a field of 186 runners in Division II with a time of 16 minutes, 10.5 seconds, just missing a spot on the podium. The Top 25 earn All-Ohio, while the Top 20 earn spots on the podium.
“Seth had a great day,” said Eaton coach Randy McKinney. “He put himself in a position to be in the top 25 in the race. Of course he is disappointed for not finishing in the top 20 as they get to be on the awards podium, but top 25 are All-Ohio so that’s an accomplishment.”
Gard started the race in good position and was 11th after the first mile. Once the first mile was crossed, runners began to stretch out — but only slightly — and Gard slipped to 14th at the 2-mile mark.
“I came out just knowing that I needed to get up there and stick with that pack,” Gard said. “The first and second mile were pretty good but once we entered the woods, that’s when everything was scrambling and guys were passing other guys. I was getting ahead but others were passing me. I didn’t necessarily get lost, but I was sticking to my gut too much and needed to get out more. I was saving it toward the end, but I should have kicked it in sooner.”
Gard, a three-time state qualifier, slipped seven spots over the final 1.1 mile of the race, to finish 21st.
“I have a strong kick, but it wasn’t enough so I was disappointed,” Gard added. “Overall, (I’m) kind of disappointed. I wanted to get on the victory board, that was my goal all season long. Being one spot away from it is disappointing. But you have to think positive — I made it three times here, and I made all-state, which is quite an accomplishment.”
Zach Kreft of Buckeye Valley won the individual award with a time of 15:16, leading the rest of the runners by 25 seconds. Taylor Hopkins of Heath was a distant second place at 15:41.
Third place runner was Cole Lovett of Carrollton with a time of 15:45.
Peninsula Woodridge won the team championship with 72 point. The team had four runners finish in the top 25. The 2016 team title is the seventh since 2006 for Woodridge.
Lexington, last year’s team champion, was second with 106 team points, while Rocky River took third with 152 points.
“Now that my season is over, I can say there were some high times and some low times,” said Gard. “Definitely had some great races and some bad races. This was not a bad race, but definitely not my best. I think my form is strong and my racing is smart. But things got confusing in the end. That’s competition. It was a good race.”
“I kind of started struggling early in my career but once I got it together, I was running low 16-minute races,” Gard recalled of his early running. “I would like to have run under 16 minutes today, but I was getting tired. I have no regrets — it’s been a good four years for me.”
He finished 42nd as sophomore and was 30th last season as a junior at the state meet.
“Seth has had a great cross country career. I’m very proud of him,” said McKinney. “The state race is about how much pressure you want to put on yourself. He’s run on this course seven times. He’s been at state three times. I thought he was as relaxed going into the race today as he’s ever been. I just don’t know if he could have run any better today. At this level, there are just a lot of really good runners.”
Reach Oliver Sanders at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @osanders_RH