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Late kick sends Shawnee to cross country state championships

The Shawnee boys cross country team tied for 20th in the final high school state poll. The Braves finished second at the Division II regional championship last Saturday in Troy.

And coach Brian DeSantis couldn’t be happier.

Early in the season it looked like the Braves would miss a fourth straight trip to the D-II state championships. The loss of three all-state runners from a season ago sapped Shawnee of some depth. It also started some whispers around town.

But as the season approaches the finish line the Braves have found their kick. All seven runners set personal bests at the regional meet. That sends the team to the state championship at National Trail Raceway in Hebron with some serious momentum.

“This has been maybe my most — outside of winning a state title two seasons ago — this season has been extremely fun,” DeSantis said. “A lot of people have been telling us and my team when you lose three all-state guys we weren’t going to be very good this year. I love that they didn’t believe in that. They believed in themselves. I think it gets them even more fired up and they have a lot of momentum and confidence right now.”

Juniors Will Holmes (16 minutes, 18.21 seconds) and Jordan Penrose (16:21.19) paced Shawnee with a 2-3 finish at regional last week.

“I think our goal for them would be put two guys on the podium, maybe even two in the top 10 in the state,” DeSantis said. “I think a state title might be tough for them, but I do think they have a shot.”

Joining them at state are freshman Josh Hayes (18:03.05), juniors Drew Hickman (17:17.71) and Seth Brouhard (17:24.32), sophomore Logan Griffith (17:27.45) and freshman Joel Rodgers (17:27.64).

DeSantis tries not to dwell on it, but all seven will be back next year. So will another standout sophomore who had to shut down his season after an injury.

“I have to catch myself and forget about that. We still have this year and I do often talk with my other coaches about next year,” DeSantis said.

That said, with Shawnee’s sluggish start the phrase “wait ‘til next year” nearly took on a different meaning.

“This year, it seemed like the first half of the year I felt we might be watching (state) for the first time in four years,” said DeSantis, whose teams finished third at state in 2012 and as champions in 2011. “But then we had some guys step it up big time and we were pleasantly surprised, even without one of our top guys who is injured right now, and we find ourselves in position to compete at the state meet.

“I think they decided they’d put a lot of work to get to this point, and they pulled it together.”

In the running: Joining Shawnee in the D-II meet is Northwestern freshman Justin Prack. In D-III, West Liberty-Salem qualified as a team with senior Chris Buschur, juniors Chris Davis, Michael Lehman and Alex Steiner, sophomore Joey Adams and freshman Charlie Williams. Cedarville senior Zac Bowen runs as an individual.

In the girls meet, Greenon senior Lianne Masquelier represents the area in D-II. In D-III, West Liberty-Salem senior Alyssa Strickland and Catholic Central junior Emily Belovich qualified.

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