Depth and camaraderie are running deep again in both halves of the Shawnee cross country program. The boys are back at the regional meet in pursuit of a fourth straight trip to the Division II state meet. The girls are along for the ride for the first time since 2007.
To celebrate, veteran coach Brian DeSantis took all of his runners to dinner Thursday night at a nice restaurant.
“We’re just trying to relax and enjoy it and just run how we’ve been running lately — if something better happens, great,” DeSantis said. “I think they’re handling the opportunity really well and staying pretty focused this week but still having fun.”
Shawnee and other area teams and runners will compete in Saturday’s Division I, II and III regional meets at Troy High School beginning at 11 a.m. The top four teams and individuals in the top 16 advance to state.
Shawnee’s boys team lost three all-state runners who were a major part of last year’s third-place state finish and their state championship in 2011. Last weekend the Braves were second at districts.
“We have to run just as well or better,” DeSantis said for the boys to reach their season-long goal of returning to state. “I like the momentum we have right now. But it’s a tough field. It will be the deepest field we’ve seen at region in probably a few years.”
Juniors Jordan Penrose and Will Holmes placed first and third, respectively, at the district meet.
“I’m not surprised (Penrose) won because he’s been running well this year,” DeSantis said. “It wasn’t his best time but I feel like it was his best race because of the competition.”
The girls team was third at district without No. 2 runner and freshman Rebecca Penrose because of sickness. She will join Morgan Huggins, another freshman, who was ninth at district. DeSantis’ goal for the girls is to finish in the top half of the 16-team field.
“They’ve really been the epitome of team,” DeSantis said. “They’re good for one another, so I felt like they could make it to regional level all year.”
Northwestern’s boys team is running in D-II, led by freshmen Justin Prack, who finished second at districts, Ryan Cleland and Liam Randall. Grant Cooper of Greenon and Ethan Sullivan of Kenton Ridge are competing as individuals. Girls competing are Lianne Masquelier of Greenon, Madison King of Northeastern and Brooke Smith of Northwestern.
D-III: West Liberty-Salem’s boys and girls teams are also trying to turn rebuilding seasons into another trip to state. The girls have been the past four years, the boys the past two. Alyssa Strickland (third at district) is a senior and leads a young team, while sophomore Joey Adams (fifth at district) leads a team coming off a district championship.
Cedarville’s boys, led by district champion Zach Bowen, and Catholic Central’s girls, led by junior Emily Belovich, are the other area Division III teams to qualify for regionals. Other individuals are Charlotte Walkey of Yellow Springs and Rachel House of Mechanicsburg.
D-I: Springfield freshman Sophie Smith and Tecumseh junior Andy Gemmaka are the only D-I area representatives.