At first glance, the numbers suggested an off day for the Shawnee Braves cross country program at the state meet Saturday.
But as Shawnee coach Brian DeSantis likely told his team after, any day at the state meet is a good day.
Competing in Division II, the Shawnee girls finished 16th out of 20 teams but extended their streak of state appearances to four. The boys finished 20th in their eighth straight trip to National Trail Raceway near Columbus.
The boys graduated their top two runners from 2016 and a couple other runners switched sports. The girls graduated three runners from last season, including two front runners.
“We lost a lot last year on both sides,” DeSantis said. “In a year where we wondered if we could keep those streaks alive, we did it.”
Shawnee sophomore Olivia Warax set a school record with her time of 18 minutes, 51.6 seconds to finish 12th overall and earn a podium finish for top-20 placers.
“That was one of our goals today to put someone on the podium,” DeSantis said. “We’re super pleased Olivia got on the podium. She’s super tough. She’s a gutsy kid. The other girls ran a nice, hard race. We’re pleased. Sixteenth wasn’t a bad day.”
“I just knew I had to run for my teammates,” Warax said. “They’ve done so much to get me here. I just ran for them and it seemed to work out.”
Junior Will Geist led the boys with 59th in 16:59.6.
The girls team faces a tough challenge returning next season with the graduation of seniors Grace Holmes (66th), Mia DeSantis (124th) and Kelsey Lloyd (149th). The boys team graduates Bailey Hoelscher (157th). It was that senior leadership that helped the Braves keep their state appearances intact.
“I’m going to miss this senior class like no one’s business,” DeSantis said. “Those seniors are as good as kids you could ever want to meet. I’m going to miss them a ton.”
In Division III, Greenon’s boys team finished 17th in the Knights’ first state appearance. Senior Max Pettit finished 16th to lead the team.
Cedarville’s freshman duo of Ethan Wallis and Trent Koning finished 24th and 43rd, respectively. The Indians anticipate bringing the entire team to run next season after just missing a trip to state by three points at regional.
“We’re very well equipped for next year and they’re very determined,” Cedarville coach Chris Williams said of a top seven that this season included four freshmen, two sophomores and one senior. “(Wallis and Koning) had potential depending on how they progressed. The team started progressing with them. We never thought the team had a shot (at state) at the first meet of the season. These two have been impressive all year.”
In D-III, West Liberty-Salem was in the running for a top-five finish after winning the Troy regional. The Tigers finished ninth Saturday. One of the team’s top three runners, freshman Katelyn Stapleton, didn’t finish the race after reportedly falling on the course.
Senior Reghan Bieleski finished a team-high 19th with a personal best 19:20.7 in her fourth state appearance – the first two as an individual and the final two with her team. She finished 47th last season.
“I was really motivated because it’s my last year,” Bieleski said. “I caught myself slowing down and I was like, ‘No.’ I had a surge and tried to get the girl ahead of me. It was really fun. … I went out and had a positive attitude.”
Catholic Central sophomore Addy Engel led the Division III race after the first mile. The pack caught up to her and she finished 14th in 19:17.3. She was eighth as a freshman.
“It was a tough race. Sometimes I feel more comfortable trying to start out kind of quick,” Engel said of setting the pace early.
Also on Saturday, Northwestern sophomore Kassidy Carpenter finished 67th in the D-II meet and Triad senior Holly Cole was 70th in D-III.