The Cedarville High School boys cross country team is deeper, faster and stronger than last season. And, hopefully for the Indians, three points better.
That was the difference between qualifying for the program’s first trip to the Division III state championship and finishing fifth. The top four teams advanced, which included a Greenon team that edged Cedarville for fourth place and the Knights’ first trip to state. Greenon scored 133 points. Cedarville had 136.
“Last year at the start of the season we never even remotely thought about having a shot at state,” Cedarville coach Kris Williams said. “This year that’s their goal.”
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Cedarville did send a pair of individuals to the state meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. Sophomore Ethan Wallis finished 24th overall (16 minutes, 30.1 seconds) and sophomore Trent Koning was 43rd (16:51.6). That duo returns to pace the Indians’ state bid.
Cedarville has 17 runners on the roster, up six from last season. Williams said at least four other runners are already performing at or better than the Indians’ lone senior from 2017. But it starts up front with Wallis and Koning.
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The duo go back and forth in practice. Wallis typically finishes first on practices focused on distance workouts. Koning typically finishes first on practices focused on speed workouts.
“They push each other and they get along great,” Williams said. “They don’t see it as a rivalry against each other.”
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Junior Isaiah Estepp, the No. 3 runner last season, also had a good summer and should be among Cedarville’s top seven. Also in strong contention are junior Jeffery Salisbury, sophomores Payton Herron and Ben Kinsinger and freshman Drew Mason.
Williams said Wallis has ramped up his miles this summer compared to last year and enters the season in better shape. Many of the cross country runners play other sports – almost a necessity at a smaller school like Cedarville – and often spend their summers training for those sports, too. Williams said Wallis seldom conditioned for cross country because of that, but still ran in the lead pack.
“I wish I knew,” Williams said of what makes Wallis so good. “He’s one of those kids that just goes out hard and has the mentallity to hang on.”
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Wallis registered a personal best 16:29.9 as a freshman. Koning’s came in at 16:42.
Among other area cross country highlights:
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• Shawnee’s boys return seven letterwinners and the girls return three from last season’s state teams. The boys placed 20th and the girls 16th out of 20 participants.
Will Geist, Keith Kaiser, Alex Dyar and Ethan Griffith form a talented senior class for coach Brian DeSantis. Junior Josh Fogt and sophomores Noah Schafer and Grayson Johnson also return as letterwinners.
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For the girls, junior Olivia Warax finished 12th at state in a school-record 18:51. Juniors Caylee Hirtzinger and Jessica Borders also return as letterwinners.
“We are strong up front on both teams. We are excited to see who steps it up in those 5-7 spots on each team,” DeSantis said. “Both teams work hard and once everyone is committed and looks at our team as a family, then we can make some noise and really compete around the state.”
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• Greenon returns five boys from its state team with juniors Calvin Wise, Sean Glaze and Cason Estes and sophomores Gavin Patrick and Jackson Pettit. The Knights finished 17th at state.
• Northwestern junior Kassidy Carpenter returns as a D-II state qualifier and Catholic Central junior Addie Engel finished 14th at the D-III state meet and returns for the Irish.
• West Liberty-Salem’s girls scored a top-10 finish in the D-III state meet by coming in ninth and returns senior Lauren Fowler, juniors Grace Adams and Lydia Moell and sophomores Maddie Bahan, Maria Henderson and Katelyn Stapleton.