Cross Country: West Liberty-Salem, Cedarville capture regional championships

West Liberty-Salem freshman Ashley Yoder won the Division III regional championship Saturday in Troy. Greg Billing/Contributed
West Liberty-Salem freshman Ashley Yoder won the Division III regional championship Saturday in Troy. Greg Billing/Contributed

Credit: JMW

Credit: JMW

TROY – Cracking top-ranked West Liberty-Salem’s lineup was the goal for freshman Ashley Yoder prior to the season.

She did, becoming the Big Orange’s No. 5 runner. On Saturday, she was the No. 1 runner in Southwest Ohio. Yoder won her first-ever cross country meet – high school or junior high – with a victory at the Division III regional championships.

Yoder navigated the 3.1-mile course winding along Troy’s levee in 19:09.5 for a six-second victory over Fort Loramie junior Olivia Borchers. Top-10 finishes from junior Megan Adams (third), senior Katelyn Stapleton (fifth) and senior Madison Bahan (sixth) allowed the Big Orange to win the team championship, too. WL-S beat Fort Loramie 29-58.

“When we went down the last hill, the last 400 yards, I was running with Megan,” Yoder said. "I was encouraging her and she was encouraging me. She told me, ‘Just go!’ and I went.

“I wasn’t expecting to win but I did it for my teammates mostly. It’s amazing. They’re the best team I’ve ever been on in my life.”

Cedarville gave the Ohio Heritage Conference a D-III sweep behind senior Ethan Wallis' regional title in 16:11.2. Anna junior and runner-up Hayden Schmidt cross the line 19.2 seconds later.

The Indians' 53 points edged defending state champion Cincinnati Summit Country Day by nine points for the first regional title in program history.

Both West Liberty-Salem and Cedarville are ranked No. 1 in D-III in the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country coaches poll.

“Ashley just keeps it real,” WL-S coach Ann Vogel said. “She doesn’t get too wound up or too worked up about races. She focuses on what her race plan is and goes out and does it. It says a lot about a freshman to have that kind of composure.”

Both teams advanced to the D-III state championships next Saturday at Fortress Obetz near Columbus, a move from National Trail Raceway in Hebron.

Joining Yoder, Adams, Stapleton and Bahan on the Big Orange were freshman Addison McAuley (14th), freshman Claire Longshore (25th) and freshman Taylor Kennedy (32nd).

For Cedarville, sophomore Caleb Sultan finished third and was followed by senior Trent Koning (17th), senior Payton Herron (19th), junior Drew Mason (22nd) freshman Isaac Wallis (47th) and sophomore Ben Ormsbee (59th).

“I thought the times would be a little faster but that doesn’t matter,” Ethan Wallis said of a slightly muddy and slippery dew covered course. “It’s about placement at this point.”

Sultan had one of the best. He unleashed a personal-record 16:46.4 on a slow course for a finish that surprised even himself.

“Place-wise he was phenomenal what he did,” Cedarville coach Kris Williams said. “He ran out of his mind.”

Cedarville senior Ellyn Coe finished eighth in the girls D-III race to also qualify for state.

West Liberty-Salem’s boys team finished fourth in the D-II meet to also advance. Junior Dylan Lauck finished third and was followed by junior Tate Yoder (eighth), sophomore Michael Jones (26th), senior Hayden Kennedy (40th), senior Josh Spinner (41st), sophomore Owen Harrison and junior Ayden Estep (54th).

Shawnee qualified a pair of runners in D-II with juniors Audrey DeSantis and Jordyn Dillavou. DeSantis finished fourth in her race and Dillavou was 10th in his.

“I wanted to get in the top 16 and fight for it,” Dillavou said of the top 16 finishers advancing in D-II boys. “I wanted to be up there and ready knowing I was going. Get up there at the start and stay there.”

The state championships are held Saturday at Fortress Obetz, a multi-purpose sports and entertainment complex. The State of Ohio and Franklin County Departments of Health are limiting attendance to 1,500 per division. Attendance is limited to parents and immediate family.

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