State Cross Country: Cedarville senior runs to first-team, all-Ohio honors

Caleb Sultan eighth in Division III boys race; West Liberty-Salem girls fourth in D-III girls team race

OBETZ – The week leading up to Saturday’s state cross country championships didn’t fit the training schedule Cedarville senior Caleb Sultan planned. He got sick.

Then he had to pace himself. He missed practice Tuesday, returned Wednesday still feeling ill, went to the doctor Thursday, started an antibiotic and used nose sprays to clear his head in time for Saturday’s 11 a.m. race at Fortress Obetz. The clear head mattered.

Other runners set an early pace almost 20 seconds faster than Sultan, but he was patient. He was 46th after a mile, 13th after two miles and finally eighth when he kicked hard to the finish line to earn the coveted top 10 finish and first-team, all-state. He crossed the line in 16 minutes, 15.1 seconds and his eighth-place finish is one of the best in school history.

Cedarville coach Kris Williams said Sultan has always been the runner who wants to go as hard as he can and always wants to finish practices that way.

“He ran a really smart race,” Williams said. “He’s self disciplined. He’s learned.”

What Sultan has learned, is to pace himself and finish strong, something he also has to do in his favorite race, the 800 meters.

“The goal was kind of sit back that first mile and see what I could do the last two,” Sultan said. “Knowing the field from last year is going to go out quick, I just wanted to keep the pace and try to pick people off.”

One of the runners Sultan ran down at the end was United’s Kaleb Nastari. Sultan watched Nastari set the state record in the 800 this past spring while Sultan finished fifth. Passing Nastari felt good.

“The goal is never eighth, it’s always first, but to come in here and do that and, especially, run one of the top finishes in school history means a lot,” Sultan said.

Sultan also got to run with his teammates who made it to state as the fourth and final team out of the region meet. They finished 17th out of 20 teams Saturday, but just being there was a big accomplishment and the fourth trip in five years for the Indians.

“I’ve been a part of four of the best cross country teams to ever go through that school,” Sultan said. “And that’s the hardest working team I’ve ever seen because other teams that I’ve been a part of we’ve had guys who were just pure talent. This year it was all hard work. Every guy had to work their butt off to get here and and every guy did their part.”

West Liberty-Salem appeared in its 21st state meet and finished 14th. Emmanuel Christian junior Caleb Baggett was the next highest area finisher in 40th place. In girls Division III, West Liberty placed fourth in their 12th state appearance. The Tigers were led by freshman Malia Miller in 34th place.

In the Division I boys race, junior Parker Jackson made the first appearance by a Tecumseh boy and finished 78th in 16:44.5. Jackson’s goal was a top-20 and all-state finish and to break the 16-minute mark for the first time. The top 22 finishers did that Saturday.

“It was an awesome experience. I can’t wait to do it next year,” he said. “I’m just hoping to feel a little better next year. I don’t know why, but my legs have just been exhausted, almost like they’re just burned out for the year.”

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