The Mount Gilead cross country program was able to prove it is one of the best small school squads in the state on Saturday, with both the boys’ and girls’ teams finishing near the top of the field in the Division III state cross country meet.
Kicking off the day’s six races, the MG girls finished fourth, having two All-Ohioans leading the way in Allison Johnson and Baylee Hack. A couple hours later, the boys were able to record their best-ever finish, taking home the runner-up trophy and also having a pair of All-Ohioans in Liam Dennis and Ethan Supplee.
Last year, the boys’ team came away from National Trail Raceway a bit disappointed after placing fifth out of the 20 state-qualifying teams. That was not an issue this year, as they finished with 112 points — only behind Cincinnati Summit Country Day’s total of 98.
“I thought they ran really well,” said head coach Jake Hayes. “Last year, we didn’t go where we wanted. I didn’t have all seven of the guys mentally ready last year. We had four of the same seven guys this year and we never brought it up. They moved on.”
That second-place finish matches the best-ever performance by an MG cross country team, as the girls finished second in 2017.
“The guys are excited,” he said. “They say they’re as good as the girls. They tied our best school finish for either gender.”
Dennis led the Indian boys, claiming seventh place in the race with a time of 16:16.2. Supplee also reached the individual podium, running 13th in 16:30.5. “We had a great team last year and knew we had the majority coming back,” said Dennis.
“I guess this year, we had it. Everyone’s really proud and can’t wait to go home and show everyone (the trophy).”
Supplee agreed with that sentiment.
“We worked hard all year,” he said. “All things to our coaches and teammates. Everyone was really close. It’s emotional; I’m happy for the team. Second’s great.”
Brett Shipman barely missed All-Ohio status, placing 31st in 16:49.4. Michael Snopik claimed 45th place in 16:59.6, while Eric Mowery finished 87th in 17:31.3. Reed Supplee took 109th in 17:46.5 and Ethan Kemp placed 160th in 18:32.6.
Hayes didn’t credit just those seven runners for the runner-up finish, but also the rest of the team, as the Indians not only possess a large squad, but a lot of varsity-level runners. In the KMAC meet, MG had 16 runners finish in under 20 minutes, with 10 of that number being under 19.
“What we like to tell the JV kids is that they’d be varsity anywhere else but here,” he said. “It’s their trophy as much as anyone’s. We’ve got 23 guys on the boys’ roster and they all deserve to be up there getting a medal.”
The MG girls also had a very successful day, finishing with 160 points to barely edge Liberty Center by one and claim fourth place. Leading the way was the team’s one-two punch of junior Allison Johnson and senior Baylee Hack. Both girls earned All-Ohio status, as Johnson finished ninth in 18:57 and Hack took 11th in 19:00.
Both runners were a bit disappointed in their finish. The eventual race winner, Addie Engel of Springfield Catholic Central, set a blistering pace and won in 17:47 — setting a pace they were unable to match.
“I felt a lot of pressure,” said Hack, who was running in her final state meet. “I think I handled it well, but could have handled it better. I’m a little disappointed personally. I wanted more this year, but the depth was a little bit more, so I was a little more nervous.”
Johnson also would have liked to place higher on the podium, but felt she ran a smart race.
“I think I handled the situation well,” she said. “I figured it wouldn’t be smart to go out with someone that much faster. I’m proud of how I handled the race.”
Emily Hanft took 57th place in 20:14.9 for the Indians, while Olivia Millisor was 182nd in 21:08.9 and Michaela McGill took 100th in 21:09.8. Also, Tatum Neal placed 163rd in 23:13.9 and Karley Wallace took 172nd in 23:50.7.
Cardington also had an All-Ohioan in the Division III girls’ race, as Louie Hallabrin placed 13th overall in 19:04.7. As a freshman competing in her first state meet, she figured the best thing to do would be to just run her race and not worry about the frontrunners.
“I knew people would be out front going fast,” she said. “I just stuck with my pace and didn’t worry about it.”
After getting a taste of the state meet, Hallabrin is hoping to make a habit of running at National Trail. “I’m hoping to go to state every year, but one year at a time, I guess,” she said.
Northmor’s girls also competing in the meet, taking 15th as a team with 349 points.
The Lady Golden Knights were led by Lauren Johnson, who placed 78th in 20:38.7. Julia Kanagy ran 107th in 21:22.8 and Riley Johnson claimed 110th in 21:26.8. Julianna Ditullio finished 121st in 21:40.7 and Olivia Goodson took 132nd in 22:05.8. Also, Emilee Jordan placed 175th in 24:32.2 and Sabrina Kelley finished one place behind in 24:50.8.
Also in the Division III boys’ race, Cardington’s Mason White took 56th place in 17:09.7 and Northmor’s Gavvin Keen claimed 120th in 17:54.3.
Highland’s Camberly Schade ran in the Division II girls’ meet. She wound up taking 60th place with a time of 19:47.9.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS