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Belpre’s Eli Fullerton repeats as All-Ohioan in cross country

HEBRON, Ohio — Eli Fullerton has repeated as an All-Ohio cross country runner.

The Belpre junior finished with a time of 16 minutes, 9.4 seconds at Saturday’s state meet to place fifth overall. Last year, he was sixth to earn all-state honors for the first time.

“It feels great that all the hard work over the summer and throughout the season paid off,” Fullerton said.

“I’m absolutely 100 percent proud of Eli,” said Belpre cross country coach Jen Wells. “I’m excited he got another chance to compete at state, and he did not disappoint. He really runs well at state. That was one of his best times of the season.”

Fullerton improved his time by 36 seconds from last year’s state meet. However, conditions last year were “miserable,” he said, while this year it was “almost perfect. If it would have been a little warmer it would have been perfect.”

State champion Derek Amicon, of Grandview Heights, won with a time of 15:42.5. He was one of three runners at state with a sub-16-minute time.

Fullerton stuck with the front pack for awhile but eventually had to get strategic.

“My first mile was faster than I usually go,” he said. “I just tried to hang on as long as possible. Eventually I started to feel like I couldn’t keep up, so I slowed down and ran my pace.”

“Eli knew (Amicon) was going to be one to watch out for,” Wells added. “He knew he wanted to run with the front pack and hold on for as long as he could.”

Last year, Fullerton joined Breydon Gates (2010) as the only Belpre cross country runners to reach All-Ohio status.

Now, Fullerton will get a chance next year to become a three-time All-Ohioan, something his coach thinks he’s more than capable of.

“I’m very proud of what Eli did this season,” Wells said. “He prepared well for this season. He mentally prepares for each competition so well and takes everything seriously.

“I know he’s going to prepare and try again next year for a state championship.”

Belpre loses just one senior from this year’s squad and is hoping to make a run as a team to the state tournament in 2020.

“Hopefully next year I’ll make it back with my team,” said Fullerton, who described running at the state meet as “pretty unforgettable. Running in front of the grandstands and hearing the crowd roar, it’s just an amazing feeling.”

Also competing from the area was Caldwell’s Mason Ackley, who finished 27th with a time of 16:45.9. The Caldwell girls competed as a team and finished 20th. Their top finisher was Sage Speck (86th, 20:50.2).

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