Ohio thinclads compete in regionals Saturday

Belpre’s Fullerton in running for an individual title

Belpre’s Blake Rodgers enters his first regional championship looking to advance to the state tournament as just a freshman. Photo by Jordan Holland

PICKERINGTON, Ohio — The final step in getting to state in cross country happens Saturday at Pickerington.

The Belpre boys, the Warren boys and girls, the Caldwell boys and girls as well as individuals from Marietta, Fort Frye and Waterford will help represent the area at the regional meet.

Belpre won its district championship to move on to regionals, where the Golden Eagles are hoping to earn their first ever state berth as a team. To do that, they’ll have to finish in the top five in the team standings. Individuals in the top 20 also advance.

“We’re excited,” said Belpre head coach Jen Wells. “All the years I’ve coached, I don’t think I’ve witnessed a team come together like they did on Saturday. All seven boys gave an ultimate effort to make sure we got the team win. The ultimate goal is to qualify for the state meet.”

Senior Eli Fullerton finished first overall at districts with a time of 16 minutes, 7 seconds and expects to qualify for state for the fourth straight year. Teammate Blake Rodgers was not far behind at districts, finishing second at 16:33.

“It’s been great for both of them,” said Wells, who has watched Fullerton and Rodgers finish 1-2 in nearly every race in 2020. “Eli has been an excellent mentor to Blake, and Blake has been working hard to be right on his shoulder. It’s been fun to watch all year.”

Davis Leach finished eighth for the Golden Eagles at districts with a time of 17:49.

“He’s really peaking right now,” Wells said. “I’m excited about how he’s running. He had an outstanding race at (districts).”

Leach, Fullerton, Evan Wells, Cy Varner and Kayden Wright make up Belpre’s senior class which has been with coach Wells for six years.

Sophomore Nick Diaz placed 25th at districts with a time of 18:38. Wells came in 44th (19:33), Varner was 60th (20:15) and Wright placed 66th (20:31).

Wells noted it will take a complete team effort to get out of regionals.

“The competition is a lot more difficult,” coach Wells said. “Between the athletes, the parents and the coaches, we’ve all been studying times of what our competition looks like. It’s tough, but we think we’re on the bubble and could finish anywhere from third to sixth place. We hope we run the races we need to qualify.”

Fullerton and Rodgers are extremely likely to score well for the Golden Eagles, but the performances of Leach, Diaz, Wells, Varner and Wright will be key as well.

“One of the things we’ve been stressing is every runner on our team matters,” Wells said. “Whether they’re first or seventh, their points are going to matter. I’m hoping that motivates them to not leave a runner ahead of them and finish as strong as they can.”

In Division II, Warren head coach Ryan Werry will be keeping his on both the boys and girls teams.

Getting to regionals is a mission accomplished for the Warriors.

“The kids made it a goal to make it regionals,” Werry said. “They reached their goal. The boys got fourth against pretty tough competition (at districts). It wasn’t our best race, but we’re certainly pleased finishing where we did.”

To advance to state, Warren needs to finish in the top seven as a team. The top 28 individuals will also advance.

“If we run our best race, we’re about fourth,” Werry said of the boys team, which won every single regular season race it competed in this season. “They’re driven. Once they started gaining success, they were looking at the times thinking, ‘Hey, we’ve got a chance to go to state.'”

Bryson Angelo was Warren’s top finisher at districts, clocking in at 17:13 to help the boys place fourth as a team. Brennan Perdue came in 17th at 17:26 followed by Matthew Rauch in 19th (17:31). Justin Pate followed in 31st (17:56), Andrew Vincent was 40th (18:29), Aiden Westerman came in 61st (19:23) and lastly was Cole Coleman in 72nd (19:44).

“Bryson Angelo has been coming on lately,” Werry said. “Him and Brennan Perdue have been going back and forth a little bit. Right behind them is Matthew Rauch, who has really turned it on this year.

“The boys’ improvement has been crazy. We’ve got a lot of confidence going in, but it’s going to take a little bit extra now.”

The Warren boys last qualified for state in 2007.

On the girls sides, Warren placed fifth at districts led by Allison Werry in 21st (21:32). Grace Randall came in 27th (21:36) while Devanne Reynolds followed in 43rd (22:50). Madelyn Dougherty (45th; 22:52), Lily Herriott (47th; 23:05) and Jordyn Taylor (50th; 23:08) all placed in the top 50 while Madison Lynn (67th; 23:57) rounded out the group.

“Last year the girls missed qualifying for regionals by one spot,” coach Werry said. “They were so focused on qualifying. They’ve been working hard. It’s been challenging for them, but they’ve made good strides. Grace Randall has been running really well. Devanne Reynolds is in her fourth year lettering so she knows a lot of the courses. Her and Allison Werry are my seniors, so we’ll have five of the seven coming back (next season). We’re building and making steps.”

In Division I, the Marietta girls will have two runners competing in regionals. Ciara Space placed seventh at districts with a time of 19:29, while Ava Gebczyk came in 23rd at 20:02 to advance. Space and Gebczyk will need to finish in the top 20 to advance to to state.

In Division III, a pair of Waterford girls are also competing Saturday. Kaylor Offenberger placed 12th at districts (21:36) while Averi Schwendeman came in 17th (22:07). A top 20 finish in Pickerington will earn them a spot at state.

On the boys side, Fort Frye freshman Phinn Spindler claimed a fourth place finish at districts with a time of 17:21. Spindler will look to place in the top 20 at regionals to earn a state berth.

The Caldwell girls won their district powered by a second place finish by Sage Speck (20:20). Calli Hesson came in 12th (21:43), Emma Lowe was 14th (22:02), Katie Franklin placed 17th (22:19), Teagan Secrest finished 22nd (22:35), Emalee Laswell recorded a 25th place finish (23:12) and Zoey Crock rounded out the group in 40th (24:03).

The Caldwell boys were second in their district led by Andrew Sheanshang’s fifth place finish (17:26). He was followed by Blake Miller (12th; 18:17), Lucas King (13th; 18:25), Noah Scheich (16th; 18:31) and Gavin Clark (25th; 19:17).

The Dugan Hill-coached Redskins will need to place fifth or better as a team to qualify for state.

“I’m just excited to see what this weekend brings for us,” Jen Wells said.

Added Ryan Werry, “I’m really proud of our boys and girls. They stepped up and put in the miles. They understand that’s what it takes. This isn’t just a three-month season. You’ve got to start in the summertime. I’m really proud of them for putting the time in.”


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