By David Fong
TROY — Even after capturing two previous Division II regional cross country titles, Tippecanoe senior Mitchell Poynter was a little unsure what to expect going into his final regional meet Saturday afternoon in Troy.
“At this level, you know there are always going to be great kids here,” Poynter said. “It’s always super exciting — you never know what’s going to happen.”
What happened Saturday was Poynter captured his third Division II regional title in a row, winning the race in 15:39.11 — 17 seconds faster than the nearest competitor. That sets up Poynter — who finished third at state last year — for a possible run at an individual state title.
“That’s the goal,” he said. “Really, it’s about all I’ve get left to accomplish, personally. Last year I didn’t have the same confidence I do this year — I’m just going to go out and go for it.”
While Poynter is seeking his first individual state title, the Red Devils will be looking to defend their Division II team title from last season. At regionals, Tippecanoe ran away from the field, finishing with 49 points. Carroll was second with 114, Springfield Shawnee was third with 122 and Heath was fourth with 138.
“It’s definitely different going in this year as the defending champion,” Tippecanoe coach Byron Kimmel said. “What I did back in May was ask all of the kids to bring in their state championship rings. They thought we were going to have some kind of celebration. I put them all in a fireproof safe and they haven’t seen them since.
“All of the kids were in shock. I told them we want to get more rings this year. Then we’ll get out the rings from last year. It’s going to be a challenge. We’ve got a target on our backs this year. Last year, I think we were the underdogs.”
Poynter will be joined at state by Thomas Chaney (ninth in 16:22.55), Spencer Ranft (16:31.08), Keenan Fraylick (18th in 16:39.03), Jacob Stillwagon (21st in 16:45.71), Tim Andrews (22nd in 16:46.22) and Jordan Brown (23rd in 16:48.44).
“We ran our best race to date,” Kimmel said. “Last week we ran a little lax — I think because it was districts and we expected to do well. The kids were focused today. They were really locked in.”
Troy senior Stephen Jones was happy with his performance Saturday — but had hoped for a little more.
“I really wanted to win,” Jones said after taking second in the Division I regional race Saturday at Troy. “But this feels as good. It feels good to be going back to the third time.”
Lakota East’s Dustin Horter won the race in 15:23.49, while Jones was second in 15:44.37.
Now that he’s on to state, Jones continues to have high goals for himself.
“I want to place in the top three,” he said. “That would be really great. I want to medal at state. That would help make up for getting tripped at (last spring’s) state track meet.”
With about 350 meters to go, Brady McBride made his move — and hoped he could hold it to the very end.
“I started my kick and hoped I could hold off (West Liberty-Salem’s) Joey Adams,” said McBride, a senior at Newton. “I was able to outkick him last week, but he stayed with me for awhile this time. I started to worry. Joey made me work for it.”
McBride was able to hold on for a regional title, however, staying in second most of the race before coming on at the end to win in 16:06.19. Adams was second in 16:08.60.
“It feels great,” McBride said of winning the regional title. “I’ve been coming to this race since I was a little kid and winning it has always been a goal of mine. I love this course.”
The Milton-Union cross country team placed third, good enough to earn a trip to state. Anna won with 86 points, Fort Loramie was second with 98, Milton was third with 125 and Botkins was fourth with 129.
The Bulldogs were led by Will Brock, who was eighth in 16:34.26. He’ll be joined at state by River Spicer (18th in 16:55.42), Liam Godin (36th in 17:29.09), Colton Graumen (37th in 17:30.30), Shannon Milnickel (52nd in 17:53.98), Luke Ferguson (71st in 18:08.86) and Sam Motz (92nd in 18:32.68).
“This never gets old,” said Milton coach Mike Meredith, who will be taking his seventh team — four girls and three boys — to state next weekend. “My heart was still pounding. I’m happy for these kids.”
Bethel’s Korry Hamlin (ninth in 16:39.22) and Miami East’s Gavin Horne (11th in 16:40.53) also qualified for state as individuals.
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong