By David Fong
MIAMI COUNTY — A solid case could be made for this being the greatest year for cross country in Miami County history.
You’d get no argument from Herb Hartman, one of the authorities on the subject.
“You’d have to go back through the records and really check, but off the top of my head, I can’t remember anything like this,” Hartman said last week during the Southwest Regional cross country meet in Troy. “It’s been quite a day.”
That’s a pretty ringing endorsement, considering Hartman has been involved with cross country and track and field in Miami County for more than half a century and he’s been in charge of the regional cross country meet in Troy for three decades.
Quite simply, Miami County stole the show last week at regionals. To wit:
* Of the six races run last week — three divisions each for boys and girls — half of the individual regional titles were won by Miami County runners: Morgan Gigandet won the girls Division I race, Tippecanoe’s Mitchell Poynter won the boys Division II race for the third year in a row and Newton’s Brady McBride won the boys Division III race.
* County runners nearly captured five of the six races, as Troy’s Stephen Jones placed second in the boys Division I race and Covington’s Carly Shell placed second in the girls Division II race.
* Miami County won one-third of the regional team titles, with both the Tippecanoe boys and girls winning regional crowns in Division II.
* Of the 24 teams from Southwest Ohio going to state — four from each division for both boys and girls — six of those teams, or 25 percent of the total, are from Miami County: the Troy girls, both the Tippecanoe boys and girls, the Milton-Union boys, the Covington girls and the Miami East girls.
Considering the Southwest Regional is widely regarded as the toughest in the state, all of that should bode well Saturday when county runners take the course Saturday at National Trail Raceway in Hebron for the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Cross Country Championships.
If Miami County can keep its momentum rolling from last week, it’s not out of the question to think the county could bring home multiple state championships. Here’s a breakdown of who will be competing Saturday for Miami County.
Boys Division I
Jones is the lone boys competitor in Division I. This will be his third trip to state, having placed 70th as a sophomore and 24th last season. Based on his times this season, Jones has a strong chance of placing in the top eight this year and standing atop the podium this season.
Boys Division II
The Tippecanoe boys captured a Division II state title last year — the first state team title in any sport for the Red Devils — and are considered one of three favorites to win the team title this year. Sheridan was ranked No. 1 in the state poll going into regionals, but Tippecanoe was a close second.
In addition to the team title, Poynter will be chasing an individual title after placing third overall last season.
Poynter will be joined by teammates Thomas Chaney, Spencer Ranft, Keenan Fraylick, Jacob Stillwagon, Tim Andrews and Jordan Brown.
Boys Division III
McBride — who placed 51st last year at state — has made a huge leap to the next level and should be a contender to reach the podium in Hebron.
Milton-Union’s boys placed third at regionals, earning a trip to state for Will Brock, River Spicer, Liam Godin, Colton Graumen, Shannon Milnickel, Luke Ferguson and Sam Motz.
Bethel’s Korry Hamlin and Miami East’s Gavin Horne also will be competing at state.
Girls Division I
This will be the first Troy girls cross country team ever to compete at state — but considering six of the seven runners return next season and five are only sophomores or freshmen, it likely won’t be the last. Troy was ranked fifth in the state as a team going into regionals.
The team is led by sophomore Gigandet, who is one of a handful of favorites to win a state title. She placed 37th at state last year as a freshman.
She’ll be joined by sophomore Megan Myers, sophomore Emma Shigley (80th at state last year), freshman Kate Pence, senior Rachel Davidson, freshman Olivia Tyre and junior Megan Studebaker.
Girls Division II
Like Troy, Tippecanoe boasts a young team and this could be the beginning of a long run for the Red Devils. Tippecanoe finished third in the state polls, but defeated Alter — the second-ranked team — at regionals. Lexington is an overwhelming favorite to win the Division II team title.
Competing at state for Tippecanoe will be Kaili Titley, Abbi Halsey, Laura Fink, Katie Taylor, Stephanie Fink, MaKenzie Deitz and Emily Wolfe.
Girls Division III
Covington is sending a team to state for the first time since 1999. The Buccaneers were ranked eighth in the final state poll.
Shell will be joined by Anna Dunn, Ashley Plessinger, Paige Boehringer, Kelsey Dysinger, Julianna Yingst and Danielle Alexander.
Miami East, meanwhile, will be making its first-ever trip to state as a team. The Vikings are led by Lorenza Savini, who placed fifth at regionals. Also headed to state for East are Lindsey Yingst, Marie Ewing (a state qualifier last season), Emma DeWeese, Kaitlyn Mack, Sami Sands and Emily Hawkins.
Bradford’s Karmen Knepp and Lehman’s Jenna Zimmerman will be competing at state as individuals.
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong