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Whitmer 7th as team, BG's Applegate 4th individually at state cross country

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    Bowling Green High School's Zach Applegate crosses the finish line during the Ohio High School Div. I Cross Country Championship in Hebron, Ohio Saturday. Applegate placed fourth in the state.

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    Toledo Whitmer's Nathan Cousino stays ahead of Nate Kawalec of Chardon at the finish line of Saturday's boys state cross country championships. Whitmer placed seventh as a team.

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    Whitmer's Noah Feudi competes in Saturday's state cross country championships.

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    Liberty Center's Kyle Rauch reacts after finishing the Division III race during the state cross country championships in Hebron, Ohio.

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    Napoleon High School's Daniel Gaffney catches his breath after finishing the race at the state cross country championships.

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HEBRON, Ohio — The Whitmer boys cross country team completed a memorable season Saturday by placing seventh in the Division I state meet at National Trail Raceway, and Bowling Green senior Zach Applegate ran the best race of his high school career to take fourth individually, the top finish in the D-I race for an area runner.

In Division III, Liberty Center was led by the third-place individual finish of senior Cameron Stark, who helped the Tigers to a fifth-place finish in the team standings.

HIGH-SCHOOL-CROSS-COUNTRY-CHAMPIONSHIPS

Bowling Green High School's Zach Applegate crosses the finish line during the Ohio High School Div. I Cross Country Championship in Hebron, Ohio Saturday. Applegate placed fourth in the state.

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Whitmer, which had not won as much as a league team title since 2002, was the Three Rivers Athletic Conference champion this season, and captured team titles in the district and regional meets the past two weeks.

The Panthers of coach Jeremy Elliott were led by senior Nate Cousino, who had played football at Whitmer as a freshman, and was a late comer to cross country.

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Cousino, who placed 17th at state as an individual last year, when Whitmer did not qualify for this meet as a team, improved to ninth this year in a time of 15:41.5 on the somewhat muddy and slow 5,000-meter course.

“We’re pretty happy with the way we finished,” Cousino said. “It was a rougher course today, but I improved on my finish from last year here. Our team was seventh, and we didn’t even get here last year, so that was a huge jump.

“We didn’t finish as high as we wanted to, but it was a finish we’re definitely happy with. Considering the conditions, I think I ran the best race that I could. I probably came out a tad too hard for the conditions, but I was able to produce a strong finish and catch a couple of guys, so I was happy with that.”

Two weeks earlier, Cousino reached his goal of breaking Whitmer’s school record, when he ran a 15:12.98 at the district meet in Findlay.

With help from Panther junior Jacob Harris (15th, 15:57.0) and senior David Main (31st, 16:10.2), Cousino helped Whitmer to a score of 228.

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Toledo Whitmer's Nathan Cousino stays ahead of Nate Kawalec of Chardon at the finish line of Saturday's boys state cross country championships. Whitmer placed seventh as a team.

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“Coming in today, with the course being slow and wet, we kind of threw our times out the windows and said our success was going to be defined by our team finish,” Elliott said. “They had us slated to finish ninth, and our goal was to place better than that, and our guys responded like they have every week.

“They didn’t give us a chance to beat Defiance in the districts, and we did. They didn’t give us a chance to beat Perrysburg at the regional meet, and we did. Coming in here, the guys did what they always do.”

Whitmer’s other scoring runners were sophomore’s Noah Feudi and Isaac Burkart.

“They will be tough to replace on the course, and throughout the season with conditioning and practice,” Elliott said of losing Cousino and Main to graduation after this season. “But, the beauty of it is, they’ve taught the younger guys on our team, and they will take over the leadership roles next season.

“Nate was the best I’ve ever coaches as far as being competitive, and in the way he trained. It was like he had a chip on his shoulder every week and had something to prove. He was a huge asset to our team.”

Hudson (73) was the D-I team champion, Hillard Davidson (143) was runner-up, and Medina (159) took third.

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Toledo Whitmer's Nathan Cousino stays ahead of Nate Kawalec of Chardon at the finish line of Saturday's boys state cross country championships. Whitmer placed seventh as a team.

PHIL LONG Enlarge

The D-I individual champion was Dustin Horter of Lakota East, who ran a 15:03.5.

Applegate, who topped Cousino for the regional individual title a week ago, covered the course in a personal-record 15:24.6.

“The gravity of the meet helped me,” Applegate said. “It’s a big meet, so everyone’s racing as hard as they can.

“I felt great going in, and I ran the race like I do every time, and it paid off.

“I’d say I was better in the first and last miles today. My main goal was to place in the top three. I didn’t do that, but at the same time I can’t be too disappointed in that.”

Other area runners in the top 75 individually were Rogers’ Mohamed Faqi (57th, 16:30.0) and Perrysburg’s Andrew Monheim (75th, 16:41.0).

In the Division III race, East Canton (120 points) was the team champion, followed by runner-up McDonald (140), and third-place Columbus Academy (144). Liberty Center, under coach Tim Atkinson, was fifth at 175.

Stark ran the course in 15:51, as the individual champion was Chad Johnson of Colonel Crawford, who ran a 15:33.3.

“We have great coaches and had a great strategy,” Stark said. “Place-wise, I ran exactly what I was hoping to do. I wanted to get out with the leaders, and I was mainly in third [throughout the race]. It's great just getting to state, but getting in the top five is icing on the cake.”

Liberty Center’s Kyle Rauch (16:32.2) placed 26th, and Tanner Ruach (16:54.2) was 49th. The Tigers’ other two scoring runners were Nathaniel Elieff and Cole Walbolt.

“We wanted to go for broke,” Atkinson said. “We were seeded seventh, so I was very happy with our results. Six of our seven guys ran lifetime bests.

“Kyle [Rauch] lost his shoe at the mile mark, so he battled through it. Cameron Stark broke our school record and ran sensationally.”

Other top-75 individuals in D-III included Patrick Henry’s Nathan Bostelman (23rd), Delta’s Maverick Wright (36th), and Toledo Christian’s Mark Dembowski (74th).

In the Division II meet, where no area schools had qualified for state as teams, the top individual finishes were produced by Wauseon’s Kyle Vernot (17th, 16:18.1) and Napoleon’s Daniel Gaffney (67th).

Contact Steve Junga at sjunga@theblade.com419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade.

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