NAPOLEON - When Napoleon's boys and girls cross country teams take to the infield at Scioto Downs in Columbus, the teams will have a realistic chance of pulling off a rare double in Ohio high school sports.
With both teams coming off big wins in the Southwest regional meet last weekend in Troy, the Wildcats seemed primed to win Division II state titles on Saturday. But another area team, Eastwood, will have a shot at the same double in the same division.
That won't come easy. The Napoleon boys, ranked No. 1 in the state, will have to fight off an Eastwood team that's been nipping at their heels in the No. 2 spot in the state polls.
The girls team, ranked No. 3 in the state, will have a more difficult time, facing perennial power and top-ranked Cleveland Heights Beaumont and Eastwood, which finished second in the polls.
But Napoleon coach Randy Burke said at least he's not thinking about the polls or other runners and teams. He said he believes Napoleon controls its own destiny in the state championships.
“The coaches polls are more for the public,” Burke said. “The recognition has been fine, but we want to come in and run to the best of our ability. We want to go out there and see what we can do.”
The boys won a regional title by a whopping 62 points over Eaton, led by Nick Kruse's second place finish. The Wildcats place all five of their scoring runners in the top 21 and its sixth runner finished 26.
Burke said the team made a name for itself with a similar win at the prestigious Tiffin Carnival in September. Kruse, Steve Wesche, Scott Damman, Adam Rathge and Rodney Hunter, along with sixth and seventh runners Aaron Schnitkey and Jason Rohrs have been tough.
For the Napoleon girls, Emily Schnitkey has been one of the top runners in the state all season. Schnitkey set a regional course record.
The Eastwood boys team won their regional, edging out Huron 87-97, while the Eastwood girls finished third. Richard Morgan said he is expecting a stronger finish from the girls team.
“The good news is that we didn't run our best and still qualified for state,” said Morgan last week in Tiffin. “We made some mistakes but I think we're going to run a lot better at state. Last year we finished third and beat the two teams that beat us in regional at state.”
Liberty-Benton will be the only Northwest Ohio school with both boys and girls teams in the Division III races. The girls finished third behind powerful Woodmore, which is making its ninth consecutive trip to Columbus, and Seneca East.
Hopewell-Loudon, sparked by one of the individual favorites, Carime Reinhart, will challenge in Division III.
The No. 2 ranked Liberty-Benton boys are led by regional winner Jon Martin.