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Published: Monday, 10/10/2005

City League notebook: Schmitt's path to third title uphill

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

This Saturday's 41st annual City League cross country meet at Ottawa Park features some intriguing plot lines in the scheduled 10:45 a.m. boys race.

For starters, Whitmer senior Skyler Schmitt attempts to become the first three-time individual league champion since Libbey's Westley Brock accomplished the feat at the very first three meets (1965-67).

Brock, a state champion in 1967 for the Cowboys, was also a state track champion in the mile as a junior and set an Ohio record in that event.

Schmitt won his first City title as a sophomore in 2003, running a 16:01 on the 3.1-mile (5,000 meter) course at Ottawa. Last year he broke the CL boys meet record by posting a 15:48, one second faster than St. John's Jesuit's Scott Mullan ran in 1993 there. Brock ran when the established race distance was two miles.

Schmitt will have his work cut out for him as he has consistently been beaten this season by each of St. John's three top runners - junior twins Chris and Matt Lemon, and sophomore Joe Miller.

In their most recent competition, the Clay Eagle Invitational at Pearson Park, Chris Lemon ran first in 15:46.2, Miller second in 15:52, Matt Lemon fourth in 15:45.5, and Schmitt fifth in 15:58.8.

The Titans' relative lack of overall depth may make things interesting as they try to repeat their team title in competition with arch-rival St. Francis de Sales, which has shown good lineup balance.

On the girls' side, one thing is certain: There will be a new individual champion. That's because the CL's only four-time champion - Alli McMaster - has graduated.

McMaster set the league's girls record as a St. Ursula Academy freshman in 2001 (18:32) and tied it as a Notre Dame junior in 2003. She also won as an SUA sophomore in 2002, and wrapped up her grand slam last year in leading Notre Dame to its third straight team title.

Notre Dame and Whitmer should be the top teams in this year's 10 a.m. girls chase.

SLICK VICTORY: Waite reclaimed the Oil Barrel Trophy for the first time since 1998 in their East Side football rivalry with Clay Friday night, and did it with an impressive comeback.

The Indians trailed 24-7 late in the second quarter, and were down 27-14 after Clay's Justin Guy booted a field goal in the third. But Waite answered with three touchdowns, two in the fourth quarter, then fended off a late Eagle drive at the 5-yard line with 12 seconds to play.

The win was especially satisfying for second-year Waite coach John Johnson, who was Clay's coach for 15 seasons (1984-1998). But he was more concerned beforehand that his players understood the stakes.

"I've been gone [from Clay] long enough now where that wasn't such a big deal," Johnson said, "but I wanted our players to know what this rivalry was all about. I asked them before the game, 'What are we playing for? A few of them said, 'Pride?' I said, 'No, the Oil Barrel Trophy.'

"A lot of them didn't even know what it was. Waite hasn't had it seven years."

Johnson gave special kudos to senior quarterback Howie LaCourse, his receiving corps, and sophomore back Ray Parker for their contributions to the rally.

ST. FRANCIS AT HOME: Following suit with its City League Catholic school rivals, St. Francis will play its first on-campus varsity football game in the school's 50-year history at 7 p.m. Friday against Woodward.

Central Catholic played its first on-campus game since 1934 last year against Scott, and the Irish staged their first home night game a few weeks back against Rogers.

St. John's Jesuit, which does not have a lighted field, played its first on-campus varsity football game against Waite, a Saturday afternoon contest on Oct. 1.

St. Francis athletic director Carl Janke said parking will be available in the school lots, at Gesu school, and at Ottawa Park near the skating rink.

VOLLEYBALL: Top-ranked defending Division I state-champion St. Ursula Academy puts its 47-match winning streak on the line tomorrow night at 6:30 in the semifinals of the City League volleyball playoffs at Waite.

The top-seeded Arrows (18-0, 11-0 CL) face fourth-seeded Notre Dame (12-7, 8-3), and also carry a 70-match winning streak (CL regular season and playoff contests) into the playoffs as they pursue a sixth straight CL title.

The 8 p.m. semifinal pits sixth-ranked Central Catholic (17-3, 10-1), the No. 2 seed, against Clay (15-4, 9-2), the No. 3 seed. The winners play for the title at

7 p.m. Thursday at Waite.

DISTRICT GOLF: Three City League girls golf teams will compete in the Division I district tournament tomorrow at Sycamore Spring Golf Course in Arlington, and two CL boys squads will be in the D-I district field Thursday at Red Hawk Golf Course in Findlay.

Notre Dame, St. Ursula, and Whitmer qualified out of the girls sectionals Tuesday, as did Bowsher and St. John's in Thursday's boys sectionals.

City champion St. Francis did not advance as a team out of the Bowling Green boys sectional, but Knight player Mike Flis qualified as an individual along with Central's Ryan Kaminski, Whitmer's Jake Collins, Clay's Jeff Brower, and Start's Adam Reny.

Contact Steve Junga at: sjunga@theblade.com or 419-724-6461.



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