COLUMBUS - The boys state cross country meet provided vindication for both Whitmer's Skyler Schmitt and the St. Francis team.
Schmitt, who played second fiddle to several different runners in recent weeks, was the top local finisher yesterday at Scioto Downs. And the Knights, who lost narrowly to St. John's Jesuit in both the City League championships and the regional meet, were the top local team thanks to their fourth-place finish.
For Schmitt, his fourth-place time of 15:43 was balm after a poor showing last year, when he placed 109th.
"I went out really fast, and my body couldn't handle that," he said of last year's race. "I just dropped. I wasn't going to give up this year - I knew I had to fight."
This year Schmitt stayed close to the front throughout, fighting panic as he found himself among the early leaders.
"I thought we were going to go out a lot faster," Schmitt said. "When I was near the front early I wondered if that was where I wanted to be. But I felt comfortable and I was running smooth.
"I thought about last year, when I had a bad race, and all week I haven't worried. I've kept a positive mental attitude."
Meanwhile the Knights scored 173 points to place fourth behind champ Cincinnati LaSalle. But St. Francis beat sixth-place St. John's by eight points by using their "pack" mentality: junior Nick Zychowicz placed 14th in the team race with a time of 16:23, and the rest of the Knights finished less than a minute behind him.
"Our front five all came up really big and made special teams happen for us," St. Francis coach Jim Neary said. "Things sort of paid off for us today. Our guys never stopped believing. The City League race was a tough loss for us, since we lost by one point, and we were really proud of our races in the district and regional.
"We knew when everything came down to the wire we would be good enough to make it happen."
Meanwhile the Titans got strong efforts from their top three of Joe Miller [second in the team race, 15:56], Matt Lemon [seventh, 16:12] and Chris Lemon [ninth, 16:13]. But their two other scoring runners placed 80th and 83rd.
"The teams that beat us this year had five guys finish in front of our fourth or fifth runner," St. John's coach Todd Black said. "Our top three guys were focused and confident and strong."
Senior Paul Dean led Northview by finishing 18th in the team race as the Wildcats placed 13th with 277 points.
"We were off a little bit today," Northview coach Ross Deye said. "But I've got five guys who hopefully will be back next year, and we've never had that many back before with experience."
In the Division II race Eastwood junior Corey Johnson, who placed 12th here two years ago but failed to qualify for the meet last year, a toned for that poor showing by placing ninth in
16:18 to earn All-Ohio honors.
In Division III, Old Fort placed second behind Cortland Maplewood. The Stockaders' Mike Rodriquez, a senior who normally runs third, yesterday led the team with a 19th-place finish.
"We ran a decent race," Old Fort coach Tony Miller said. "It didn't turn out exactly as we were hoping for, but we'll take second place any day of the week."
Six points behind Old Fort was Toledo Christian, which was led by senior Steven Lane, who placed fifth in the team race with a time of 16:31, and junior Tyler Boris, who placed ninth with a 16:49 clocking.
"We were trying to run our own times and not worry about anyone else," Eagles coach Dennis Johns said. "Our guys did a really good job of doing that."
Lane placed 10th in the individual race and enjoyed having his teammates run with him.
"It was just an awesome experience," he said. "Last year I came down as an individual, but it's just so much more fun to come here as a team. This was a lot of fun."
The top local finisher individually was Fayette's Heath Armstrong, who placed fifth with a time of 16:07 and just caught Holgate's Jason Ordway at the finish. Ordway placed sixth with a 16:11 clocking.
"I wanted to get him in the last race of the season," Armstrong said. "But he's a tough kid, a good runner, and a good friend."39.96196 -83.00298