The dream of every high school athlete, no matter the sport, is to win a state title.

Seven area schools took a big step towards making that dream a reality last Saturday by qualifying at the Ottawa districts for the regional cross country tournament .

Columbus Grove is sending both squads to Tiffin after the boys won the D-III district team title and the girls were runner-up.

“Last year of theme was’ We’re Building Something’ which transpired into ‘We Were Built For This” for the 2018 season” explained Columbus Grove boys coach Terry Schnipke. “It has been a self-fulfilling prophecy after being beaten by state powerhouses Lincolnview, Mt. Gilead and West Liberty-Salem. Our guys won the Botkins and Kenton Invitationals, Putnam County and Northwest Conference meets, and Districts(district 2)” continued Schnipke. “We suffered the loss of our #2 runner, Grant Mumaugh two weeks before our conference meet but senior Jordan Bellman knocked 51 seconds off his best time and picked up the slack ever since. Our other runners in the top 6 also picked it up with the pack of Caleb Stechschulte, Breece Pingle, and Carson Closson running dynamite at districts. Our #6 runner, Tanner Smith has greatly improved as well as the season progressed. The key to being in the conversation of one of the top six teams at Regionals is having Johnny Schmiedebusch up front leading the way.”

The Bulldogs girls coach, Jason Jay also has high expectations for the next step. “My expectations are to qualify to the State meet as a team. Even though eight teams qualify out in D-III, our team goal is for a top five finish with two girls in the top 32. We know there will be great competition, but we will be prepared for whatever the day throws at us in order to achieve our goals.” Columbus Grove will be lead by district champion Alyssa Ellerbrock, Erin Downing (3rd) and Leanndra Price (5th). Also competing will be Morgan Deffenbaugh, Zoe Stechschulte, Emily Schumacher, and Hannah Schroeder.

Just the opposite of Columbus Grove’s experience in the cross country post season is the Delphos St. John’s girls team. This season marks the first time in 20 years that the Lady Jays have qualified for Regionals. “We knew going into the girls that we had a chance to advance past districts as a team but it was going to take some younger runners to step to make that happen” said Blue Jay coach Steve Hellman. “We had a mix of experience and youth with senior leadership from Caroline Kopack who worked hard this summer and came through at districts last week with her best race of her career in 21:57. We also knew we could count on Jenia Freewalt (21:05 PR) who qualified for Regionals as an individual last year. Also returning was sophomore Kambrynn Rohr (21:00 PR) who progressed into our number one runner as the season progressed. Fellow sophomore, Rylee Pohlman (21:59 PR) improved through her first year of running at the varsity level and got better with experience.”

“A group of five freshmen helped us fill in the remaining holes to help get us to Regionals” continued Hellman. “Leading our group is Catherine Kopack (21:12PR) who has turned into one of our top runners. Abby Shafer (22:49 PR) and Adara Fuerst (23:16) round out our top seven. Two other freshman, Addy Martin (21:19 PR) and Nicole Pohlman have been fighting injuries and didn’t race at districts. At the district meet we had 5 girls finish under 22 minutes which shows how deep our team is and only a few teams can say that. Our hope for Regionals is that our depth in the 4 and 5 runners can help push ahead of some teams for a shot at getting to state.”

LIncolnview also is sending a pair of squads to Tiffin after the boys won the D-III, district 1 team title and the girls were runner-up. A pair of seniors lead the Lancers at Ottawa with Alek Bowersock (16:51) taking runner-up honors and Karter Tow (16:53) third. Devon Bill (17:41), Jacob Keysor (17:48), Collin Pucket (18:12), Daegan Hatfield (19:01), and Joe Sadowski (19:38)

qualifying at the district meet.

“We are excited to have a chance to compete at the Regional meet” said Lancer coach Matt Langdon. “Our team goal all season was to have an opportunity to compete for a trip to State and we have done that. Now we just have to go out and race like we have all season. Both teams have had a great season and no matter the outcome, I am very proud to coach these young people.”

Competing at Regionals for the Lincolview Ladies are Madison Langdon, Julia Stetler, Madeline Snyder, Victoria Snyder, Brayden Langdon, Rylee Byrne, and Dylann Carey.

The Van Wert boys will be making their second straight trip to the Regional tournament

and seem to be peaking at the right time. “Every cross country season will be full of ups, and downs, and everything in between” explained Cougar coach Ryan Holliday. “Our runners have weathered those experiences and have put themselves in the position to run their best at the end of the season. We are going into Saturday focused on what we can control, and that is how we race. We can’t control other teams, the weather, etc. but we can control how we approach our race. The runners feel confident in who they are and how they race but need to take the next step of improving into being better racing versions of ourselves. If we do that, I think we’ll be very happy with the results.”

The boys competing at Tiffin will be Gage Chiles, Jacob Wasson, Hunter Sherer, Holden Reichert, Gage Wannemacher, Noah Carter, and Jacob Sealscott.

Competing on the girls side is Caylee Phillips after winning the D-II individual title at Districts.

“Caylee has seen tremendous growth as a runner this year” said Holliday. “She has learned to relay on her hard work even more than her incredible talent, and her confidence has blossomed because of shift in mindset. She’ll be coming into Regionals simply looking to race where she is capable and take that next step of improvement. If she does that, I think she’ll be pleased with the results.”

Also qualifying to Saturday as an individual is Crestview junior Wyatt Richardson. Richardson finished in 11th place at Ottawa running a 17:38 to move on. Joining him at Tiffin will be the Lady Knights team of Ragen Harting, Emily Greulach, Lauren Walls, Lizzie Bowen, Adalynn Longstreth, Lydia Saylor, and Kenzie Leeth. The Crestview girls team moved on with a third placed finish at Dustricts behind Minster and Lincolnview.

Also moving another step to the State meet is the Parkway boys squad. The Panthers placed a close second to Lincolnview in District action lead by the duo of Kyle Roth (17:01) and Matt Gaerke (17:12). Aaron Bruns, Blake Strickler, Riley Samples, Gage Hamrick, and Chaz Neuenschwander will also be competing for Parkway.

Fellow Western Buckeye League foe Ottawa-Glandorf will be sending their boys team to Regionals after finishing runner-up to Van Wert at Districts.

The Regional meet will be held at Hedges Boyer Park in Tiffin with racing action taking off at 11:00 am with the D-III boys and the D-II boys at 11:45. The D-III girls race will begin at 1:30 pm and the D-I