The weather might have been bad, but Saturday was perfect as far as Toby Hardwick and Tyler Otterstedt were concerned.
Both seniors slogged through the mud, wind and rain at Watkins Memorial to win their first district cross country championships, leading area boys to next weekend’s regional meets.
Hardwick ran a personal-best 15:37 to capture Division I, Section 3, while Otterstedt led his team to a district runner-up finish with a victorious 16:17 in D-II.
“It was horrible (conditions) but fun; the worst thing was getting mud kicked in your face,” said Hardwick, who has won nearly every race this fall. “I wasn’t even expecting to be in the 15’s (Saturday).”
He and Olentangy Liberty’s Andrew Johnston were well out in front for most of the race, but Hardwick pulled away to win by 19 seconds.
“I really wanted to beat (Johnston). He’s a district track champion, and I knew I had to stay with him,” Hardwick said. “On the second lap, I decided to kick it in, and he didn’t come with me. My training has payed off, and I still have a lot of energy left.”
Newark classmate Isaac Wheeler finished 18th in 17:08 to join Hardwick in the regional at Pickerington North; the Wildcats finished eighth as a team. Watkins Memorial sophomore Andrew Jordan also made the regional by placing eighth in D-I, Section 2 (16:33), leading the Warriors to a seventh-place finish.
“I’d never run in conditions like that before,” Jordan said. “People went out fast, and it was hard to pass. Once you got going, your body warmed up and you didn’t notice the rain and cold. But there weren’t many dry spots.”
Otterstedt, a returning All-Ohioan, was third for most of the D-II race before making his move late.
“I stayed 15 to 20 meters back, then when we came out of the woods, it was only eight to 10 meters,” Otterstedt said. “At about 400 meters, I listened to my coach and just kind of relaxed. Then I surged around 200 meters.
“I had to keep the Granville tradition going.”
“I think we’ve won four or five of the last district titles, with four or five different kids,” coach Dave Agosta said. “He’s a pretty fast kid, a sub 49-second 400 kid. I’m really happy for him.”
The Blue Aces punched their ticket to the Troy regional with a second-place finish and 58 points compared with 52 by champion Sparta Highland. Former district champion Ryan Black was sixth in 16:32, Robbie Weaver seventh in 16:32, Tyler Keenan 17th in 17:09 and Jonny Lukins 27th in 17:39.
Lakewood junior Chris Briggs clocked 16:35 to place eighth and reach the regional, while Licking Valley sophomore Griffin Butler also qualified with his 10th-place finish (16:50).
Newark Catholic senior Tanner Ernest advanced to Pickerington North with a seventh-place finish in D-III (16:53), but was visibly upset when he learned the Green Wave girls just missed the regional with a fifth-place finish. Then, later on, his disappointment grew when his NC boys also came up just short in fifth.
Still, he’s ready to run his best race in the regional.
“I didn’t run my best race (Saturday), that’s for sure,” Ernest said. “Everyone else is starting to peak, and I’ve haven’t run my best. I’m going to change that next week.”