CHILLICOTHE – There has been one constant in the Scioto Valley Conference for the past dozen or so years: Unioto’s boys cross country team wins year in and year out.
Unioto’s first-place finish in 2013 marked the 13th consecutive year that the league title ended up in the Shermans’ hands. And, heading into this year’s campaign, Unioto has no thoughts of slowing down.
However, to bring home another title, the Shermans will have to get past Piketon, which appears ready to challenge for the SVC’s top spot.
“We should be even better than we were last year,” Unioto head coach Matt Paxton said. “Piketon will be better as well, and they’ve improved at least as much as we have. This Piketon team is pretty unreal. We have to beat them to win the SVC.”
In addition to winning the league title this past year, the Shermans placed third in regional competition and finished 14th at state.
Piketon also qualified for regionals in 2013 and saw two of its runners — Kane Dixon and Zack Varney — qualify for state competition as individuals. Both Dixon and Varney return this season for the Redstreaks.
“We’re looking to compete,” said Michelle Coreno, Piketon’s first-year head coach. “You always want to win and we’re no different. But right now, we’re just simply looking to compete. Our boys have really worked hard all summer.
“They have set high goals for themselves to improve their individual times. They key for our team to be successful is to peak when it’s the most important time to peak.”
In addition to helping Piketon compete with Unioto for conference supremacy, Coreno also faces the challenge of taking over for Greg Sheperd, who retired after the 2013 season.
“Greg Sheperd, our former coach, has done an amazing job with our program,” she said. “Even though I’m the new coach, I understand I won’t be able to fill those shoes. There’s so much credit that should go to him for us even to be in the position to be this good. Words can’t describe how much he gave to this program, and that will continue to show through our boys’ accomplishments this year.”
As a whole, the SVC will be improved this fall. Paxton said that should produce the greatest level of parity the area has seen in recent years.
“The league meet at Southeastern this year will be the best quality league meet we’ve had in a long time,” he said. “Almost every team in our league has improved, and it will be on display this year. It says a lot about our area and the level of talent that we have.”
Nevertheless, the Shermans and Redstreaks will look to rise above all others.
• Coach: Matt Paxton
• Key returners: Jesse Griesheimer, David Magda, Ethan Dills
• Key newcomers: Cole Bleder, Isaiah West, John Page
• Overview: The Shermans will compete for the Scioto Valley Conference crown and likely make a deep run into the postseason. With their talent, don’t be surprised to read about them competing in the state meet.
• Coach’s quote: “Jesse (Griesheimer) really takes care of the younger kids. He’s really doing well on his leadership. (David) Magda is a very good leader as well. All of our sophomores and freshmen are starting to develop well, and they’re all athletes. They work extremely hard.”
• Coach: Michelle Coreno
• Key returners: Kane Dixon, Zack Varney, Jordan Pendleton
• Key newcomers: Seth Farmer, Austin Taylor, Austin Spencer
• Overview: The Redstreaks show no signs of slowing down after a successful 2013. They will compete for the league title and look to advance to the regional competition. They also believe they can qualify for the state meet as a team, and likely will send several individual runners as well.
• Coach’s quote: “We have amazing seniors that have worked extremely hard and have been incredible role models. I can’t say enough about how they’ve worked in their own free time. That’s invaluable in my opinion. They have tremendous character.”
• Coach: John Williams
• Key returners: Nick Bucwa, Eli Branson, Nate Freeman
• Key newcomers: Josh Parker, Andrew Graves, Tanner Click
• Overview: The Pioneers want to grab a top-three finish in the SVC and qualify for regionals as a team. They also are looking to advance several individuals deep into the postseason; they have the talent to do it.
• Coach’s quote: “We’re definitely kind of down. We lost our best runner from last year to soccer but we’ll still be a solid team. I think we’ll get third in the SVC again. We’re just not loaded like Unioto and Piketon. Right now, qualifying for regionals is a good goal for us as a team.”
• Coach: Cheryl Knisley
• Key returners: Austin Chapman, Casey Davis
• Key newcomers: Noah Davis, Charles Stein, Johnathan Henson, Layne Christman
• Overview: Paint Valley is looking to qualify for regionals and send Chapman, a 2013 regional qualifier, back to that competition as an individual. They also are looking to compete within the SVC. For now, they are under the radar but could have a big coming-out party.
• Coach’s quote: “Austin (Chapman) would definitely like to make it to state and he has the talent to do so. He can run forever with his endurance. If we could get some speed on him to go along with his endurance, he would be virtually unstoppable.”
• Coach: Jeff Magill
• Key returners: Elijah Shanks, Gage Hickman
• Key newcomers: Christian Howard, Aaron Gilmore, Bailey Hill
• Overview: The Huntsmen, with a first-year coach at the helm, are looking to build up a program while they compete. They will rely on their two returning lettermen to lead the team and land them multiple all-conference selections.
• Coach’s quote: “I’m expecting a lot out of my experienced runners. My newcomers will start working to build up their endurance will be successful in the future for us. If we want to be good and build up this program, the work to get it done starts now and that’s what we’re aiming to do.”
• Coach: Billy Dennis
• Key returners: Alex Stadt, Austin Ridenour, Zach Powers
• Key newcomers: Hayden Mink, J.T. Lamb, Liam Smith
• Overview: The Mustangs, who also have a new coach, are looking forward to the competition they will face in the SVC. They think they have potential and, if they can be left standing at the end of the season and survive the grueling schedule, they will have walked away with a win.
• Coach’s quote: “I think it’s going to take going up against those teams in our conference just to see what it feels like. Those kids are good at what they do. That competition gets you ready for the postseason. We just want to survive. As far as where we place in the SVC, I’m not going to make any predictions.”
• Coach: Emily Gray
• Key returners: Billy Magill
• Key newcomers: C.J. Skaggs, Isaiah Dresbach, Devan Cox, Danian Sims
• Overview: The Panthers did not have a boys team in 2013. Nevertheless, under the direction of a new coach, they’re not backing down. Southeastern wants to be competitive in the SVC and qualify for regionals as a team.
• Coach’s quote: “Billy Magill is the returning letterman and hopefully he will be the strongest leader on the team and hopefully qualify for state this year; last year he was in regionals. C.J. Skaggs has looked really strong during the summer and through conditioning and is our other senior. We will look to these two to help us build a strong team within the conference.”
• Coach: Steve Semancik
• Key returners: Donovan Lowe, Jack Whalen, Brandon Mingus-Harris
• Key newcomers: Noah Hiles, Max Griesheimer
• Overview: The Cavaliers are coming off winning the South Central Ohio League title — their first league crown in 49 years. This year should be no different. Chillicothe will look to compete, alongside Hillsboro, for the SCOL crown. The Cavaliers also would like to improve on individual times and see where that momentum can take them.
• Coach’s quote: “The running leader is Donovan Lowe. He placed highly in our conference last year and has set very high goals for himself this year. He’s our most athletic runner and he definitely our leader.”
• Coach: Linda McCallister
• Key returners: Jeffrey McCambridge, Ben Ezory, Alec Parker, Austin McClocick
• Key newcomers: Brendan Davis
• Overview: Waverly finished second in the Southern Ohio Conference in 2013, and have nine returning lettermen this season. Even as a young team that boasts the talents of two juniors and five sophomores, the Tigers are looking to win back-to-back titles. They also have set a goal of placing well as a team in the district meet.
• Coach’s quote: “Minford and Wheelersburg are always tough to beat. But we’re aiming high this year. Our boys want it pretty bad, and we’ve been working hard all offseason long.”
Note: Adena High School will not field a boys cross country team this season.