BETHEL – Pam Taylor is back with a pack of Tigers on the course and a Southern Buckeye Conference-National Division championship to defend at Bethel-Tate. The Tiger teacher of trots was named Coach of the Year in 2014 for nipping Blanchester in the league standings.
Bethel-Tate returns Jackson Coates, who was SBAAC-National first team as a freshman and has picked up where he left off with wins at the Early Bird Run in Felicity and another in Sandusky.
“He’s awesome!” Taylor said of the current sophomore. “I expect him to lead the boys team every race. He’s really dedicated. That kid runs all of the time and works out. He went to Ohio State cross country camp. He’s got it in his blood.”
Coates peeled off a 16:33.13 in his opening win at Felicity, followed by Zane Royer at 18:24.33, Noah Rees at 19:11.50, Justin Royer at 19:20.62 and Evan Iding at 20:06.32.
The lone senior is Iding, who also moonlights at soccer, basketball and track at Bethel-Tate.
“This year he’s really taking running seriously,” Taylor said. “He wants to be the leader. I’m really proud of what he’s doing to get himself ready.”
Iding has been a top scorer for coach Dave Schellenberger’s soccer team. Bethel-Tate is one of the rare schools that allow athletes to participate in multiple sports during the same season.
“We had a lot of freshman boys come out that run cross country and play soccer,” Taylor said. “I bend and allow my cross country runners to play soccer.”
The bending has benefited both squads over the years.
Taylor is assisted by Jared Iding, a Bethel-Tate graduate and former first team SBAAC runner. Ashton Hutchinson, Brian Carter and Brodey McConnell are also recent grads who have returned and contribute in different ways.
The Tigers are back on the trail Sept. 12 at the Felicity Invitational. A week later, they host the Bethel-Tate Invitational at Burke Park.
Felicity-Franklin finished in the back of the Southern Buckeye Conference-National Division standings a year ago, but did feature two all-league performers in first teamer Jared Boeckmann and second team pick Bradley Elkins.
In the early going, Boeckmann has been out injured, which led to an eighth place finish by the Cardinals in their opening meet Aug. 26. Elkins was Felicity-Franklin’s top finisher at the Early Bird Run in 18:33.88.
The rest of the roster includes seniors Kyle Louderback and Austin Paskow, juniors Alex Baird, Ethan Binion, Ethan Brown and Nathan Stumpf, sophomore Dennis Delk and freshmen Aiden Binion, Nathaniel Buckler and Austin Rutherford.
“I think freshman Aiden Binion will be about our third or fourth man,” coach Toby Lewin said. “He might push Bradley (Elkins).”
With a healthy Boeckmann, Lewin thinks the Cardinals can contend in the National Division.
“I still have no seniors on my team other than a couple soccer players (Kyle Louderback and Austin Paskow),” Lewin said. “They will only be out for Saturday meets, but will definitely add depth to my team. I’m excited for this year.”
The Cardinals return to Washington Township Park for the Felicity Invitational Sept. 12. They practice in the park in the summer and hope the familiarity helps.
McNicholas won’t have their top runner from last season in Eric Frey, a district participant who just missed out on qualifying for regionals.
However, coach Kyle Jepson returns Jackson Durm, Adam Neltner, Michael Barrett, Ian Bodner and Feliz Polumbo. All of them ran in the district race last season.