HEBRON – Both Unioto’s boys and girls cross country teams were in action Saturday with the best competition in all of Ohio.
The Shermans participated in the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) State Cross Country Championships, Saturday at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, Ohio.
The appearance marked the first time in county history in which a local school district’s boys and girls cross country teams qualified for a state meet in the same year.
On the boys’ side, it was the Shermans’ 13th consecutive appearance in such competition — the longest active streak in all of Ohio.
Unioto finished ninth overall as a team with a total time of 1:25.16, score of 235 and finish order of 9-61-82-89-112-114-128.
Leading the way was senior David Magda, who finished ninth individually with a time of 16:03.5 and earning all-Ohio honors in the process.
“The reason this team has been so good is David Magda,” Unioto coach Paxton said. “You don’t see teams as young as we are come up here and compete like we do. And the reason that happens is because of (David’s) leadership. He’s a great leader. He makes everyone around him better.”
On the day, sophomore Cole Clever (61st), freshman Aaron LaPlante (82nd) and freshman Tucker Markko (89th) scored for the Shermans while Isaiah West (112th), Jonah Phillips (114th) and Jaden Watkins (128th) also participated.
For Madga, his all-Ohio honor caps off a year in which he’s won individual conference, district and regional championships.
“There was some tough competition today,” Magda said. “It’s the best in the state and that’s what you get when you come up here. Everyone brought it. My cross country career has been great. It’s been fun. But I think my teammates coming back next year are going to improve, be amazing and be much better. With the leadership and experience they have coming back, they can do big things.”
Unioto will not have a senior on the roster next year, but instead will have three juniors and three freshmen — all with state competition experience.
“We’ve been lucky enough to have one or two seniors set the tone for us and have a few younger kids coming up,” Paxton said. “What separates this group right now is that the whole group is currently in the ninth and tenth grade. We’ve never had that. What’s going to be nice about this group is that they’re all going to be coming through together. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
Unioto girls log middle-of-the-pack finish in Division II
In the Division II girls race, Unioto’s girls finished 11th overall out of 16 teams while beating out Athens, Sheridan, Minerva, Toledo Central Catholic and Padua.
The Shermans had one senior, one junior, one sophomore and two freshmen contribute to the team’s total score of 261 with a finish order of 34-62-79-82-117-136 and 140. Unioto’s total finishing time was 1:41.25 with an average of 20:17.
“Just getting here is huge for this group,” Paxton said. “They made it over a huge hurdle going from the fifth in the region last year to first this year. They never even qualified for their first regional meet as a team until about five or six years ago. It’s been a recent thing for these Unioto girls. They’re taking the next step every single year. It’s tough up here when you’re as young as they are. One senior, one junior, two freshmen and two sophomores. When you get to this level, it’s very hard to succeed at this level with very little experience.”
Leading the pack for Tanks was junior Haley Wright (36th, 19:28.3), followed by Elena Knipp (62nd, 19:56.2).
Knipp was the only senior on Unioto’s team this season.
“If you’re seniors are running your best race at state, your group is doing something right,” Paxton said. “I thought Elena ran our best race today. She was out good and was passing people. For a state meet, she ran a very good race. She’s the first kid that’s been with me six years. When she was a freshman, she was good. And she’s continued to improve. She hadn’t defined herself until this year thought. She made a huge step up and led our whole group. That’s what we needed.”
Freshman Tessa Sylvester finished 79th at 20:10.6, sophomore Alex Evans finished 82nd at 20:20.3 and freshman Abbey Mohan finished 117th with a time of 21:29.4. Also finishing the race for Unioto was Kaitlyn Connery (23:28.1) and Grace Hanna (23:52.1).
The girls end the year as conference, district and regional champions — the first regional title in the program’s history.
“It’s very rare for a team this young to make it (to Hebron),” Paxton said. “For a first year team here, they ran a very good race. It’s not like they quit and it’s not like they didn’t give it all they had.”
Adena’s Clarkson takes 64th in Division III girls race
Also participating in Saturday’s state meet was Adena senior Taylor Clarkson after qualifying for the Division III event as an individual.
Clarkson finished 64th overall out of 144 runners with a time of 20:20.1.