The Mason girls’ cross country team is approaching rarified air, even for a perennial power such as the Comets.
Six Mason runners finished in the top nine Oct. 24 at a Division I district race at Voice of America Park in West Chester, led by race winner Maegan Murphy. The Comets won the team race and were one of eight girls Division I teams to qualify for the regional meet Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Troy.
Eight teams in Division I, six in Division II and eight more in Division III will join the same number in each division on the boys’ side in Troy with a host of local individual qualifiers in each race. The top four teams and 16 individuals in each race will advance to the state meet Nov. 7 at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, Ohio.
The Mason girls will be among the favorites to reach state in Division I, along with national power Centerville.
“This is one of the best teams we’ve ever had,” Mason coach Chip Dobson said. “Right now our best ever average times are still with the 2012 team, but these girls are coming along. Right conditions on the right day, they rival it. They’re very strong.”
Turpin won the other girls Division I race last week and has its sights set on the No. 3 or No. 4 spot, led by freshman Sam Bush.
“It’s going to take faster times this year for girls to make it individually due to the number of top runners Centerville and Mason are expected to have in the top 16, in addition to some standout individuals from other schools,” Turpin coach Missy Siemers said.
Although his team is among the favorites, Dobson knows nothing is a guarantee, especially at Troy.
“We’re in a reasonably good position,” Dobson said. “The Dayton district is really strong this year. Centerville is outstanding. Troy is good. Beavercreek is always dangerous and there are a couple other teams up there. Troy is always a meat grinder. I never go into Troy counting any chickens. It’s always a scary place, but we’re hopeful.”
District champions Mariemont and Wyoming should be among the top girls’ Division II teams.
“We have a chance of qualifying in one of those last couple spots as a team,” Mariemont coach Terri Thomas said. “Our best bet is to continue to run as a tight pack of five and challenge one other on our own team.”
Wyoming will also contend for a spot at state.
“But the region is incredibly tough this season,” Wyoming coach Travis Glendenning said. “Tippecanoe, Springfield Shawnee, Oakwood, and Alter are all ranked in the state top 10.”
Monroe’s Rachel Ploeger will be one of the favorites individually in Division II.
Division III district champion Summit Country Day will try to steal one of the four spots at state in that division.
“Our girls will start the day off and have a shot at stealing that fourth spot for State,” Summit coach Kurtis Smith said. “We will rely on our pack performance and really don’t rely on one standalone individual. This group of girls has gradually been getting better as the year has gone along and we are in a good place as a team.”
Mason will also be a favorite on the boys’ side in Division I, having won its district title with the fifth through eight-place finishers last weekend. The defending Division I state champion Comets will be dealing with another district champion in St. Xavier and a field full of quality teams.
“As always, our first goal is to qualify for the state meet,” Mason boys’ coach Tom Rapp said. “After that, our goal is to win. I feel we have the runners to do so, but no one is going to just hand us the trophy. We will have to run seven solid races in order to win. Our pack is so tight, the runners are quite interchangeable. We never know who are top guy will be.”
St. X runners are confident in their prospects as well, according to coach Andy Wietmarschen.
“One aspect of my team that has changed during the course of the year is that they have grown in confidence,” Wietmarschen said. “We did not have a lot of varsity or postseason experience with this year’s team, but the guys are starting to look forward to the big meets at the end of the year.”
Lakota East sophomore Dustin Horter won his district race last weekend and is one of the favorites to win the region and possibly state. Horter had the best time of any runner in the 10 district races at Voice of America, finishing his 3.1-mile run in 15:11.3, only .3 from his personal record.
“We are fortunate to have a potential first-place overall finisher in Dustin Horter,” East coach Adam Thomas said. “He continues to look better and better every day.”
Division II district champions Badin and Indian Hill, and Division III district champ Summit Country Day will also contend for state spots.
“On the boys side we are in a similar situation as our girls with our boys relying on their pack in order to have success on Saturday,” Smith said of his Summit boys’ team. “We have been closing the gap from our No. 1-5 runners the last few weeks and we know our best race will be one in which we utilize our teammates to keep us motivated throughout the 5k race.”
Regional qualifying teams
Division I, Race 1: Mason, Sycamore, Anderson, Kings.
Division I, Race 2: St. Xavier, La Salle, Lakota East, Oak Hills.
Division II, Race 1: Indian Hill, Clark Montessori, Taylor.
Division II, Race 2: Badin, Mariemont, Madeira.
Division III: Summit Country Day, Seven Hills, Cincinnati Country Day, St. Bernard.
Division I, Race 1: Mason, Lakota West, Seton, McAuley.
Division I, Race 2: Turpin, Lakota East, Kings, Ursuline.
Division II, Race 1: Mariemont, New Richmond, Indian Hill.
Division II, Race 2: Wyoming, Ross, Monroe.
Division III: Summit Country Day, Miami Valley Christian, Cincinnati Country Day, Cincinnati Christian.
Memorial Stadium — Troy
11 a.m. — Division III girls 11 a.m. — Division II girls 12:30 p.m. — Division I girls 1:30 p.m. — Division III boys 2:15 p.m. — Division II boys 3 p.m. — Division I Boys