GREEN TWP. – Nothing leaves a bad taste in a team’s mouth like finishing fifth at the district cross country meet. Only the top four teams qualify to the next round at the regional meet, and fifth place is precisely what Oak Hills’ boys team went home with in 2014.
This year, they made it through with fourth place on Oct. 24 at the Division I district meet at Voice of America Park.
“They’ve had a chip on their shoulder since last season,” said Oak Hills coach Joe Zeinner. “There’s a lot of satisfaction to see them follow through with it.”
After last season’s distasteful ending, Zeinner said his team went back to work, trusted each other and set their sights on regionals.
Sophomore Drew Toon led Oak Hills this year at districts in 14th place (16:40.0). Toon was followed by sophomore Mitchell Luken in 18th (16:46.9), then senior Tom Seibert in 19th (16:47.4), senior Anthony Papathanas in 21st (16:49.8) and sophomore Christopher Guy in 30th (17:15.5).
The Highlanders have a tried and true system this season for scoring.
“We don’t have one of those guys who’s gonna win the race,” said Zeinner, “but the five that score are usually within about 20 seconds of each other.”
Zeinner said the hope is that his team decreases that 20-second rate at the regional.
“We’re excited, I’m sure there’s a little nerves,” Zeinner said, in advance of regionals. “The pressure’s not really on us, it’s on other teams. We think we can get out and if we just trust each other and stick to our plan we can get out. We’re not going there just to settle, we’re gonna go for it.”
The Highlanders have benefited from their blend of youth and experience.
“In our top-5 we have two seniors and three sophomores,” said Zeinner. “The seniors have just been critical to our success; we’re one team and we’ve not had chemistry like this since I’ve been here. We’ve had good chemistry in the past but it’s special what these guys are doing and how they go about their business.”
Taylor punched its ticket for the regional cross country meet when the boys placed third at the Division II district meet Oct. 24 at Voice of America Park. It’s the second straight year the Yellow Jackets have qualified to the regional.
“They ran an excellent race (at districts), cause they were in a tough race,” said coach Jeff Smith. “The boys ran as a team and we only had five runners, (because) two are injured and one was taking his ACT, so we had no room for error.”
The Yellow Jackets were led by junior Brad Greene, who finished fourth overall at districts in a time of 17:01.8.
“He’s been our top guy all year,” Smith said, “he’s really improved … he’s got a shot at going to state. He’s due for a really good race.”
Smith said Greene’s getting healthy heading into the regional. While battling an illness, Smith said, Greene ran his personal career-best for second place at the Cincinnati Hills League meet by eight-tenths of a second.
Sophomore Nick Fox kept pace with Greene at districts, taking sixth place with a time of 17:16.1. Senior Kaden Wells was 22nd in a time of 18:08.7. Senior Jacob Bayer ran 28th in 18:26.3, followed by junior Nic Triplett in 18:36.7 for 33rd place.
Smith said at the regional he’ll have two of three missing runners back.
“They just don’t want to go up there and go through the motions, they want to go up there and compete and try to place well, better than they did last year,” said Smith. “We want to make some noise and have the team or at least an individual make it to state.”