John Sotos of the Dublin Coffman High School boys cross country team was worried when he found himself in 44th place at the first-mile marker of the Division I state meet Nov. 3 at National Trail Raceway.
Instead of allowing his concern to turn into panic, the senior remained calm and focused on passing runners and, by the time he reached the second-mile marker, he had moved up to 12th.
By the time he was 800 meters from the finish line, Sotos found himself in a one-on-one race with Twinsburg's Garrett Crichlow for seventh place.
He was able to edge Crichlow at the finish line to place seventh of 148 runners in a personal-record 15 minutes, 33.01 seconds, as Crichlow (15:33.43) finished eighth. Tipp City Tippecanoe's Sam Wharton won the state title in 15:09.95.
"My plan was to get out fast but not so fast that I would be uncomfortable and die over the last two miles," Sotos said. "I didn't like seeing that many people in front of me after the first mile, but I kept telling myself to relax because it's a long race. My gamble paid off because I had more energy left than most of the people who went out front and I was slowly able to work my way in front of a lot of them.
"I was neck-and-neck with (Crichlow) over the last 800 meters. It was the hardest kick I've ever had to do, but I had the will and determination to push through and beat him. Overall, I'm extremely happy with this race."
By out-sprinting Crichlow, Sotos became the first Shamrock to earn first-team all-state honors by finishing in the top seven since J.J. White won state titles in 1991 and 1992 after finishing second in 1990.
"It was great to see John run his best time at state," coach Chad Biegler said. "He got out a little slower than he wanted, so it was just a matter of finding places to pass people. He told me that he felt really bad over the last mile, so I'm proud of him for having the determination to fight through it and finish well."
Jerome's Mandel reaches state podium
Junior Jake Mandel of the Jerome boys team finished 15th in the Division I state meet in a program-record 15:42.93 to earn all-state honors for the second year in a row.
The top 25 finishers earned all-state honors, but only the top 15 reached the awards podium.
Mandel finished 16th (15:47.13) last season.
"My coach wanted me to stay relaxed and be near 40th after the first mile, and I executed my race plan and made a big move between the start of the second mile and the start of the third mile," said Mandel, who was 43rd at the first-mile marker and 13th at the second-mile marker. "It was a great experience and I have a huge sense of accomplishment after all of the hard work I put in over the summer with my teammates. It was awesome to get to stand on the podium after missing it by one spot last year.
"Next year, my goal will be to qualify for state as part of our team and to improve upon my finish once again."
Also competing at state for Jerome was junior Chase Stewart, who finished 27th in 15:53.51.
Stewart was 72nd after the first mile and 34th after the second mile.
"Chase was really happy to be there and he executed our race plan well, too," Mandel said. "He soaked up the experience and enjoyed it."
Coffman sixth, Scioto 16th in girls meet
The Coffman girls team scored 201 points to finish sixth of 16 teams in the Division I state meet behind champion Mason (42).
Last year, the Shamrocks scored 170 points at state to finish fifth behind champion Brunswick (113).
"I'm satisfied with our performance," coach Jim Ferguson said.
"From No. 1 through (No.) 7, everyone ran faster at state this year than they did there last year. We would have liked to finish higher as a team, but our finish wasn't due to a lack of effort or a poor performance.
"The competition level was just higher this year than it was in the past."
Junior Rachel Bosworth led the Shamrocks, placing 12th (18:16.58) of 150 runners to earn all-state honors for a third consecutive year. She placed ninth (18:26.42) at state last season and 10th (18:20) in 2010.
Lebanon's Jacquelyn Crow won the state title in 17:39.31.
Bosworth became the third runner in program history to earn all-state honors three years in a row, joining Emily King (2000-02) and Kendra Churchill (2001-03).
Also competing for Coffman were senior Rachel Weber (46th, 18:59.18), freshman Sana Qamar (63rd, 19:08.39), junior Julia Fries (99th, 19:46.44), junior Emily Lynch (112th, 19:55.7), senior Tess Cassidy (135th, 20:29.16), sophomore Anna Weber (140th, 20:40.33) and sophomore Ariel Arellano (142nd, 20:52.48).
"The fact that Rachel Bosworth ran 10 seconds faster and finished two spots behind last year's finish shows how competitive this meet was," Ferguson said.
"We got out much better than we did at regional and we ran well as a team overall. Our freshman (Qamar) ran a 32-second (personal record) at state and we're very pleased with that."
The Scioto girls team scored 333 points to finish last.
Competing for the Irish were senior Kimberly Wedinger (95th, 19:45.33), senior Jessica Cronau (102nd, 19:49.92), senior Rebecca Groh (103rd, 19:50.07), sophomore Vanessa Robinson (104th, 19:50.08), sophomore Rachel Groh (118th, 20:00.93) and sophomore Shayla Wigand (134th, 20:27.79).
The Irish finished 14th (310) at state last season.