Members of the Dublin Jerome High School boys cross country team have no qualms about having to settle for second place in the Division I state meet Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway.
Cincinnati St. Xavier dominated the 16-team field to win its second consecutive state title, scoring 46 points to finish well ahead of the runner-up Celtics (105). Hilliard Davidson (154) was third.
"We knew (St. Xavier was) going to be a tough team to beat with most of their guys coming back from last year's state championship team, so we just focused on running our best race at state and we were happy with how we ran when it was over," senior Mitchell Leitch said. "Standing high on the podium seemed like a dream, and when they brought out the runner-up trophy for us at the end of the meet, we were flabbergasted by how huge it is. We almost felt like state champions at that moment."
According to senior Jake Mandel, the Celtics wanted to show that they were worthy of being ranked second in the final Division I state poll.
"We definitely wanted to prove ourselves ... and it felt good to live up to all of the hype," Mandel said. "We all ran well and I don't think we could have lowered our team score much (more) to come even close to (St. Xavier), so it feels awesome to see all of the fruits of our labors.
"Having our whole team standing on the podium as the Division I state runner-up felt so surreal because our program has come a long way in the four years I've been here."
Leitch led Jerome, finishing sixth of 145 runners in 15 minutes, 36.67 seconds. Mandel placed seventh (15:40.05) and senior Chase Stewart finished 23rd (16:03.12). All three earned all-state honors by finishing in the top 25.
Leitch had finished 62nd (16:26.29) in his only other state appearance in 2011.
"Jake and I went out fast together and gave it our all," Leitch said. "I was sick and injured at regional last year and I didn't even reach the state meet, so I'm definitely happy to end my career with this race."
Mandel earned all-state honors for the third time, having finished 16th (15:47.13) in 2011 and 15th (15:42.93) last year. Both times set a program record at the time of those races.
"We went out fast and I felt a lot better as the race went on," Mandel said. "It feels good to move up so much and finish in the top 10 my senior year."
Stewart had finished 27th (15:53.51) at state last year.
Also competing for the Celtics were sophomore Bradley Davis (37th, 16:14.71), junior Nick Jarvis (98th, 16:55.04) and seniors Brian King (109th, 17:04.49) and Nick Schleter (117th, 17:14.04).
"There's a brotherly relationship that exists between all seven of us and I'm proud of everyone on the team," Leitch said. "We're celebrating this together by eating pizza and watching Forrest Gump at the Davis' house tonight. It's typical to see us all together like this because we're such close friends."
Jerome's state performance capped a season, in which it won its first regional title, captured its second consecutive district championship and won its first league title since 2008.
The Celtics finished first (66) in the 16-team regional meet Oct. 26 at Pickerington North, well ahead of runner-up Davidson (100), and cruised to the district 2 title Oct. 19 at Watkins Memorial, scoring 23 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Coffman (75) as 14 teams scored.
Mandel finished first (16:03.81) at district, with Leitch (second, 16:06.97), Davis (third, 16:16.43) and Stewart (fourth, 16:18.12) also crossing the finish line before any runners from competing teams.
Jerome scored 23 points in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet Oct. 12 to finish ahead of Westerville North (66), host Hilliard Darby (81), Westerville South (97), Hilliard Bradley (121), Scioto (141), Canal Winchester (164) and Westerville Central (242). Mandel won the league title in a team-record 15:05.75.
Celtics' Davis earns honors at state meet
Competing in the Division I state meet for the first time, sophomore Carly Davis of the Jerome girls team finished 22nd (19:01.06) of 154 runners to earn all-state honors.
"It was really fun to be a part of this meet and I'm incredibly happy with how I raced," she said. "My goal was to finish in the top 20 and I came really close.
"I wanted to get out fast during the first mile and I started well. I may have pushed myself a little too hard during the second mile ... but I'm really happy with how I ran."
According to coach Kenny Schuster, Davis was in 13th place at the first and second mile markers.
"I wanted Carly to go out aggressively and she put herself right into the mix," Schuster said. "With 600 meters to go, she tried to make a move for the top 10 a little too early and she dropped from 16th to 22nd, but I'm really pleased with how well she ran. She made quite the climb in her first year running at state."
Davis was the Celtics' lone state qualifier. She advanced by placing third (18:59.98) at regional.
Jerome finished fifth (202) in the 16-team regional behind state-qualifiers Gahanna (90), Upper Arlington (104), Davidson (118) and Thomas Worthington (143).
Also competing for the Celtics were sophomore Tiffany Hill (37th, 20:17.98), seniors Brittney Barberick (39th, 20:21.31) and Erin McAuliffe (52nd, 20:33.98), juniors Catey Midla (99th, 21:52.64) and Maggie Arnold (122nd, 23:52.19) and freshman Emily Chen (123rd, 23:59.77).
Davis finished first (18:58.09) in the district 3 meet, as the Celtics placed second (112) behind UA (64) as 17 teams scored.
Jerome placed fourth (89) in the OCC-Cardinal meet, behind Scioto (54), Bradley (72) and Westerville North (83) and ahead of Westerville Central (90), Canal Winchester (135), Darby (178) and Westerville South (195).
"The last three weekends of our season were phenomenal," Schuster said. "It started with us finishing as runner-up at district. A lot of people may have thought that was a fluke until we ran well again at regional, which was big for us because a top-five finish there was our goal.
"We're losing only two seniors (Barberick and McAuliffe), but they are fantastic leaders who will be tough to replace. We need to put in a lot of hard work, but I think we'll be back and great again next year."