After watching his team take runner-up in the Division I regional cross country meet five years in a row, Hilliard Davidson High School boys coach Pat Schlecht vowed to jump in a lake if or when the Wildcats brought home the big trophy.
Schlecht might come to regret initiating what is now a tradition. After Davidson won the regional title with 91 points at Pickerington North on Oct. 28, he took the plunge in frigid Choctaw Lake, at his home in London, during a team pizza party. He also hit the water after his team won in 2014.
“It’s gonna be a cold one, but I’m ready for it,” he said. “The boys earned this. We like to do the best we can here with getting too amped. It’s the ultimate team achievement.”
Aided by a two-three finish, Thomas Worthington took runner-up with 115 points.
The individual race was a dandy, with Matt Scrape of Pickerington Central outkicking Arjun Jha of Thomas Worthington in the final 50 meters. Scrape was timed in 15 minutes, 37.08 seconds. Jha was 2.02 seconds behind.
“The plan was to keep it as slow as possible and let four or five front-runners share the lead,” said Scrape, who has committed to Syracuse. “The race played out just how I wanted it to. It came down to Arjun and I, and I have all the faith in the world in my finishing speed.”
Although he is recovering from an injury, Jha — an Indiana commit — noted that he has lost all four head-to-head races against Scrape.
“Matt was state runner-up last year, so that’s nothing to be ashamed of,” he said. “Next week (at state) is the big one, though. I’m hoping to bounce back.”
Granville put four girls in the top 12 and scored 63 points to reach the state for the 10th straight year. Davidson (81) and Olentangy Liberty (90) followed.
“We definitely thought we had a great shot to win, but against such great competition you never know,” Blue Aces coach Chrisi Rogerson said.
Gracie Sprankle of Liberty was medalist in 18:04.25.
“I got pushed pretty hard until I pulled away at the end,” Sprankle said. “It was really muddy out there. It wasn’t the nicest day to run, but it was the same for everybody.”
In Division II, Thornville Sheridan took the boys title with 58 points as defending state champion Zach Kreft of Buckeye Valley (15:52.77) won by nearly 20 seconds.
“I wasn’t supposed to go all out today,” said Kreft, who owns one of the nation’s fastest times of 14:29.95. It was a great tune-up for state.”
Unbeaten this season, Fairfield Union won its first girls title with 83 points.
“Our lineup bounces around each week, and the girls do a really good job of picking each other up,” said coach Rob Myers, a former Ohio State standout.
In Division III, Leesburg Fairfield’s boys (75 points) and Mount Gilead’s girls (40 points) won titles.
Liam Kerr of Grandview was the boys champion (16:25) as Bailee Hack led a one-two Mount Gilead finish in 19:09.11.
“I never led until the final 300 meters or so,” said Kerr, who placed 42nd a year ago. “I made it to state as a freshman, but didn’t the past two years. I just got a lot more motivated. I started training in June. I was determined to go out with a bang.”