Content with setting the program record for the Grandview Heights High School boys cross country team a week earlier, Liam Kerr decided to change his focus in the Division III regional meet Oct. 28 at Pickerington North.
Kerr still ended up winning the 129-runner race in 16 minutes, 25.0 seconds and leading the Bobcats to their first state berth as a team since 2012. The senior legged out a win over runner-up Noah Richmond (16:28.4) of Leesburg Fairfield.
He's feeling confident heading into state Saturday, Nov. 4, at National Trail Raceway.
"This was the first race in a long time that I didn't worry about time," said Kerr, who set the program record of 15:54.92 while winning the district 2 race Oct. 21 at Watkins Memorial. "I was trying to break the school record all year, but this time I was just trying to position myself so I could place well.
"It's pretty reassuring going into state knowing that I could (run for position) and still win it. I felt like I had a lot of energy at the end of the race and there was no sense in using it up since I was up in the lead."
Joining Kerr and the boys team at state will be junior Nina Amicon, who finished seventh (20:05.27) of 133 runners in the girls race.
The boys finished fourth (114 points) of 16 teams behind champion Fairfield (75) as the top five teams advanced to state.
Chris Miller was 12th (16:45.03) for the Bobcats, followed by Derek Amicon (16th, 16:50.13), Eli Hall (34th, 17:28.38), Quinn Tillett (84th, 18:40.4), Andrew Bergmann (103rd, 19:30.88) and Luke Wallace (104th, 19:34.01).
"We knew we had a good shot of making it to state, but we all had to run our race," coach Chris Szabo said. "We focused more on where we were placing than our times, which is how you get to state. You don't get to control Mother Nature, so you work with what you are able to control."
The course was muddy from the wintry mix earlier in the day, but that didn't bother Kerr in his championship effort.
"I like running in the cold, but the course was also pretty wet," said Kerr, who will be making his first state appearance since his freshman year when he finished 90th in 17:36.9. "We walked the course before the race and any place where there was dirt was all mud when we ran it.
"If a guy in front of me would speed up, I would go to speed up but the mud held me back. (The conditions) made for a lot of slow turns during the race."
Nina Amicon will be making her first trip to state, as the top five teams and top 20 individuals advanced from girls race. Mount Gilead's Baylee Hack (19:09.11) won.
"I think I ran well and our team did well," Amicon said. "It's my first year running and it was an awesome experience. I just listened to my coaches and the game plan they had for us and it went well."
The girls were seventh (191) of 16 teams behind champion Mount Gilead (40). Centerburg (148) earned the final state berth.
Annie Volker (45th, 21:30.07), Sarah Marrone (51st, 21:34.39), Emmalyn Kukura (55th 21:40.67), Avani Kumar (97th, 23:16.35) and Amelia Sturbois (107th, 23:55.76) also competed for the Bobcats.
"It was sleeting during the girls race and the conditions were just awful," Szabo said. "It was awful after that because of the mud, but both teams ran well through it."
Football season ends with loss to Academy
The football team closed the season by losing to Columbus Academy 41-7 on Oct. 27 in MSL-Ohio Division play.
The Bobcats finished 5-5 overall and 2-3 in the league. Academy, London and Whitehall shared the title at 4-1, and all three qualified for the postseason.
Against Academy, Bryce Stanley threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Luke Lachey. James Lachey had 49 yards rushing on five carries, Harrison Morosky had 40 yards on 12 rushes and Trey Cook had 22 yards on eight carries.