Matt Scrape wasn't sure if he or his opponents were more responsible for his third-place finish in the Division I state meet Nov. 4 at National Trail Raceway.

All the senior standout for the Pickerington High School Central boys cross country team knew for sure was that he came up short of improving on last year's runner-up performance.

Scrape was right with Liberty Township Lakota East's Dustin Horter and Middletown's Conant Smith halfway through the race, but fell behind and finished in 15 minutes, 20.9 seconds, behind Horter (15:03.5), an Indiana University commit who won his second consecutive championship, and Smith (15:03.9).

"Before I knew it, they had 10 meters on me," Scrape said. "I don't know if they sped up or if I slowed down. I couldn't tell. But as soon as they started pulling away, I mentally fell out of it.

"Dustin and Conant are phenomenal runners. I knew they'd be tough to beat. I think most people considered me an underdog, so I took that and just wanted to come out here and have a good show. Strategically, I might not have had the smartest race and Dustin and Conant ran great races. Those two things combined led to me getting beat by (17) seconds."

Scrape and teammate Brady Johnson, a junior who finished 40th (16:16) of 183 runners, were Central's only representatives at state.

"(Scrape) had a couple plans in mind and the way things started out, it looked like he was following his plan," coach Andy Fischer said. "He was running there with (Horter and Smith), and then coming down the stretch, he had lost 5 seconds. I was surprised and thinking Matt would get after them at the end, but it never materialized."

Johnson said he was hampered by sore legs, which he said was a surprise after feeling good the entire week leading up to state.

"Whenever somebody would go, my body just did not want to react with them," Johnson said. "They just gapped me the whole time. I felt good the whole week, but when we started our warmup, I did not feel good and that carried into the race."

The state meet wrapped up a solid career for Scrape, a Syracuse University commit who had not lost this postseason.

Scrape closed the regular season by winning the OCC-Ohio Division meet (15:42.46) on Oct. 14 at Lancaster. He then won the district 2 meet in a course-record 14:59.54 on Oct. 21 at Watkins Memorial and the regional championship (15:37.08) on Oct. 28 at Pickerington North.

"(A third-place finish at state) takes nothing away from what Matt has done," Fischer said.

Central placed third (69) in the league meet, behind North (36) and Lancaster (48) and ahead of Gahanna (88), Grove City (151) and Reynoldsburg (166).

The Tigers finished second (67) at district behind North (56) as 17 teams scored, and then placed sixth (155) at regional behind champion Hilliard Davidson (91) as 16 teams scored.

The top five teams and top 20 runners at regional advanced to state.

Others who are eligible to return from Central's top seven are juniors Tyler Gunderson, Brayden Harlor and Jacob Jobe, sophomore Anthony Taranto and freshman Chase Balko.

The girls team expects to return most of its lineup after finishing third at both the league and district 1 meets but fell short of its first trip to state as a team since 1996.

Central scored 92 points in the league meet to finish behind Gahanna (26) and Lancaster (47) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (106), North (118) and Grove City (149), and totaled 83 points at district to finish behind champion Olentangy Liberty (42) as 11 teams scored.

The Tigers then finished ninth (255) at regional behind champion Granville (63) as 17 teams scored.

Amber Hamelin was the only senior on varsity. Expected returnees include juniors Sydney Hansen, Lauren Marvin and Maddie Schmidt, sophomore Haley Griggs and freshmen Grace Osborn and Grace Vega.

Hamelin was the team's top runner in its first nine meets this season. Marvin led Central at regional.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

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