With his legs caked in mud after the Division II regional meet Oct. 26 at Pickerington North, DeSales boys cross country runner John Shoemaker was out of breath and leaned on anything he could find to provide support after earning his first trip to state.
Shoemaker, a senior, finished 18th (16 minutes, 42.5 seconds) of 169 runners to advance to state Saturday, Nov. 2, at National Trail Raceway. The top seven teams and top 28 individuals qualified.
The race was run in sometimes heavy rain and gusting winds.
"I just didn't want to let that affect me. If it did, I didn't feel it," Shoemaker said. "I wanted to go out fast and not let guys get too far ahead of me. My first two miles, I was in the top group and that's what I was looking to do. I'm just so happy I made it. That was the ultimate goal."
DeSales finished 16th with 388 points behind champion Chillicothe Unioto (65) as 21 teams scored.
Also scoring for the Stallions were Owen Weikert (112th, 18:19), Adam Weithman (113th, 18:20.9), Aidan Shannon (115th, 18:23) and Nick Schetter (122nd, 18:30.2).
DeSales, which is being represented at state after a one-year absence, was seeking its first trip as a team since 2003 and fifth in program history.
Ben Towler finished 97th at state as a sophomore in 2017 and will compete this weekend in the Division I race for Gahanna, to which he transferred before his junior year.
"You could tell in (Shoemaker's) eyes that he was ready to go out there and fight," coach Ben McGinnis said. "We get one more week with him and we're excited about that. It's one more chance to shoot for that school record we've been talking about. He's close. If he gets a decent day to run, we think he has a great chance.
"(Oct. 26), it was dense. You just feel all the people around you the whole time."
In the Division I girls race, freshman Josie Dages finished 56th (20:27.2) of 130 runners as the top five teams and top 20 individuals advanced to state.
"We just talked to her about using this race to learn," McGinnis said. "This is a much bigger feel than other races she has run. The energy here is high-end. Some of these girls are 14 years old and wondering what's going on."
Shoemaker admitted that breaking the program's 32-year record of 16:21, set by Andy Kessinger in 1987, is on his mind this weekend in his final race as a Stallion.
"(Making state) was the goal," said Shoemaker, whose career-best time is 16:31.5, set during the Tiger Invitational on Sept. 21 at Pickerington Central. "I still want to break the school record. Hopefully, we can do it."
Volleyball team wins district title
The girls volleyball team won its eighth district championship in nine years, defeating eighth-seeded and CCL foe Hartley 25-13, 25-20 25-17 in a Division I final Oct. 26 at Whitehall, and now will try to prolong its season against its biggest rival.
DeSales, which is 23-2 and was seeded second in the district tournament, will play Watterson in a regional semifinal Thursday, Oct. 31, at Worthington Kilbourne. The winner faces Olentangy Liberty or Olentangy Orange in the regional final Saturday, Nov. 2, at Kilbourne.
Hartley handed DeSales its only loss in league play, 24-26, 25-23, 25-23, 20-25, 15-10 on Sept. 19, but the Stallions already had won the outright CCL championship.
"We'd won the CCL, but that loss still left a bitter taste. We knew we weren't going to let that determine the outcome of our season," coach Brenden Pence said. "We started a little slow in every set (Oct. 26), but once we settled into our routine and got some rhythm, we were fine. We applied a lot of pressure with our serves. It was one of our best serving matches of the season and we did a great job with serve receive."
DeSales advanced to the district final by sweeping 22nd-seeded Hilliard Darby 25-14, 25-13, 25-8 in a district semifinal Oct. 22 at Whitehall.
The Stallions went 4-0 against the regional field during the regular season, beating Watterson 25-15, 24-26, 25-15, 25-16 on Sept. 3 and 25-20, 25-16, 25-12 on Sept. 12, Orange 25-19, 25-18, 25-22 on Oct. 5 and Liberty 25-20, 25-22, 21-25, 17-25, 15-13 three days later.
The regional champion advances to a state semifinal Nov. 8 at Wright State.
"We can look back at that stretch of the schedule and see that we refocused," Pence said. "We've certainly played well and we go in (to the regional) with some confidence knowing we can play with these teams."
Boys soccer team falls in semifinal
The boys soccer team's run of five consecutive district championships came to an end Oct. 22 with a 3-2 (4-2 on penalty kicks) loss at seventh-seeded Dublin Jerome in a Division I district semifinal.
Senior midfielders Jack Francisco and Will Shaffer scored for the ninth-seeded Stallions, who finished 14-4-1 overall. Their string of district titles came in Division II.
Francisco scored the game's first goal with 26:40 to play, but Jerome tied it less than six minutes later. Shaffer made it 2-1 with 15:31 left, only to have the Celtics score the tying goal 44 seconds later.
Francisco scored a team-leading 19 goals with eight assists. Shaffer, a Wright State commit, added 16 goals and a team-high 12 assists.
DeSales went 3-1 in the CCL to finish second behind St. Charles (4-0).
Players eligible to return include juniors Vigo Bertolo (defender), Nick Kennedy (midfielder), Oscar Marquez-Trejo (midfielder) and Gabe Weikert (goalkeeper), sophomores Ethan Lusenhop (midfielder), Alex Shaffer (midfielder) and Andrew Shaffer (midfielder) and freshman Zack Rennie (forward).
Andrew Shaffer had nine goals and 11 assists.
Weikert made 145 saves on 162 shots (89.5 percent) and recorded seven shutouts.
The Stallions allowed 25 goals the entire season, although 10 of them came in two losses, to Division I power Kilbourne (4-2 on Sept. 5) and longtime Division II nemesis Bay Village Bay (6-1 on Sept. 28). Kilbourne was ranked fifth in the final regular season poll and Bay, which the Stallions defeated in the 2014, 2015 and 2017 state finals, was first in Division II.