Dublin Jerome senior Elliott Cook's determination never wavered in the Division I state boys cross country meet Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway, even during the most challenging moments.
While battling Cincinnati St. Xavier's Nathan Mountain and Pickerington North's Harper Moore for fourth place, Cook felt searing pain in his right ankle with about 400 meters remaining.
It didn't keep him from holding his place, though, as Cook finished fourth in 15 minutes, 34.3 seconds.
"I was running shoulder to shoulder with a guy and I tweaked (my right ankle) pretty bad," Cook said. "I had to recover from that, and I was like, 'All right, I can't let this kid beat me because of a twisted ankle.' "
Cook finished behind Pickerington North's Matt Duvall (15:13), Uniontown Lake's Nathan Moore (15:19.1) and Hunting Valley University School's Justin Iler (15:25.6), while Mountain placed fifth (15:35.9) and Moore was sixth (15:36.6).
Cook, a four-time state qualifier, ended up on the podium for the second time. He also accomplished the feat last season when he placed 11th (16:20.5).
"It was good," Cook said. "I really thought going out through the first mile I was where I was supposed to be position-wise. The first three guys kind of just went out hard. Coming through two miles, after so many times where they'd get away, I'd have to recover from it. After two miles, that's when they kept pushing on the gas. I knew I'd secured my spot for fourth and trusted my kick at that point. I'm happy with that. It was my last high school race in the state of Ohio and I'm very happy with how I finished my season."
Cook won the OCC-Cardinal Division title in 15:22.8 on Oct. 12 at Hilliard Davidson and the district 1 title in 15:01.4 on Oct. 19 at Hilliard Darby. He then placed second (15:49.6) at regional Oct. 26 at Pickerington North behind Duvall (15:33.8) to advance to state.
Cook, who plans to run collegiately and is taking an official visit to Oregon this weekend, was one of three seniors in the postseason lineup for the Celtics, along with Jack Rozich and Nik Wagner.
At regional, sophomore Carson Smith was the No. 2 runner for Jerome, finishing 59th (17:09.8). Also scoring were freshman Joshua Razor (69th, 17:17.6) and sophomores Rishikesh Makineni (73rd, 17:21.1) and David Hartman (95th, 17:42.5).
Junior Andrew Bartsch also competed in the postseason. He and juniors Kysen Gabriel and Gunnar Grass were others who ran when Jerome finished second (72) at the league meet behind Thomas Worthington (59).
"A lot of them were young and it was their first time at the regional race," coach Dave Wadenstierna said. "It was a good experience and they competed. We had just one other senior (in the postseason lineup), so we're a young team. A lot of guys are coming back."
Most of top girls runners to return
The girls cross country team expects to return four of its top five runners, including its only regional qualifier in sophomore Ava DiMasi.
DiMasi finished 59th (20:29.5) at regional after placing 15th (20:14) at the district 1 meet.
"She's been having solid races all year and (in the district race) she came out hard and maintained and did really well," coach Kaitlyn Willette said. "I'm very happy for her, but it wasn't a shock. Going in, I was confident she was one person who could have a very good race."
DiMasi placed 12th (20:14) and sophomore Audrey Cook was 14th (20:15.2) in the OCC-Cardinal meet as Jerome finished fifth (99) behind champion Thomas Worthington (51).
At district, junior Lauren Metzger was the team's No. 2 runner, placing 24th (20:37.4), while senior Madison Weigle followed with a 35th-place finish (20:58).
The other seniors in the postseason lineup were Emily Oiler and Manaka Yamauchi.
Sophomore Gwyn Lai and freshmen Kerry Cheng Cecilia Martyna and Kendall Metzger were other key contributors. Martyna was Jerome's No. 5 runner at district, placing 46th (21:25.6).
"We had a very solid beginning of the season in particular," Willette said. "(Junior varsity) and varsity train together and every week we have a Monday meeting. Every week it was like, 'This person PR'd, this person ran a season best,' so that's always really cool to see. To see the way they supported each other and love each other, we had a pumpkin carving, which was a fun team-bonding thing. There's running and there's life and learning how to be a team, and it's cool to see them developing both ways."