Central Ohio High School Sports Awards: Boys finalists announced for Super 12 cross county

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Central Ohio High School Sports Awards

The members of ThisWeek's Super 12 boys cross country team are used to leading the pack.

One will end up standing apart as the Captain – our boys cross country Athlete of the Year. That honor will be announced during the Central Ohio High School Sports Awards online show at 7 p.m. July 8.

Finalists in all 10 fall sports should register at sportsawards.usatoday.com/centralohio. The finalists for boys golfgirls golf and girls tennis previously were announced. Next week, we will announce the Super 12 for girls cross country.

Below is the Super 12 for boys cross country: 

Connor Ackley

Connor Ackley, Hilliard Davidson

Ackley’s sophomore season included establishing a program record of 14 minutes, 59.67 seconds while winning the Celtic Clash at Dublin Jerome. He became the first Davidson runner to crack the 15-minute mark in a race.

Ackley also captured OCC-Central Division (15:38.7) and Division I district (15:44.5) and regional (15:44.6) titles. He closed the season by finishing 11th (15:48.5) at state, earning all-state honors. 

“Connor was laser-focused this year as he increased his workout load and intensity from the year before,” coach Pat Schlecht said. “Connor was always working hard to be the best he could be, and his quiet leadership is starting to bring his fellow sophomores up to his level.” 

As a freshman, Ackley finished 22nd (15:53) at state to earn all-state honors.

Derek Amicon

Derek Amicon, Grandview Heights

The 2019 Division III state champion, Amicon finished third (15:43.4) at state as a senior after also finishing third (16:25.9) at regional. The top three finishers were the same at both the regional and state meets.

“Derek really has it all in terms of being a runner, and not everyone has them,” coach Chris Szabo said. “He has raw talent, mental strength and motivation. He was willing to work hard and make himself into an elite runner.

“It was an honor to watch him develop and win a state title (in 15:42.5) as a junior and place in the top three this year. That takes a lot of physical fortitude.”

Amicon, who will run at Cornell, won the section 1 race at district in 16:19.1 and the MSL-Ohio title for the second year in a row in 16:20.4.

Will Benseler

Will Benseler, New Albany

Benseler, a junior, was the Eagles’ No. 2 runner in every race and one of three New Albany boys to qualify for the Division I state meet.

Benseler finished 33rd (16:12.4) at state after placing third (16:31.22) in the OCC-Ohio meet, fourth (16:11.5) in the section 2 race at district and 11th (16.29.9) at regional. New Albany won the OCC-Ohio in its first year in the league, marking its fifth consecutive league championship, was district runner-up and advanced runners to state for the first time since 2014.

“Will is one of the most graceful runners I’ve ever coached or seen,” coach John Galbreath said. “His grace is only overshadowed by his competitiveness. He’ll race from the very beginning until he crosses the finish line. He’s a future star within our program.”

Sean Carney

Sean Carney, Hilliard Darby

The Panthers’ lone representative at the Division I regional and state meets, the senior finished 12th (15:49.7) at state to earn all-state honors. He improved from 2019, when he was 15th (15:48).

Carney finished first in 15:50.4 in the OCC-Cardinal meet. He also was first (15:42.2) in the section 2 race at district and third (15:55.5) at regional.

“Of many amazing attributes, the one thing that always stood out was his willingness to make the sacrifices it took to become an elite runner,” coach Matthew Fox said. “From his freshman year on, he continually made choices to improve as a runner, teammate and leader. 

“He paved the way for a lot of our younger runners to see the effort it takes to get to that sort of level.” 

Will Garey

Will Garey, Watterson

After he finished 175th of 180 runners in the Division II state meet as a freshman, Garey developed into an all-state runner by the time he was a senior this fall.

Garey was CCL runner-up (16:13.9) and then won the section 2 race at district, running 16:05.2 to help the Eagles capture the team title.

Garey finished eighth (16:49.1) at regional as Watterson was sixth to advance to state as a team. He then capped his prep career by placing 24th (16:28.5) to earn all-state honors as the Eagles finished 17th as a team.

“He continued to improve by his offseason training as well as running smart during the season,” said Matt McGowan, who announced his retirement as coach after the season. “Will has been our No. 1 runner since his sophomore year and was able to help the whole team improve based on his leadership and hard work.”

Owen Karas

Owen Karas, St. Charles

Karas closed his prep career by placing 29th (16:08.9) in the Division I state meet.

The senior was second (15:52.7) at regional behind Davidson’s Ackley (15:44.6) and had the best time in all the district races at Hilliard Darby, where he won the section 3 title in 15:37.2.

Karas won the CCL title in 15:22.3. He holds the St. Charles program record of 15:12.9 and will run at Yale like his father, Chris Karas.

“When it comes to Owen, he has an incredible self-drive,” coach Damien Brandon said. “I think he was driven by finishing last (129th, 19:01.81) at regional as a freshman.

“He never wanted to be anywhere near that again. He kept growing, his work ethic continued to improve and his memory of that finish drove him.”

Thaine Nederveld

Thaine Nederveld, Whetstone

The senior qualified for the Division I state meet for the first time, finishing 46th of 177 runners in 16:21.

He was ninth (16:27.5) at regional to earn his trip to state, and placed fifth (16:12.3) in the section 3 race at district.

Nederveld also finished first (16:23.7) in the City League meet as the Bravescaptured the title. 

“This past year, Thaine put in the extra miles to make his dream of running at the state meet a reality,” coach Joe Monda said. “Now that his younger teammates have seen Thaine accomplished what he worked so hard for makes them believe they can also.  

“When your best runner is your hardest worker, he becomes a great mentor for the younger runners, so his presence will be felt for years to come.”

Luke Nester

Luke Nester, Columbus Academy

Nester closed his prep career by competing in his fourth state meet, finishing 16th (16:13) of 168 runners in the Division II race to earn all-state honors.

The senior qualified for state by finishing 14th (16:55.9) at regional. He was first (16:27.5) in the section 1 race at district and second (16:38.1) in the MSL-Ohio meet.

“Luke has been our most valuable runner the past three years,” then-coach Denny Hammond said. “He not only has the school record of 15:45, but he’s the only Academy runner to break 16 minutes (doing it five times). He competed in the state meet four times and led our team to a third-place finish his freshman year. He’s a great leader, a fierce competitor and an outstanding young man.”

Victor Orsinelli

Victor Orsinelli, New Albany

The senior, who led the Eagles in each of their 10 races, was the OCC-Ohio champion in 16:03.39 and second (15:51.3) in the section 1 race at the Division I district meet. He went on to finish seventh (16:18.5) at regional to qualify for his first trip to state, where he was 21st (15:58.1).

Orsinelli, who also owned the team’s best time last season at 15:50.2, paced New Albany to its fifth consecutive league title and a district runner-up finish. He also was the team’s top runner as a junior and its top finisher in 18 of his final 19 races.

“Victor was an ultimate team member throughout his career,” Galbreath said. “This past season in particular, he set an excellent example for the younger team members of how to do everything correctly. His talent plus hard work equaled an awesome senior season.” 

Nick Puhl

Nick Puhl, Hilliard Davidson

Puhl, a junior, helped the Wildcats win Division I regional and district titles, along with a fifth consecutive OCC-Central championship. 

He was 14th (15:53.1) at state to earn all-state honors and help the Wildcats finish sixth. Puhl was fifth (15:58.3) at regional, third (15:58.2) at district and second (15:46.2) in the league meet. 

“Nick is a feisty runner who increased his workload and intensity from his sophomore year and was very determined on becoming all-state during cross country,” Schlecht said. “Nick was always close to Connor Ackley and finished in the top three in all (regular-season) meets this year. Nick is a great leader.” 

Puhl improved his finish at state dramatically from his sophomore year, when he placed 170th (17:27.6). 

Sam Ricchiuti

Sam Ricchiuti, Dublin Jerome

With this freshman leading the way, the Celtics won league and Division I district championships, each for the first time since 2013.

Ricchiuti was runner-up (16:03.3) in the OCC-Cardinal meet followed by another second-place finish (16:04.7) in the section 2 race at district.

He then was fourth (15:56.1) at regional as Jerome also placed fourth to advance to state as a team for the first time since 2013.

At state, Ricchiuti finished a central Ohio-best ninth in 15:48 and the Celtics were 15th.

“Sam is incredibly focused, tough and hard-working,” coach Dave Wadenstierna said. “He loves to compete. He achieved far beyond what I expected from him this season. To be top 10 in the state as a freshman is unheard of. He’s a special kid and competitor.”

Liam Shaughnessy

Liam Shaughnessy, Dublin Coffman

Despite having only one senior in its postseason lineup, Coffman earned runner-up finishes at both the Division I district and regional meets to qualify for state.

Shaughnessy, a sophomore, led the way throughout, as he followed a third-place finish (15:49.9) in the OCC-Central meet by finishing second (15:59.2) at district and sixth (16:10.9) at regional.

At state, Shaughnessy was 24th (16:05.5) to earn all-state honors in his first appearance as the Shamrocks placed 19th.

“Liam’s a hard worker and is confident in his abilities,” said coach Joe DePalma, whose team also finished second in the OCC-Central. “He does all the little things that often get overlooked. He also holds himself to high expectations but has the right mindset if he doesn’t initially achieve his goal.”

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