Maplewood boys go for 3rd straight state title

BOARDMAN — Maplewood’s boys cross country team has two reasons to come into today’s state meet confident — 2014 and 2015.

Those years mark Division III state championships for the Rockets — the sixth and seventh in school history. Maplewood goes for the three-peat during the 11 a.m. race at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.

The grassy course surrounding the NHRA drag strip is normally fast. Things should change Saturday as it should be pretty dry. Considering the course is flat and temperatures are slated for the lower 60s, distance runners couldn’t ask for better conditions.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Fort Loramie and Leesburg Fairfield are trying to prevent the Maplewood dynasty to come within one state title of tying Caldwell, a dominant Division III team during the late 1980s and early ’90s, for the most titles in boys cross country history with nine.

All four teams are in the top four in the latest Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches State Poll.

One school name which isn’t on the list is McDonald. The Blue Devils finished sixth at the regional at Boardman and failed to reach state for the first time since 1998, ending Ohio’s longest active streak.

As for Maplewood coach Dave Deeter, he said his team can’t focus on the competition.

“We have to do our own job, focus on ourselves and each other,” said Deeter, whose team has won five straight district and regional titles. “If we focus on each other when we start to hurt, we’ll do very well. If we lose sight of what we’re racing there for, our goals, and that’s more for each other, then we’ll have problems.

“They haven’t done that all year. They’ve been fantastic working for each other.”

Maplewood’s Nick Cowger, who has led the Rockets in the past couple of weeks, said his team can overcome the competition if they pack up together and run their best.

“We have to race the best we can,” he said. “I think our team is strong enough to where if each one of us individually does our job, I think we stand a pretty good shot.”

Grand Valley’s Grace Steimle heads into state as a regional champion in Division III, staying ahead of Western Reserve’s Ashleigh Rowley. These two should be in the top 10 and vying for this year’s state title.

Emily Sreenan of Lima Central Catholic, Kyleigh Edwards of Fairfield Christian Academy, Jenny Seas of Peebles, Morgan Dembowski of Toledo Christian, Annalise Grammel of Columbus Academy, Emma Watcke of Minster, Addy Engle of Springfield Shawnee Catholic and Sophie Volpe of St. Wendelin are also viable candidates to win state.

The McDonald girls placed fourth at the regional and advanced to state for the third straight season. A state title in 2014 and third place last season gave the Blue Devils lofty goals for this season, that combined with a strong freshmen class.

However, the team’s No. 1 runner, junior Malina Mitchell, suffered a foot injury prior to the district and is highly unlikely to race during the 1:30 p.m., Division III girls race. The Blue Devils advanced, but that goal of getting third for the second straight year doesn’t seem plausible.

McDonald could be happy with a top-10 finish, but don’t underestimate these resilient girls to possibly get into the top five.

Badger freshman Miranda Stanhope has remained resilient after a setback which has been described as anything from a hip flexor to an IT band issue. Either way, she’s running with more pain than the normal wear and tear during a 3.1-mile run.

She advanced to state, but the Braves runner is likely to see a top-25 finish, which would give Stanhope all-Ohio status.

Badger senior Ty Reeher is seeking the same. The Braves runner has been the dominant runner in this area, along with Garfield’s Tyler Klouda. These two have been jockeying back and forth for the past couple of weeks.

Both are on pace to get top-25 finishes, but might get into the top-15, which means they’d be recognized on the podium in front of the grandstand.