WEST CHESTER — The Eaton Eagles cross country teams participated in the Lakota East Invitational Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Voice of America Park in West Chester. The men’s team placed 8th overall just behind St. Xavier and ahead of Milford and Colerain in the 14-team field. The women’s team placed 15th in the 16-team field.
Loveland won the boys’ competition with a team score of 71, with Kings a close second with 74, despite having their top seven placers finishing better than Loveland’s best times. But it was Loveland’s top three finishers who carried the team to victory. Kings, however, did win the girls’ side of the event with a team score of 84, followed by Turpin with 87.
“We entered the meet understanding that we would be participating against a very strong field of primarily Division I schools,” said coach Randy McKinney, who leads both the boys and girls teams. “Most of those schools are currently ranked in the Division I state polls. The meet turned out to be a very competitive and challenging meet for all of our athletes.
“The course was very soft due to the large amount of rain from the past week which slowed down the overall times of our athletes,” McKinney said. “(It was) a tough early season meet on a very warm and humid morning on a very soft course — but a very good early season outing for the men’s team.”
Seth Gard led the way for the men’s team with an individual second place finish overall in a time of 16 minutes, 50 seconds in the 5K race. He ran a very solid race, according to McKinney, placing behind Division I All-State Dustin Horter from Lakota East High School. Junior Tanner Titkemeyer placed 31st overall in a time of 18:02, followed by sophomore Wyatt Cox and Alex McCarty who finished 43rd and 44th in a time of 18:19 and 18:20 respectively. Sophomore Cole Bulach followed close behind in 50th place with a time of 18:27. Junior Steve Cottle placed 74th in 19:08, and freshman Alex Newport was 88th in 20:32.
Other Eaton finishers included Dylan Suding, 119th in 21:15; Todd Coates, 120th in 21:27, and Jacob Hickman, 121st in 21:37.
Like the men’s team, the Lady Eagles had very warm and humid conditions at race time.
The Lady Eagles also faced a very competitive and deep field of competition. Junior Katie Bassler led the way for Eaton with a 62nd place finish in a time of 23:11. Sophomore Brooke Caplinger placed 92nd in 24:57, freshman Brianna Baker placed 94th in a time of 25:14, freshman Alexis Owen placed 103rd in a time of 26:14, junior Destiny Brubaker placed 104th in a time of 26:29, sophomore Nina Albinus placed 108th in 27:39 and sophomore Maddie Meredith placed 112th in 31:48.
“Overall, we got what we wanted from the Lakota East Invitational — great competition,” said McKinney. “I don’t worry too much about our early season races and how we do or don’t place overall, especially when we are running such outstanding Division I competition. The most important races on our team schedule are the championship end-of-season races. Every week our goal is to get into better racing shape on both a physical and mental level while we continue to work on developing the team aspect of our program.”
On Tuesday, Aug. 23, Eaton hosted its annual First Time to the Line meet.
“We started this meet several years ago with the same approach we take today. We host a small start-of-season meet and provide the opportunity for our high school and junior high athletes to get to the line for the first time and run a race. We drop the distance down from 5,000 meters to 3,200 meters for the high school and from 3,200 to 2,400 meters for our junior high. Time or place doesn’t really matter as much as the opportunity to complete a race and compete against a small field of competition exposing our athletes, especially our rookies, to the racing portion of the sport for the first time,” McKinney said.
“This was the opener for all our junior high athletes and most of our high school runners. Some of our athletes competed last weekend in the OHSAA Pre-Season Invitational on the state championship course. It was extremely hot and humid when their races took place so I didn’t give those athletes who had competed in the 5,000 meter races the opportunity to race again in this meet.
‘We have a lot of freshmen and “rookie” cross country athletes on our team,” McKinney said. “This meet was a perfect fit for all those kids to start the season. First Time To The Line is just a nice, lower-pressure environment to start out the season before our teams move into the higher-pressured meets that are on our schedule this season.”
Eaton’s girls were lead by Baker, who placed fifth with a time of 15:43. Owen was ninth in 17:01.
For the boys, Cottle was fourth in 11:56, while Suding was eighth (12:38), Ben Brewer was ninth (12:40) and Todd Coates was 10th (12:49).
This weekend, Saturday, Sep. 3, the team will return to action at the Norwood Invitational in Cincinnati.
Reach Oliver Sanders at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @osanders_RH