By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
Portage County will be represented at the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s cross country state championships by two teams and one individual.
Regional qualifiers for the 2023 race were the Field boys in Division II, the Mogadore girls in Division III and Southeast sophomore Julia Wheeler for the Division II competition.
What: OHSAA cross country state championships.
When: Saturday, Nov. 4
Where: Fortress Obetz and Memorial Park (4175 Alum Creek Drive, Obetz, Ohio, 43207).
Children 5 and under: Free
Tickets are only available online by visiting www.ohsaa.org.
10 a.m.: Division III girls
10:45 a.m.: Division III boys
11: 15 a.m.: Division III awards
12 p.m.: Division II girls
12:45 p.m.: Division II boys
1:15 p.m.: Division II awards
2 p.m.: Division I girls
2:45 p.m.: Division I boys
3:15 p.m.: Division I awards
Few cross country programs in the area have experienced the kind of meteoric rise as the Wildcats.
Mogadore’s running program — both cross country and track and field — have surged in the Portage Trail Conference, Northeast Ohio and the state.
Head coach Diana Morris offered her thoughts on the Wildcats’ season, her team and Saturday’s state meet in a Q&A with Portage Sports this week:
Q: Describe your excitement for the girls to qualify for Saturday’s state championship meet?
Morris: Last year was set apart being the first time in Mogadore history to have an entire girls team make it to the state championships, and they not only made it there, but took first for our region. This year, though, it was exciting in its own special way as they went in with the desire to defend that title.
They did not accomplish that goal, but they still finished solidly in third. For them to realize not a single young lady qualified individually, but together they made it as a team, made what I’ve always taught them a firm reality for sure: You are stronger together!
Q: From preseason until now, explain how your team prepared to be ready to qualify?
Morris: Our team conditions in the summer, building their base, working on strength and injury prevention. They have a strict tough, training schedule throughout as well. To help team bonding and keep it fun, we also have weekly team meals in team members’ homes and another fun tradition of FRUIT FRIDAYS.
Q: What makes your top-five runners special?
Morris: Katie Lane has been the team captain this season and although she has dealt with some medical setbacks with her asthma, she has persevered and still finished in the top three every race. She also leads on an off the course by her example in being positive and affirming to everyone!
Emma Quillen is a very strong and dependable junior, who has risen to being a leader and top-finisher each race this season.
Kasey Bolyard is our freshman, who has been learning the ropes and was our lead runner at regionals. She has amazing potential that she is just starting to tap into.
It’s hard to say who I’d call our Nos. 4 and 5 versus Nos. 6 and 7. As just like our top three, the other four rotate.
Julie and Ari Tompkins (junior twins), Alana Santiago (sophomore) and Kai Gaetjens (sophomore) are all fierce competitors. Julie has been quite impressive coming back from a major injury in basketball and surgery early this spring, she’s now usually finishing fourth or fifth.