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
The Pirates’ sophomore sensation emerged to qualify as an individual from the difficult Boardman Division II Regional.
The regional is largely considered one of the most consistently challenging in Ohio.
Wheeler raced to a time of 19:25.99 to place fifth overall in the race and qualify for Saturday’s Division II state championship meet.
Southeast head coach Julia Dillon offered her thoughts on Wheeler and Saturday’s state meet in a Q&A with Portage Sports this week:
Q: Describe your excitement for Julia to qualify as an individual?
Dillon: As you can imagine, we are beyond excited that Julia has qualified for state. Monica Kiskadden and I are in the process of rebuilding the cross country team, and it takes time and athletes. Last year and this year, the girls made it to regionals as a team. So, I would like to say that it was unexpected, however, with the way Julia’s season was going, it would have been a huge let down if she hadn’t made it. We are very proud of her!
Q: From preseason until now, explain how Julia prepared to be ready to qualify?
Dillon: Julia has been preparing for state since track season ended back in May. She took minimal time off and jumped into putting more miles on her legs as well as developing a needed strength-training regime.
She executed her training with complete dedication. Amber Wheeler likes to say, “Give in to the process,” and that is exactly what Julia did. She also worked on speed drills along with her 8- or 9-mile days. She also changed the way that she tapered in postseason. All of these things added up to her performance at regionals.
Q: What makes Julia a special student-athlete?
Dillon: Julia is a dedicated athlete and student. She has excellent grades and takes a lot of pride in balancing both school and running.