Friday, October 20, 2017

D-III Girls Southwest District Cross Country Preview

Cedarville is spectator friendly course that will host some of Ohio's best talent this weekend

This Saturday the Elvin R. King Cross Country Course on the campus of Cedarville University will host the OHSAA Southwest District Championships. The schedule of races begins at 10:00 a.m. with the D-III girls, where the top eight teams and 32 finishers will advance to the regional tournament the following weekend in Troy. While I scanned the list of girls competing in that opening event, one thing was blatantly obvious - this race has more talent than we've seen in a long time. Fans from the last ten years might argue my opinion and mention former stars like Chloe Flora of Botkins, Meghan Vogel of West Liberty-Salem, or Tammy Berger of Versailles. Those girls could blaze around a 5000 meter course in less that 19 minutes and for years had names more recognizable than the venues they ran at. However, this season there's a bumper crop of amazing young talent with a few established veterans that makes this district race as good as it gets. Here are a few names to learn before Saturday, along with a couple names you might already know:

Karmen Knepp, junior, Bradford - Karmen popped up on the radar of most fans last year during her sophomore season when she won four races, including the 2016 district meet. She continued her success through the state meet when she made podium finishing 10th in a personal record 18:44. Last Saturday, Karmen won the Cross County Conference Championships at Bethel High School in 19:06, which was her fastest time so far in 2017. She's slightly ahead of last year's times and that spells trouble for her opponents. She also ran this same Cedarville course back in September during the Friendship Invitational and finished 2nd to D-II Alter star Perri Bockrath. Karmen is having another fantastic season and that's why she's my pick to win back-to-back titles.

Karmen has four wins so far in 2017 and will be aiming for a fifth this Saturday

Katelyn Stapleton, freshman, West Liberty-Salem - I watched Katelyn run the first race of her high school career back in August at the Bob Schul Invitational in West Milton. Fans could immediately tell she was talented and bold, taking the lead from a trio of Minster girls in the opening mile. Katelyn expended a lot of energy early and almost didn't finish, eventually stumbling across the line in 20th place. It's amazing how much a runner can mature in a couple months. Last Saturday Katelyn won the Ohio Heritage Conference Championships at Cedarville in 19:13. So, she'll be running the same course two weeks in a row and she's a much smarter runner now than back in August. She's also too much of a competitor not to go for the win and I fully expect to see that on Saturday.

Katelyn has been running up front all season and you can bet she will at Cedarville

Addie Engel, sophomore, Catholic Central - Addie has been a star since she stepped on the high school cross country course her freshman year and won three big regular season meets. Then post season rolled around and skeptics asked Addie who? Folks quickly found out who Addie was when she won the southwest regional meet, then put an exclamation point on her season at state with a personal record 18:41 for 8th place. Last Saturday Addie finished runner-up to Katelyn Stapleton at the OHC in 19:32. That time was one of her slower performances this season, but ahead of where she was last year at this time. I believe Addie is one of three girls with a legitimate shot at winning the 3.1 mile race on Saturday and it might come down to that last .1 of a mile.

Addie has been one of the bright young stars in southwest Ohio the last two years

Skipp Miller, freshman, Bradford - Karmen Knepp needed Skipp Miller this season and Skipp Miller needed Karmen Knepp. For a school that doesn't have enough runners to qualify as a team, a competitive teammate is always a good thing and that's what you get with this combo. While Karmen is winning races, Skipp has been following in her footsteps. Maybe stepping on her heels is a better way to put it. Skipp has one win this year, the Tri-Village Invitational in late September. Last week she finished 2nd at the CCC in a personal best 19:42, one spot behind Karmen. I expect Skipp to be in that second wave of runners this Saturday. However, I wouldn't be surprised if she decided to follow in the shadow of her teammate either.

Skipp has nine Top 10 finishes already this year and should get another one at districts 

Zoe Utsinger, sophomore, Twin Valley South - I consider myself a big cross country fan, but I'll admit, until last weekend I'd never heard of Zoe Utsinger. As a matter of fact, I searched through my photo archives and Zoe was always pictured far back in the distance. With good reason too. She was a 22-minute runner as a freshman and ran in the 21's for most of this season. Apparently she's figured out this running thing though, because on September 30th she finished 10th at the Buck Creek Invitational in an impressive 20:04. Then last Saturday she clocked a personal record 19:50 at the CCC for 3rd place. I'll be interested to see if Zoe can keep the momentum she's established these last few weeks and make a name for herself at the district meet.

Grace Adams, sophomore, West Liberty-Salem - Grace is one of those runners every coach would love to have. She's consistent and she's consistently good. Since the halfway point of her freshman year Grace almost always runs in the 19's and, outside of the state meet, she's always in the top ten finishers. She ran a 19:53 to finish 3rd at the OHC last Saturday and her best time ever is 19:16, which she clocked last season at the Anna Invitational. There's just too much talent in my opinion for Grace to win this weekend, but I wouldn't be going out on a limb to say she'll run another 19-something and finish with another top ten.

Grace (#7725) and Reghan Bieleski helped the Big Orange climb to #4 in the state poll

Reghan Bieleski, senior, West Liberty-Salem - Finally, my first senior. Also, my third West Liberty-Salem runner. I've been a fan of Reghan Bieleski since she stepped foot on the high school cross country course in 2014. During her freshman and sophomore years she won several races. I'd argue Reghan's brightest moment was the victory she claimed at the district meet as a freshman, back when they used to run three separate D-III races at the Miami Valley CTC course. She ran a 19:31 that day and beat a senior star from Russia named Emily Borchers, who now runs for the University of Dayton. Reghan's PR is 19:26 and last Saturday she ran 19:47 to finish 4th at the OHC. She might not be the fastest runner for the Big Orange anymore, but she's one of the big reasons her team should win it all this weekend.

Danielle Berning, sophomore, Ft. Loramie - When you look at all the young talent in the district, Ft. Loramie is certainly one of the most notable teams in that department. Their top five is made up of all sophomores and freshman, and leading the pack right now is Danielle Berning. Two weeks ago Danielle ran the best time of her career at Coldwater in 19:45. Then, last Saturday, she won the Shelby County Athletic League Championships at Anna scoring the first individual victory of her career. She's peaking at the right time and I have to believe that win will give her confidence heading into this weekend. I'm picking Ft. Loramie to finish runner-up at the district and Danielle to have another sub-20 minute performance.

Danielle was patient at the SCAL last Saturday and didn't take the lead until mid-race

Following the D-III girls race will be the D-III boys at 10:45 a.m.. In this race the top nine teams and 36 individuals will advance. Apologies for not highlighting the top individual boys, but since I picked eight girls above, below are my top eight boys to watch for on Saturday:

1.  Tanner Delk, junior, Arcanum
2.  Jake Rethman, junior, Ft. Loramie
3.  Max Pettit, senior, Greenon
4.  Cole Good, junior, Franklin-Monroe
5.  Ethan Wallis, freshman, Cedarville
6.  Joe Ballas, junior, Ft. Loramie
7.  Korey Hamlin, senior, Bethel
8.  Austin Fullenkamp, senior, Botkins

To follow all of Saturday's district races you can get real-time updates and final results at the following link:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Education Now & Then - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s

Education Now & Then

Politics and natural disasters dominate the news these days, to the point where the problems with our country’s education system seem to be pushed to the sidelines. As shown in the chart below, the US is no longer in the top 20 internationally (24th in Science, 39th in Math & 24th in Reading). And nationally, Ohio is ranked all the way down to 31st in this recent US News & World Report assessment.

According to an Oct. 8th SDN article, locally the news is much better with 5 area schools placed in the top 10 within the Dayton Region: Ft. Loramie (2nd), Botkins (3rd), Russia (5th), Anna (6th) & Versailles (8th). Congratulations to these school systems for such exemplary educational results.

The US fell out of first place back in 1980 and has gradually declined ever since, in spite of national, state and local efforts to stem the tide. Ironically, the top state for education is Massachusetts but would only rank 6th internationally if it were a country on its own. The earthshaking fact is the best US schools don’t match up to the average of other countries.

The US education system was apparently at it’s peak during the 50’s and 60’s when fortunately I was being educated . As documented in this previous blogpost about memories of my elementary education, our first grade class, held in the now demolished school building shown above, had 42 students, so class size must not have been a detriment. Not surprisingly, the quality of the teachers seemed to be the most critical success factor and likely remains the case today in our local schools. Great teachers coupled with strong family support leads to a successful educational system.

However, I do recall a problem period while growing up when support for schools was lacking, especially prevalent in agricultural communities. Because schools are funded by taxes on the value of property, in rural communities during that period, farmers paid a disproportionate share of school taxes due to the assessed values of farm land compared to in-town residences. I distinctly recall my father indicating that he, along with most other farmers in the district, would not be supporting a school millage ballot proposal in the late 50’s, even though he had 5 children in school (Mom kept her opinion to herself but my guess is she would have been for it). As I recall, the measure was never even put on the ballot because of the resistance, so the school board had no choice but to cut costs. The route they chose was to hire new graduates from Appalachian two-year teachers colleges at significantly lower salaries than graduates of Ohio’s 4 year colleges. As I recall that period, the new teachers were predominantly assigned to grades 5-8, while the longer-tenured local teachers taught the younger grades and high school. My guess is the school administrators figured the new teachers may not measure up, so they “book-ended” them with the better teachers before and after the middle school grades. That way the younger grades would get the benefit of the more qualified, senior teachers, building a solid educational foundation, while the experienced high school teachers could help students “catch up” before graduating. The strategy seemed to work ok based on the successful transition at that time by many local high school graduates to college. That being said, many of my teachers in those middle grades were indeed real beauts!

By the 1970’s, the problem was so widespread around Ohio's rural school districts that a state constitutional change was voted in to restructure the property tax valuation for agricultural land so the school funding burden would be more evenly shared between farmers and town residents. The State created what is called the “current agricultural use value” or CAUV for short, a value based on the agricultural income generated by the land rather than the higher market value. This concept influenced farmers to be more supportive of subsequent school millage ballot measures, thus providing another contributing factor to our outstanding local schools.

That all being said, in recent years, with land values appreciating to record levels coupled with low interest rates, high commodity prices and constrained residential values, a tax revolt may be re-emerging as outlined in this on-line article from Note that bills have been introduced in the Ohio State House to tweak the CAUV formula, since there are now school millages again being voted down by farmers because of the imbalance. Stay tuned.

I’m especially grateful for the wonderful teachers in my life and am please to know the quality of area education remains exceptionally high.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A visit to my childhood and the Cincinnati Reds...

Growing up a kid in the 70's and 80's, my youth started with the Big Red Machine and ended with Wire-To-Wire. I was a Cincinnati Reds nut that cherished the Dave Concepcion poster on my bedroom door and the collection of 1990 World Series VHS tapes I recorded myself. That's why it was such a treat for me to meet Lima Shawnee head baseball coach Chad Spencer on Thursday night. For me, life changed once I finished college. Work, family and other interests replaced my love for the Reds and baseball in general. For Coach Spencer, he's been lucky enough to still enjoy the same passion both he and I shared as boys.

After introducing myself and son outside his home, our conversation went a dozen different directions - all about baseball of course. I asked his opinion on extending the OHSAA season, I wanted to know how he prepared his Shawnee Indians to face Celina fireballer Seth Lonsway, and I had questions about his position on the state ACME board. I also shared some baseball stories of my own about my childhood and being a fanatic of the Reds. That's when he invited me into his home.

The photos you're about to see doesn't do justice to my experience. Kind of like taking pictures of the Grand Canyon - you'll get the idea, but you had to be there. I stepped into a time machine back to my youth. Baseball cards, Sports Illustrated magazines, pennants, jerseys, banners, and memorabilia of every kind. Even that same Dave Concepcion poster I had hanging in my bedroom. Exhibits for the Big Red Machine and the 1990 World Series Champs. By the way, half the items were even autographed. It was overwhelming, exciting, and a trip I'll never forget. If you happen to be any kind of Reds fan or any kind of baseball fan, I hope you enjoy the snapshots below. Click the pictures to expand.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Anniversary Surprise - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s

Anniversary Surprise

Recently my wife Debby and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary, so as a surprise, to commemorate the occasion, we re-enacted some of our wedding photos. The first is shown below of me being "dragged” into the church for the wedding.

This next photo is just after the ceremony on the front steps of St. Remy’s church; the only time I’ve ever looked younger than Debby!

Here we are sneaking a kiss after arriving at the reception hall.

Cutting the wedding cake on game day.

A toast to the newlyweds before a round of golf.

Hand-in-hand on our wedding day!

Incognito with Debby’s grandparents, DJ & Ruth.

Caught by the camera in a tender loving moment!

After all the photo-editing, we capped off our anniversary by going out to dinner at a fancy restaurant. Here’s a photo of us enjoying desert after a nice meal.

Memorable additions to our photo album, wouldn’t you say?

PS: Here’s Debby 45 years ago and today - better than ever!

Same for me!!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

DJ’s Old Tackle Box - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s

DJ’s Old Tackle Box

My wife asked me recently to start clearing out stuff from the garage and workshop. She suggested anything I haven’t used in three or more years to either pitch or donate. Sorting through things, I discovered an old fishing tackle box pictured above that had belonged to my wife’s grandfather, D.J Francis, a real adventurer whom I had written about in this previous blog. I used this old tackle box during the memorable fishing trips to Canada in the 70’s, the subject of last week’s blogpost.

The tackle box was made by Walton Products of Union, Illinois and is likely about 80 years old. There are several vintage tackle boxes like it for sale on eBay for $20-60. As evidenced from the photos above & below, the box itself and the contents are rather antiquated. Note especially the old Scotch tape dispenser and a matchbook with a 1949 date inside.

The old time fishing paraphernalia that was stashed away in the tackle box are amazing; check out the following:

Worm Blowers?

Tools of the trade - bobber stop??

More tool of the trade - note that both had beer bottle openers included! Some things remain timeless - beer and fishing.

Lure Glow hardly used so it probably didn’t work!

These fishing lines were still amazingly strong for their age.

Old fashioned hand warmer. Mercurochrome Antiseptic*
* Contained Mercury, yet Mom always applied the stuff to any scratch we incurred as kids! The scratch was gone long before the red stain came off. It was banned in 1978. Who knew?

There were hundreds of vintage fly lures in the tackle box, some of which are worth $10 on eBay. Every heard of a 1/4 Oz. Shyster??

Strewn about the bottom of the tackle box were the wood pieces shown above. After some on-line research, I discovered this eBay offering for a wood lure box for $45, So a project was born to re-glue the pieces together as shown in the photos that follow, including the finished product full of DJ’s old lures.

Needless to say, this project has delayed my efforts to clean out the workshop and garage. Next to be cleaned will be the doghouse, since that’s where I’ll be if I don’t get my act together! And rest assured DJ's old tackle box and contents will not be thrown out. Instead, I plan to give it to my brother-in-law back in Ohio where it originated.