Video highlights of the top five finishers at the 2013 Preview
The colors blue and gold have dominated the Shelby County Preview the last three years. Lehman's Joe Fuller was the top individual runner in 2011, 2012 and 2013, but graduated this past spring after his remarkable accomplishment. During that span the Russia boys team also collected three titles with what seems like an endless supply of really good runners. Who might win this year and will those dominating school colors change? Below is my preview of some of the individuals and teams I'll be watching in Sidney on the 19th.
You can't blame the Russia boys if they come into the Preview feeling confident. After all, they've won the team title seven of the last eight years with the only blip being 2010 when they finished runner-up. The Raiders lost a couple of their top seniors from last season in Bryan Drees and Steven Stickel, but the cupboard is still full for head coach Doug Foster. For starters, back is junior Caleb Ball who finished 11th at the Preview last year and then made folks take notice when he won the SCAL title at the end of the season. Caleb likely will be running stride for stride with his senior teammate, Jordan Gariety, a 4th-place finisher at the Preview last year who is very capable of having a big season. Battling for the other five varsity spots in my opinion will be a host of Raiders, including senior Alex Herron, junior Trevor Monnin, and sophomores Alex Seger, Ethan Monnier, Kevin Drees and Drew Sherman. Also, keep your eye on freshman Zachary Bell who was one of the top 8th-graders in the area last year. Russia is in position to win another Preview this year and, if they stay healthy, return to the State Meet for the ninth consecutive year.
It's always nice when you can return a few of your top runners. Botkins head coach Ryan Gutman returns more than a few after finishing runner-up to Russia last year at the Preview by just 11 points. It starts with the 1-2 punch of senior Austin Jones and junior Cameron Flora. Austin finished 3rd at the Preview last year before fighting through a nagging IT band injury that ended his season at the Regional Meet. Cameron finished 7th at the Preview and later ran at the State Meet as the lone Botkins boy. Austin and Cameron have been doing everything together in the pre-season according to their coach and are on course for fantastic years. The Trojans #3 runner I believe will be junior Aaron Fullenkamp with senior Reid Manger not far behind. Botkins has a deep program this year and points can be scored by a number of boys. Two Trojans to keep on your radar include junior Jared Goubeaux and incoming freshman Austin Fullenkamp. Jared was injured last year and may surprise some people this season, and Austin finished runner-up at the junior high Preview last year. All said, Botkins has a legitimate shot to win the Preview.
Botkins' Austin Jones was the fastest in the junior class at the 2013 Preview
While Anna graduated some big-time talent in Corey Abbot, Adam Larger and Derek Steinke, there's a tradition of cross country success with Dean Stewart's Rockets that always makes them a factor. Leading the team this year will no doubt be senior Luke Gaier. Luke has historically started the season slow, but then comes on strong at the end. Proof of this was his 9th-place finish at the Preview last year followed by a superb 2nd-place finish at the SCAL Championship. Another senior I'm expecting to make a big impact after battling some health issues last fall is Jonathan Berning. Jonathan and Luke were on the same 4x800 relay team this spring that finished 10th at the State Track Meet. If you're looking for a rising star in the Rockets program, they might have one in sophomore Lucas Huber who reportedly had a very good summer of training. Finally, Coach Stewart will need sophomores Brad Axe and Joel Gaier to score points if Anna is going to be competitive this season.
It's taken the Ft. Loramie boys a while to re-establish their cross country program since the inception of football almost ten years ago, but head coach Dennis Prenger has a foundation built for the Redskins to experience success someday really soon. This years team will be lead by the youth of sophomore Tom Ballas. Tom had a fantastic freshman year, but he's also his own toughest critic, so he increased his summer mileage considerably and I expect a big improvement from his 12th-place finish at last years Preview. Senior runners on the team include Caleb Hoelscher, Tom Meyer and Ty Frilling who will all provide different kinds of leadership. The underclassman are key for Ft. Loramie to be successful in my opinion. Juniors Riley Holland and John Chaney have matured and will be counted on to step up this season and score points. Another runner with a ton of potential that could develop this year is sophomore Alan Holdheide. There are 13 boys in the program, including some additional talent in the sophomore and freshman classes. Look for this group to start making the Redskins significant again.
Third-year Sidney coach Ken Kellner had two Yellow Jackets swarming the front of the pack at the Preview last year in Chris Musser and Jared Tangeman. Chris finished an impressive 2nd-place and was my immediate pick to win it all this year. Unfortunately, he ended his track season this spring with knee surgery and was told he would never run again. Chris, like a lot of top runners, apparently didn't like being told "never" and is in the process of a comeback. While the junior is running strong right now according to his coach, he will be a question mark as the season unfolds. Jared, on the other hand, appears in top form. The senior is poised to have a big year after clocking a blazing 15:48 this summer during his last 5K road race. With that kind of performance Jared is more than capable of winning the Preview. The rest of the Yellow Jackets runners will need to do their part for Sidney to perform well as a team.
One guy that's been steadily improving each year at the Preview since his freshman season is Houston senior star Devon Jester. As a freshman he finished 18th, his sophomore year he was 9th, and last year he finished 8th. This week head coach Joni Dunham told me Devon is running as strong as ever coming into the season and would like nothing more than to return to the State Meet again in November. A couple of other returning juniors who are battling injuries right now and won't be up to full speed for the Preview are Troy Riley and Azen Reier. Troy recently had surgery on his calf and Azen is dealing with a stress fracture. Incoming freshman Dakota Francis ran well last year in junior high and will be the fourth and final Wildcat. With just four boys on the roster Houston will not be eligible to place as a team.
Senior Devon Jester worked hard over the summer to make this fall memorable
Last year at the Preview, Fairlawn fielded the required five runners to qualify for a team score. This year there is only one full-time runner, but he's a good one. Junior Troy Fletcher returns for his third season and will run for first-year head coach Chris North, who takes over both the high school and junior high program. Last year Troy made huge strides from the beginning of the season to the end. At the Preview on Anna's course he ran a 21:18 and later followed that up at the SCAL Championship on the same course with a 19:12. Troy came into practice in great shape after running all summer according to his coach and could be running in the 18:00's this season. Fairlawn will also get some part-time running help from sophomore Nick Brautigam who is playing multiple sports, but is expected to participate in approximately four meets.
Top Five Teams
4. Ft. Loramie
Top Five Individuals
1. Jared Tangeman - Sidney
2. Caleb Ball - Russia
3. Austin Jones - Botkins
4. Luke Gaier - Anna
5. Devon Jester - Houston
Top Five Freshman
1. Austin Fullenkamp - Botkins
2. Zachary Bell - Russia
3. Collin Luthman - Ft. Loramie
4. Noah Siegel - Ft. Loramie
5. Jay Kacin - Ft. Loramie
To see results of the Shelby County Preview from 2006-Present, click here!
Course maps for Tuesday's Shelby County Preview at Sidney: High School / Junior High