Thursday, October 29, 2015

Girls Regional Cross County Preview

Wednesday night on Fish Report's high school sports talk show we previewed this Saturday's OHSAA Boys Southwest Regional Cross Country Championships. If you missed the show, you can watch the replay here. Today, on Fish Report's Blog, I'm previewing the girls championships. Let's start with some numbers... In the Division III race, 16 girls teams and 15 individuals equals 129 runners from 30 schools competing on the levee bank of the Great Miami River in Troy. The top 4 teams and any runners that finish in the top 16 will move on to the state meet the following weekend in Hebron. Below are 8 questions regarding the girls races heading into Saturday.

How good is Chloe Flora, really?  
One thing I know for sure about Botkins senior Chloe Flora heading into the regional meet. She's the best Division III runner in southwest Ohio by a bunch and won't be challenged by any other runners this Saturday. But, how good is she really? The meet record of 17:51 set by Sunni Olding of Minster in 2003 may give Chloe the challenge she's looking for. Chloe's personal record is 18:16, set back on October 10th at the Anna Rocket Invitational. Course conditions in Troy were reported a little soft on Wednesday night from all the rain the last couple of days. That will make breaking the record a real long shot. Perhaps Chloe might decide to run easy and save herself for state? Uhh, not a chance.

Chloe won the regional title last year and is a good bet again on Saturday

Can the Russia girls three-peat?
The bar keeps moving up for the Russia girls. The program has been riding high the last two years after winning the only two regional girls cross country titles in school history. On top of that, the 2014 team established themselves as the most talented Lady Raiders team to date when they finished a best-ever 3rd place at the state meet. Will the 2015 team continue the tradition and capture a third consecutive regional title? Russia squeaked past Xenia Christian by three points and Covington by six points for a district championship in Clayton last week. Expect another close contest between those same three schools this Saturday.

The Lady Raiders have compiled a record of 141-7 so far this season

Who will advance with that final fourth team spot?
I mentioned Russia, Xenia Christian and Covington as being three of the top teams. Could one of those teams fall to fourth? Yes. Could one of those teams fall to fifth and miss out on a trip to state? I don't think so. That leaves one spot left for state. Who will it be? Another local team like Miami East, Botkins, Lehman or Ft. Loramie? It might be a school most local teams have never seen this year, namely Columbus School for Girls or Mount Gilead. Where did they come from? This year the Central District in Pataskala had two races that schools could pick to run in. The top four teams from one race advanced to the Pickerington Regional and the top four teams from the other race advanced to the Troy Regional. No other Division III district in Ohio had a choice like that.

Are any teams from the Cincinnati area good?
There are three districts sending runners to Troy. Clayton (Dayton) is sending eight teams, Pataskala (Columbus) is sending four teams, and West Chester (Cincinnati) is sending four teams. Consider this, the Clayton district had 25 teams battling for their eight spots. The Pataskala district had ten teams battling for their four spots. The West Chester district? They had five teams competing for four spots. Sounds like fuzzy math to me. Summitt Country Day is the best of the bunch, but I don't even have them in my top ten. We'll see on Saturday.

Is Karmen Knepp the new star of the CCC?
The Cross County Conference is no slouch when it comes to fast runners. At last week's district race the conference had ten of the top twenty runners. Compare that to the SCAL which only had four of the top twenty. Miami East junior Lorenza Savini was the top CCC finisher at 2nd overall, but the girl everyone is talking about is Bradford freshman Karmen Knepp. Karmen finished 3rd at the district meet and in doing so, passed up the CCC Runner of the Year, senior Carly Shell of Covington. Maybe it's her freshman status or maybe it's the fact that she will be the only Bradford runner in Troy this Saturday, but Karmen is a rising star people are watching right now.

Bradford didn't have enough for a full girls team this year,
but Karmen Knepp has Railroader fans excited 

Will Mary Kate Vaughn shine in the Division II race?
Speaking of stars, there was none brighter than Mary Kate Vaughn from Oakwood when she burst on the scene three years ago as a freshman. She set the current Division II regional meet record in Troy that year with a 17:51 and the following week set the current state meet record in Hebron with a 17:41. Her junior year was hampered by injuries and her senior year has been a very cautious schedule of just two regular season meets, her conference meet, and last week's district meet. Mary Kate came in 3rd at the district race behind winner Abby Nichols of Alter and Oakwood teammate Elizabeth Ordeman. No doubt she will run with the leaders on Saturday, but will she have enough to finish on top?

Mary Kate's lone win this season was the Bob Schul Invite in August

Is the Division I race the best showcase in Ohio?
If you're a D-III or D-II fan and you're thinking about leaving after those races are done, I would suggest sticking around for the D-I race. That is, if you want to see the best individual runner and best team in Ohio. Troy sophomore Morgan Gigandet has the fastest time of any girl in any division in Ohio this season with a 17:26. She also led the Lady Trojans to a district championship last Saturday. The team that finished 5th in that same race was Centerville, who are ranked both #1 in Ohio and #9 nationally. Then why did the Lady Elks finish 5th you say? They ran all reserve runners last week, knowing even their junior varsity team was good enough to qualify for regionals. This week it's the varsity's turn and Centerville has seven girls that all ran sub-18:42 two weeks ago. That's smokin' fast.

Finally, what's up with the $7.00 admission fee?
All good things eventually come to an end, and no longer is the Troy Regional free to attend as it always was before. The OHSAA wanted Troy to follow suite with the other three regional meets in Ohio and start charging admission. If Troy didn't comply, the meet was going to be moved to Cedarville University and they would charge admission. Big deal. I'd rather spend $7.00 in Troy than $7.00 in Cedarville. Will the new policy keep casual fans away? Maybe a few. Consider this... What does a two-hour movie on Saturday night cost these days, $10.00? For $7.00 this Saturday afternoon you'll get five hours of excitement, drama and even a little comedy. It's entertainment well worth it, even if this is your first cross country meet this season. Open your wallet and I'll see you in Troy.

Note: If you're a Russia fan like I am, you're invited to the annual Raiders pre-race/post-race tailgate party. Just look for the largest camper in the Troy Memorial Stadium parking lot with lots of fans dressed in Blue & Gold. A large pot will be cooking chicken noodle soup to be served between the girls race at 11:00 am and the boys race at 1:30 pm. Feel free to bring your own chicken noodle soup to add to the pot or whatever else you like! 

Chicken noodle soup is an annual tailgate tradition for Russia fans 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Friday Night Lights - 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.

Friday Night Lights

To continue my series of blogs on football memories, this edition focuses on high school football. But what does a photo of some pumpkins, a 64 1/2 Mustang and Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas have to do with high school football? Well, let me connect the dots. Because our high school did not offer football back in the 60’s, our play was limited to pick-up games and attending other high school football in the area. One of those schools was the Bradford Railroaders with a player who would eventually became my fraternity brother at college. But obviously I didn’t know him at the time. Some friends and I would go to a Bradford game in the fall, then attend the annual Pumpkin Show after the game. Beyond the pumpkins and football, there was always the traditional confetti being thrown around at the festival. Great fun; however, my mom would complain about finding confetti around the house for weeks afterwards!

Now for the connection to other two photos; the Minster Wildcats had a pretty good football team so we attended one of their games early in the ’65 season and then afterwards headed for the Friday night dance at Eagle Park. As a couple of friends and I were walking into the dance hall, a brand new 1964 1/2 Mustang convertible drove in loaded with several cute girls. As we began chatting with them, a group of guys approached the car lead by a good looking hunk with a perfect Johnny Unitas-type flat top haircut. Turns out he was Minster’s quarterback with his entourage. Needless to say, my buddies and I were relegated to the sidelines and it was at that moment we really regretting not having a football team. But I’m glad now in light of the concussion and injury problems associated with football. My bones are creaky enough without having played football; but thankfully no joint replacements so far! Regarding the quarterback, he’s since packed it on and weighs about 300 pounds! 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fall Football Memories - Buckeyes, Wolverines, Spartans - 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.

Fall Football Memories - Buckeyes, Wolverines, Spartans

Wow! Michigan State beats Michigan in the last 10 seconds on a fumbled punt snap. No, that’s not a memory from the 50’s & 60’s, but a fresh one from Saturday. It’s 3:00 am Sunday morning and I can’t sleep so maybe writing this week’s blog as promised about college football memories may help get my mind off the game!

Starting out as a solid Buckeye fan back in the 50’s and 60’s was a natural, as they were the only Big 10 team in the state, so everybody was a fan. But then in 1967 while attending college in Michigan, I became exposed to those two schools Up North. Whenever the Buckeyes, Wolverines and Spartans played another team, I always rooted for a win, forever hoping that my three teams would come into their mutual games undefeated, then let the best team win. But sorry Buckeye and MSU fans, during graduate school at U of M in 1974, I became a true maize and blue 
Wolverine fan.

Since that period, there were many, many memories (some of which I’d like to erase like the last 10 seconds of Saturday’s game); the Big House with 115,000 fans, fall Saturday tailgating, Heisman poses, Big 10, Rose Bowl & National championships, three yards and a cloud of dust, Bo, Woody & Duffy; the list goes on and on. With most of my family living in mid-western Ohio, and me from Michigan, the rivalries seems to become even more intensified over the years.

For example, my brother used to come to the OSU-Michigan games in Ann Arbor, but he never saw the Bucks win at the Big House (during the Cooper era). In fact, after one Michigan win over OSU, it so happened that Michigan coach Lloyd Carr and his staff came to eat at the same restaurant we were and sat at the adjacent table. That was rubbing salt into the wound, so my brother now refuses to come. On the other hand, my sister and her family have traveled to several recent games in Ann Arbor and have never seen the Buckeye’s lose! She’s the one with the scarlet and gray decor in her home, except for one maize and blue item, a block M in her toilet bowl. I go out to pee in their barn when visiting!

Next week I’ll focus on high school football memories, which will be tough as my high school did not play football at the time!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fall Football Memories - Browns, Bengals, Lions - 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.

Fall Football Memories - Browns, Bengals, Lions

My first real exposure to NFL football came about in the mid-fifties when the Cleveland Browns were a winning team with Hall of Fame running back Jimmy Brown. A number of us neighborhood kids would congregate at the farm home that had the best TV with the tallest antenna to get good reception. We’d play a pick-up game in the yard before the game, during halftime and afterwards till it was time to head home, feed the livestock and milk cows. Fun times! I recall the Browns playing in the championship one year and getting beat badly by the Lions, probably the last time that either team was of championship caliber!

The Bengals weren’t formed until after I had gone off to college in Michigan, so they were never really on my radar screen until 1982 when my in-laws, who had Bengal’s season tickets, provided tickets to the NFL championship game at Riverfront stadium against San Diego. It was the coldest game in NFL history with a -59 wind chill! The Bengals won and went to the Super Bowl against the 49ers at the Pontiac Silverdome. Because we were living in Michigan at the time, my wife and I were given the two allowed tickets, so we attended our one and only Super Bowl, but the Bengals lost 26-21, down 20-0 at one point. Disappointing! 

Because of living in Michigan since 1967, I do root for the Lions but not enthusiastically! They’ve had some very disappointing seasons during that time, including the not-so-memorable 0-16 record in 2008. They and the Browns are one of the few NFL teams to have never played in a Super Bowl, a streak that will likely continue another year given the dismal starts by both teams. Meanwhile the Bengals are looking good! Who Dey?

Next week’s blog entry will focus on college football, so stay tuned for some Buckeye/Wolverine/Spartan trash talking!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Dirt Tracks and Garage Bands - 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.

Dirt Tracks and Garage Bands

When NASCAR and Eldora racetrack owner Tony Stewart recently announced his retirement, my thoughts went back to a late spring Sunday in 1965 when a bunch of us went to Eldora Speedway in North Star for the initial dirt track race of the season. In those days, we could hit Shady Bowl racetrack in Degraff on Saturday night under the lights and Eldora on Sunday afternoon. At the time, Earl Baltes, Eldora’s founder, still ran the track. There was a place called the Bar E Club located on the back 40 of the race track where the drivers and fans would hang out after the race. Before establishing the race track, Earl was the leader of a band called the Melody Makers, so he had a special bond with start-up bands and gave them a chance to perform at Bar E. Also Earl had a daughter named Starr who was a real knock-out, and we hoped her and her friends would be there, so off we went to Bar E after that afternoon's races. Not only was Starr there, but the local garage band playing was the Rick Z Combo. The lead singer, Rick Zehringer and his drummer brother Randy were from nearby Ft. Recovery and they played a song called “Hang on Sloopy”. A few months later, they changed their name to the McCoys, with the song rising to Billboard's #1 by October and eventually became the unofficial fight song of the Ohio State Buckeyes! We followed the band around to places like Chrystal Ballroom (another Baltes venue), Eagle Park in Minster and LaSourdesville Amusement Park near Cincinnati, plus also listened to them regularly on WING and CKLW radio until the band broke up in 1970. Meanwhile, back to cutie Starr; one of my high school buddies, Joe Schmitmeyer, ended up marrying her, working regularly at the race track, and eventually giving Earl Baltes and his wife Bernice several wonderful grandkids. 

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