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
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
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
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