When it comes to the end of the season in high school cross country, the name of the game is moving on. Whether it is as an individual or better yet as a team, climbing the ladder and giving yourself a shot at making the ultimate step to run at state is where it’s at.
On Saturday, Oct. 20 the West Holmes Knights cross country teams found their way to districts at Cambridge High School in hopes of moving on.
When the final runner had crossed the finish line, West Holmes had a trio of sophomore runners who will be running at regionals in hopes of finding an elusive spot at the state meet.
For the Lady Knights, sophomore standout Katie Sprang was the lone survivor as West Holmes placed 13th out of 24 teams. Sprang, who continues to battle an undisclosed injury, navigated the track at Cambridge and ended up in 26th place in a time of 21:09.8. That proved to be good enough to move on, and she now must continue to battle through her injury as she takes a step closer to state.
“It was a painful race, but my goal was to get out, and I made it,” Sprang said. “I know I can run better than I did.”
Sprang said the injury is significant enough that it could keep her from participating at regionals, but the highly competitive runner who became an All-Ohioan in track last spring will do whatever is necessary to give herself the best chance of running at regionals.
“Assuming I do run, my expectation and goal is to get better and improve,” Sprang said.
On the boys side, the Knights finished seventh as a team, missing regionals as a group by one spot.
Two Knights did make it, however, as sophomore classmates Caiden Carter and Cade Wagers turned in fine performances. Wagers ran 19th in 17:52.1 while Carter placed 22nd in 17:58.1. Just missing the mark was senior Jonathan Kandel, who ran 34th in 18:24.1.
“I was kind of surprised to finish as high as I did,” Wagers said. “But once you start going that fast, you can’t stop, so it was exciting.”
Wagers said a tough regular season slate of competitions and a rugged practice schedule has the remaining competing Knights more than ready to go and do their best at regionals. He added that while he had goals coming into the season, they paled in comparison to reality.
“My goals were actually lower than what I am doing, so I guess I have to set my goals higher,” Wagers said with a laugh. “Now my goal is to make it to state. It’s going to be hard, but you have to push yourself.”
Carter has been running at the front of the Knights’ pack all season, and he was a regional qualifier last year as a freshman. He said that experience alone is going to make him more competitive.
“I know the course layout, and I know what to expect at regionals,” Carter said. “I didn’t go as fast as I wanted to last year, but I just have to set my goals higher and go faster to make it out.”
With a massive sophomore class participating on this year’s roster, Carter said the season has been a lot of fun.
“This has been my favorite year so far,” Carter said. “More people have joined, more of my friends, and that always makes a season more enjoyable.”
Head coach Kevin Beachy said each year brings with it new challenges.
“Each year you have to adjust the goals and adjust to each team,” Beachy said. “We had a very youthful team this season, and it has shown up at times this season. But you can’t say it affected us too much because we’ve got three sophomores heading to regionals. They are continuing to figure things out as they mature.”
Beachy said seeing the boys come within one spot of going to regionals as a team was disheartening, as is always the case when you come that close. He also said he couldn’t dismiss the job the girls did, despite where they finished.
“A lot of them ran their PR at district, and it is always exciting to see that happen,” Beachy said.
Now Beachy will watch his three sophomores run at regionals. He said Sprang is more than capable of competing for one of the top-24 spots to move on to state as long as she is healthy. Twenty-eight boys will move on from regionals to state, and Beachy said nothing would surprise him at this point.
“If you just look at the numbers, we are further back in the pack, but this isn’t a numbers game. It is a race that has to be run, and we have talked all week about going out and executing a plan. These guys have heard every story about people who have stepped up and done some pretty amazing things out of nowhere. We just have to go out and run our race and run beyond what we are capable of doing.”