By John Bombatch
TROY — With less than 5 yards to go in Saturday’s Division II regional cross country championship race, Carroll’s Mike Laughlin was passed by Versailles’ Joe Spitzer to finish second, and the Patriot senior tumbled across the Troy Memorial Stadium course finish line.
Unhurt, Laughlin found a bench inside the runners’ bullpen area on the other side of the finish line, reached over and shook Spitzer’s hand.
“I told him ‘Good job, and try not to make it so hard next week,’” Laughlin said with a tired smile. “That last mile, Joe was killing me out there. He was making it difficult,” Laughlin said. “I was trying my best to hang on and finish in front, but I don’t know if I did.”
But in the big picture, it was okay. Laughlin and the rest of the Carroll Patriots team won the boys Division II regional team crown to advance on to Saturday’s state championships at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
Laughlin’s time of 16:17.10 was .03 of a second behind Spitzer, a fellow Laughlin had beaten at the previous week’s district meet at Cedarville University. Carroll teammate Karl Grossman placed seventh overall in the 100-runner field in 16:48.27, followed by Brad Klingbeil (15th, 17:02.53), Sam Janson (18th, 17:17.46), Grant Arnold (37th, 17:40.73), Jason Dong (54th, 18:10.83) and Michael Ciesko (18:21.06).
“I think it was a pretty solid effort by the whole team,” said Carroll boys coach Mike Triola. “…The main goal is to qualify to the state meet, and we did that. They’re all about doing what’s best for the team, and coach (John) Agnew has them buying into that. That’s what it’s all about.”
Earlier in the day, Xenia Legacy Christian’s Isaac Erlandson placed ninth with a time of 16:54.53 in the Division III race to qualify for his second straight trip to the state meet. Since there wasn’t a Legacy Christian last year (the school changed its name this year from Xenia Christian), Erlandson is technically the first Legacy Christian runner to qualify to the state championships in cross country. Actually, he’s LCA’s first state qualifier in any sport.
“I’m pretty happy with where I placed, but my time wasn’t as good as it was last year,” the Knights junior said. “I’m moving on though, so that’s always good.”
In the day’s final race, senior Ben Ewert led the Beavercreek boys team to a second-place finish in the Division I event. Ewert finished third in 16:08.60. Teammates Matthew Gregson (10th, 16:29.51), Jake Benigno (26th, 16:54.25), Luke Kleinfelder (33rd, 17:06.02), Riley Bucholz (46th, 17:20.30), Michael Stephenson (72nd, 17:41.24) and Ian Johnson (108th, 18:20.44) also ran well in the field of 132.
Bellbrook’s Justin Boreman turned in a solid run to also advance in Division I. The Golden Eagles senior placed 20th to advance with a time of 16:46.74).
The state championships will be held from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 at the National Trail Raceway drag strip — the former home of the NHRA Springnationals — in Hebron. Erlandson’s D-III race kicks the day off at 11 a.m., followed by DII (Carroll) at 11:45 a.m. and then Division I (Beavercreek and Boreman) at 12:30 p.m.
The girls state championships will follow with races at 1:30 p.m., 2:15 and 3 p.m.