The Miami Trace Panthers boys cross country team is preparing to compete at a level that no previous squad from the school has before.
After placing fourth at the Division II District meet at Rio Grande last Saturday, the Panthers are going through their paces, getting ready to run at the Regional meet at Pickerington North High School this Saturday.
The Division II race starts at 11:45 a.m.
The Record-Herald interviewed team members Henry DeBruin, Simon DeBruin and Caleb Brannigan after Saturday’s meet.
On Thursday, the paper caught up with Bo Little, Mcale Callahan and Connor Bucher. Joathem Lewis was not available for comment.
Freshman Connor Bucher ran a personal best time of 18:40 earlier this season at Young’s Dairy.
“I’m just very excited that we get to go to Regionals,” Bucher said. “And get to represent Miami Trace very well.
“Hopefully we can make it to State,” Bucher said. “And do our best.”
Sophomore Bo Little clocked a personal best time in the 17:20’s at Greenfield at Mitchell Park early in the season.
“We’ve looked at the course online,” Little said. “We looked at a map. Coach Smallwood has been there before. He says the course is not too bad. So, I’m looking forward to it.
“I think we can make it to State if all of our top five runners have a good race,” Little said. “If we get under 17:30. That would be pushing it, but I think we can do it. I think I have a personal best coming this weekend.”
Sophomore Mcale Callahan’s personal best time is down to 17:43.
“That was at the McClain opener,” Callahan said.
“Obviously, we push each other every day in practice,” Callahan said. “Going to the Regional meet for the first time is a big accomplishment. We didn’t win league this year, but I think that making it to the Regionals really made up for our loss at league.”
The Panthers finished second in the Frontier Athletic Conference on Oct. 11.
“The competition will be a lot bigger and better than at Districts,” Callahan said. “I think if we just go in with the right attitude, the right mindset and everything, we should have a good race. We’re going to be pushing each other.
“We might have a chance this year (to make it out to State),” Callahan said. “If we don’t, then our goal is next year.”
At the Division II Regional meet at Pickerington North, there will be 22 teams and 28 individuals for a field of around 182 runners.
The top seven teams and individuals who place in the top 28 will advance to the State meet set for Saturday, Nov. 3 at National Trail Raceway.
“They are a great group of kids,” Miami Trace head coach Jeff Smallwood said of his team. “They’re great academically; they’re good, all-around kids that represent our school, and our community, very well. It’ll be fun taking this group up there.
“The last time I went to the Regional, it was with Blake Pittser and it snowed,” Smallwood said. “Blake didn’t qualify to State, but made it to Regionals as an individual.
“We’ve never taken a team up there before,” Smallwood said. “These kids have a nice camaraderie. The team is very close-knit. They enjoy each other and that’s a plus.
“We’re going up there to face off against 21 other teams,” Smallwood said. “There are five State-ranked teams at our Regional. There is Heath, who, in my opinion is probably the favorite, along with Unioto. They are both ranked in the top 10 in the State.
“Jonathan Alder has an unbelievable team,” Smallwood said. “Sheridan is going to be right there, along with Rock Hill. Those are the five teams that, in all honesty, unless something happens, they will probably be one through five.
“They are taking the top seven teams to State,” Smallwood said. “I don’t know about a few of the teams, but, right now, if there was a seeding, we would probably be 10th or 11th out of 22. I think we’re right square in the middle of these teams.
“If things go to our advantage, there is a solid chance that we could get out at six or seven,” Smallwood said. “If these kids run the best race they can run, we could possibly make State this year, which would be absolutely fantastic.
“We’ve got a chance to do some special things the next couple of years,” Smallwood said. “Our junior high boys won the middle school title this year.
“Our goal coming into the season was to be in this spot,” Smallwood said. “(Qualifying to the Regional) was a goal of ours from the get-go. It was an added bonus to be District runners-up. We were just trying to be in the top nine teams to get to Regionals.
“Last year we were 11th at the District and they took the top nine, so that was a little disappointing,” Smallwood said.
“This is a lot flatter course than at Rio Grande,” Smallwood said. “Everyone will run better times than they did at Rio. I think we’ve got a good shot. The goal was not to make State this year, but, I think we’re right on the cusp, which is nice to see. We’re going to be close. I think six through 10 is a real possibility for us.”