Saturday was a day of firsts for the Buckeye Valley boys cross country team.
Junior Zach Kreft finished first among individuals, winning the first regional championship of his career in impressive fashion while the Barons finished fifth as a team at the Division II regional championships in Pickerington — a mark good enough to earn them their first-ever trip to the state showcase.
“This has been talked about for a long time and I’m thrilled to see it happen,” Buckeye Valley coach Nate Ritz said. “They have put countless miles in and a lot of work to get to this point. Many of the boys have been talking about this since they were freshmen.
“It’s easy to talk and dream, but this group realized what work was needed to be done and they’ve been dedicated to putting in the mileage to reach their goals.”
Kreft won going away, crossing the finish line in 15:29 — 44 seconds ahead of Heath’s Taylor Hopkins. Cameron Hurt was the second Baron to finish, closing 52nd among individuals in 17:46.
Other BV contributors included Bill Daily (65th in 17:53), Nathan Heiser (67th in 17:53), Nathan Holst (72nd in 17:57), Jacob Zinn (18:09) and Gavin Shearer (135th in 19:13).
“Having a front runner like Zach in a bigger meet like this is huge,” Ritz said. “Zach went out and raced today. He has ran more tactical and conservative races the past couple of weeks by design, but today he went out and attacked and didn’t let off the gas. This was a good tune-up heading into the state meet. Our pack did what they needed to do and it was enough to qualify us on to state.”
In Division I action, Orange’s Hunter Moore picked up a regional title with an effort of 15:28.
Orange, like Buckeye Valley, qualified as a team for the upcoming state meet for the first time in program history.
The Pioneers finished fourth, two points behind third-place Olentangy Liberty.
Other Orange standouts included Jack Schiefelbein (29th in 16:56), Andrew Schroff (35th in 17:00), Josh Brooks (52nd in 17:15) and Matt Hartzell (53rd in 17:17).
The Patriots, meanwhile, were powered by Joseph Johnson III (21st in 16:36), Nick Irelan (25th in 16:53), Logan Boone (27th in 16:54) and Ryan Milligan (30th in 16:56).
Olentangy senior Anthony Sasso also qualified for the state meet, advancing as an individual with a 13th-place performance in the regional race. He finished in 16:21.
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
The Liberty and Orange girls cross country teams will be joining their schools’ boys squads at the state showcase after finishing third and fifth, respectively, at Saturday’s D-I regional race in Pickerington.
The Patriots got top-10 finishes from Gracie Sprankle (third in 19:08) and Emma Bower (sixth in 19:18) while Emily Matta (36th in 20:42) and Emma Shear (41st in 20:46) also ran well.
The Pioneers, meanwhile, were boosted by Allison Guagenti, who finished second among the 117 girls in action in 18:44. Zoe Bond (10th in 19:48), Lindsay Ott (16th in 19:57) and Grace Frye (35th in 20:42) also ran solid races.
Olentangy’s Lex Brookshire earned a spot in the state race, too, advancing as an individual thanks to a 17th-place time of 20:00.
Hayes’ Alicia Rittenour (30th in 20:32), Olentangy’s Melina Endsley (53rd in 20:58) and Big Walnut’s Colbi Borland (56th in 21:00) saw their seasons come to a close with top-60 finishes.
Buckeye Valley saw a stellar season come to a close, finishing 16th among D-II teams.
Junior Susie York led the MOAC-champion Barons, finishing 68th in 21:52.
The OHSAA State Cross Country Championships are slated for Saturday at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.