By Josh Brown
HEBRON — The Tippecanoe girls cross country team put the finishing touches on its legacy at Saturday’s Division II state cross country meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
After returning from a two-year absence, the Red Devil boys are hoping to start a new one.
Tippecanoe’s girls finished fourth with 221 points — a mere five points behind third-place Bellbrook — giving the Red Devils’ senior class four top-four finishes at the state meet during their storybook careers. During their freshman year, the Devil seniors finished second as a team, and then the past two seasons they’ve turned in back-to-back third-place finishes.
“Four consecutive top-five finishes for that group. What a legacy they’re leaving,” Tippecanoe cross country coach Byron Kimmel said.
Lexington won the meet with 72 points, while Akron SVSM was second with 142.
Leading the way for the girls was Katie Taylor, who earned All-Ohio honors for a third straight year by finishing 19th in 19:33.5.
“All-Ohio was my goal,” Taylor said. “I was All-Ohio the past two years, and I just wanted to stay up there. It’s awesome to stand on the podium with some of the best runners in the state. That was my goal, and I got it.”
“She’s a three-time All-Ohioan,” Kimmel said of Taylor. “That’s a big deal.”
Adding an extra wrinkle to the race Saturday was the fact that it was originally scheduled for the week before — the OHSAA was forced to delay the state meet a week due to the flooded conditions on the course, something that still proved to be a factor Saturday as the course was slightly changed from its normal pattern in years past.
“Them delaying the meet was very unexpected,” Taylor said. “I remember sitting on Twitter during study hall at school thinking, ‘Is this actually happening? They’ve never done this before.’ But everyone adapted to it right away, so it didn’t make a difference since we were all in the same circumstance. And the course? Was very muddy.”
“These are veteran runners,” Kimmel said. “They’re prepared for these situations. I didn’t have to say a whole lot to them.”
Kaili Titley finished 43rd (20:09.6), Mackenzie Dix was 72nd (20:40.7), Stephanie Fink was 76th (20:45), Jillian Brown was 111th (21:16.2), Tori Prenger was 130th (21:45.8) and Annie Martino was 134th (21:52.7).
It was the final race for seniors Taylor, Titley, Fink, Brown and Martino.
“It was bittersweet. I love these girls so much,” Taylor said. “We’ve been running together since the seventh grade, so this being our last race was kind of unexpected. Like, I said to someone earlier ‘I’ll see you tomorrow at practice!’ and they were like, ‘Um, we don’t have practice anymore.’ It’s bittersweet. I love them.”
“It was emotional last night,” Kimmel said. “We did kind of our traditional pre-race thing, and it was pretty emotional. They’ve left behind an amazing legacy.”
Tippecanoe’s boys, after a two-year absence as a team at the state meet, finished 12th with 278 points.
Junior Bryce Conley, the lone Red Devil boys with state experience as a two-time qualifier, earned All-Ohio honors by finishing 20th in 16:51.8.
“My goal was top 15, so I wasn’t quite there,” Conley said. “I don’t think the course really affected things too much. Just the mud.”
Still, it was Conley’s first time running at state as part of a full team — his freshman and sophomore years, he qualified as an individual.
“It was definitely great running with the team here,” Conley said. “I’m not really used to it, but coming out here, it made it a little easier to perform.”
Allan Murray was next in for the Devils in 80th (17:41.8), Brennan Larned was 94th (17:50.4), Ethan Heitkamp was 100th (17:54.2), Austin Rogers was 104th (17:55.8), Trenton Brown was 111th (17:59.4) and Brady Shilt was 123rd (18:15.3).
“Today, you had to get out hard. And our guys did not get out hard,” Kimmel said. “I saw them at the mile mark and was like, ‘Oh, they’re done.’ But they did manage to salvage something at the end.”
Of those seven runners, only Heitkamp is a senior, giving the Devil boys a chance to begin a new legacy of their own.
“We do, we only lose one, and we’ve got some good junior high kids coming up,” Kimmel said. “It’s exciting what we’ve got going on. They needed some experience today. Only one of those kids had run at the state meet before, so they just needed some experience and a good dose of what the other people have here.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.