Centerville girls cross country postseason unravels at district

Taylor Ewert of Beavercreek (front left) and Emma Bucher of Centerville (front right) lead the Division I field at the regional cross country championships last season at Troy. Contributed / Greg Billing

Among the state’s most successful girls high school cross country programs, Centerville’s plan to eventually overtake Beavercreek in an anticipated state-championship showdown of Greater Western Ohio Conference powers unraveled last weekend.

It happened in the Division I district at Cedarville University, the first of three successive postseason meets. Like they have since 2015, the Elks rested most of their top runners at the district. That left it up to essentially a second Elks unit to make this week’s regional cut.

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Although risky, that had worked out well the previous four seasons. Centerville swept four D-I girls state team titles from 2014-17 and was runner-up to state champ Beavercreek last season. That also reflected a deep and talented Centerville program. Its 72 girls members this season is the norm during that unprecedented program run.

But unlike prior seasons, one less team – seven – qualified for this week’s regional at Troy. Centerville placed ninth.

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“Of course, knowing what I do now, I certainly would (change strategy) and that’s not a reflection on the seven athletes who competed for our program on Saturday,” veteran Elks coach Dave Dobson said.

“We felt like we had a strategy that would allow us to advance and also help our athletes who would compete at the regional and state level perform well. That was the intention. In this case, it didn’t come to fruition. It didn’t come through the way that we researched.”

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Already a heavy favorite to repeat, Beavercreek should run away with D-I regional and state titles. Beavers’ senior Taylor Ewert, who committed to the University of Arkansas last week, is the defending D-I state individual champion.

Runner-up to Ewert at state last year was current Elks junior and Elks record holder Emma Bucher (17:17.7 last season). She was among Centerville’s top runners who didn’t compete at the district. Ewert defended her district title (17:03.2) over the 3.1-mile course and the Beavers swept four of the top five places.

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Centerville’s only individual regional rep will be senior Emma O’Brien. Beavercreek and Centerville also went 1-2 in the previous week’s GWOC meet at Northmont.

“It’s definitely hard for the seniors because it was a decision that was out of their hands,” said Dobson, the Elks’ girls head coach since 2000.

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Centerville athletic director Rob Dement likened the strategy to failing on a two-point conversion to win a football game.

“Obviously, we’ll learn from it and move on,” Dement said. “There are decisions obviously made by a coach that sometimes don’t work out.”

Dement indicated he’s pleased with the program’s past success and anticipates more of the same.

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“If you’re asking me if this one decision makes me want to move in another (coaching) direction, the answer to that is unequivocally no,” he said. “(Dobson) runs a first-class program and he does a fantastic job. Unfortunately, this was a perfect storm and it’s not good. We’re going to have to learn from it and make sure we don’t put our girls in this situation moving forward.”

The top five D-I girls teams at regional and individuals not on those teams who place among the top 20 qualify for the following week’s state meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.

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