Much like his winning effort at the Brookville Invitational on Saturday, Lucas Houk and his Wayne Warriors teammates are making up ground fast in cross country.
Houk, a junior, thinks this is the year the Warriors can join the lead pack in the Greater Western Ohio Conference. Centerville and Beavercreek are again the teams to beat. But on Saturday, Houk displayed the determination it will take to compete with them.
Houk and Milton-Union senior Shannon Milnickel broke from the field and battled for the lead the majority of the 3.1-mile big school division race. Milnickel carried the lead into the final 100 yards with Houk a couple steps behind. The two were shoulder to shoulder with about 10 yards to go when Houk edged past to win in 16 minutes, 58 seconds. Milnickel finished in 16:59.
“He covered every move I had. You really have to give it to him,” Houk said of Milnickel. “I tried to make a move at 600 meters, he covered it. I tried to make a move at 400, he covered it. I held back a little to the end because I knew (I’d need it). I’ve always been able to finish strong and that’s what I was relying on.
“He really pushed me. The whole race I was hurting so bad. It stung. I was waiting until I saw an opening and I found it.”
The victory was Houk’s second straight after winning the Skyhawk Invitational on Wednesday. He also prevented a Milton-Union 1-2 finish as senior Will Brock finished third.
Wayne scored 98 points to finish third overall behind big school champion Tippecanoe (53) and Milton-Union (62). The Warriors’ top five runners on Saturday featured three juniors (Vincent Statzer, William Stephens and Houk) and two freshmen (Rohan Storaci and Cole Williamson). Seniors Adam Larman and Daniel Cole rounded out the top seven.
“This is the best we’ve been in awhile,” Houk said. “More guys are coming out and wanting to run. I think in the past couple of years guys at Wayne have made it kind of cool to be running. I think a lot more guys are starting to get into it. … I would love for us to be a regional team qualifier. I believe we can this year.”
Brookville senior Spencer Schick won the small school division in 16:44, beating out Cedarville freshmen Ethan Wallis (16:48) and Trent Koning (16:56). The Blue Devils also claimed the team title by placing sophomore Justin Bland, senior Jeremy Page and sophomore Tommy Dafler among the top 10, with sophomore Ethan Landis cracking the top 15 and freshmen Andrew Watt and Paul Takhar among the team’s top seven.
Brookville scored 35 points to top Cedarville’s 54.
Schick, who finished third in the 800-meter run at the Division II state meet in June, kept the Cedarville runners within range before unleashing his final burst.
“You have to go when you feel good, and I felt good so I kicked it,” Schick said. “(The leaders) went out kind of fast, which some people do, so I didn’t want to go with them too early. Two guys from Cedarville kept the pace. I was a little worried because I didn’t expect that. I tried to stick with them and make a few moves, but they were pretty strong.”
Catholic Central sophomore Addy Engel topped a pair of Chaminade Julienne runners to win the girls small school division. Engel won in 19:14, almost a full minute ahead of CJ freshman Carolyn Marshall (21:11). CJ sophomore Madison Meixner was third. Catholic Central junior Sydney Yontz and CJ sophomore Madeline Slaybaugh helped the two schools post the top five runners.
The Eagles won the team title as sophomore Sarah Hogan and juniors Katie Bardine, Maddie Kohr and Anneliese Fisher comprised the top seven runners. CJ’s 29 points beat out runner-up Tippecanoe (40), which took its top varsity runners to the Mason Invitational.
Marion Local sophomore Kelsey Broering won the big school division in 20:01. Waynesville freshman Hannah Gill (20:32) finished second.
The Waynesville girls edged Milton-Union by two points, 50-52, for the team title with senior Tara Todd, freshman Megan Zidaroff, junior Kenna Harvey, senior Grace Aldrich, sophomore Megan Handle and freshman Teagan Cassidy among the Spartans’ top seven.