By Riley Hicks
At this year’s cross country state championship meet the county came ready to compete and ultimately dominated the event in class AAAAA. Both the McIntosh Chiefs and the Starr’s Mill Panthers runners ran some of their best races this season. The Chiefs boys and girls each claimed the team titles, while the Panthers’ Nick Nyman solidified himself as the boys’ single competitor champion.
Throughout the season, these two high schools have separated themselves from the rest of the competition, and at the same time continued a rivalry between the two of them. Even spouses faced against each other as Austin Enriquez coaches for Starr’s Mill, and his wife Emily coaches the team at McIntosh. Back in high school, Austin used to race for the Panthers, while his wife competed with the girls for the Chiefs, so the rivalry still lingers till this very day.
“That’s my wife’s team, so you’re not going to hear me say anything but I’m super happy for them. They are a great team to battle against,” Austin said of McIntosh’s sweep.
In the boys’ race, McIntosh had two guys cross the finish line putting them in the top five, which helped the Chiefs take home first with a total team time of 1:26:21.01. Following behind in second were the Panthers, who saw Nyman run a 16:09, while capturing the boys’ single competitor gold.
Nyman sprinted his way to one of Starr’s Mill’s best runners when he crossed the line first on Friday. Through his seasons, Nyman progressively worked on giving himself the mindset that he had the ability to take the lead in races. That is no longer a problem for Nyman, who possibly will set his eyes on going for the triple crown, winning cross country, along with the one and two mile in track all in one year.
“Nick has really become a mature runner, he has developed not only physically but mentally,” Austin said. “He is very confident and very strong.”
McIntosh secured the overall boys championship in the 5,000-meter with the help of Zach Jaeger, who finished third with a 16:25. Not far behind him in fifth was his teammate Vladimir Zander-Velloso with a time of 16:53. The Panthers rounded out the top ten with Ty Duben, who ran his best race at a time of 17:18.
“It was an amazing experience, we knew we had a strong core group of kids this season on both sides,” McIntosh head coach Jason Newton said. “We knew it was possible, but in the fashion that it happened was even more impressive. The boys won by 50 plus points and that was not expected, they just ran as a team that day and the girls ran great as well as they have all season.”
On the girls side, the Chiefs remained the dominant school at the state meet by once again finishing first on the board with a team time of 1:40:15.53. The McIntosh girls ran away from the competition by having four runners finish in the top ten. Megan Uszynski was the first Chiefs runner to finish the race, which was in second place with 19.31. Three of her teammates were not far behind with Kayla Rose in seventh (19:50), Hannah Moore eighth (19:51) and Zoe Smith tenth at (19:57).
Starr’s Mill girls captured the third-place overall team time to bring home a trophy just like its male counterparts. In the 5K final, the Panthers only had one girl finish in the top ten, which was Darby Olive in ninth with a time of 19.51. The good thing for Starr’s Mill is that only two runners are graduating this year.
“We have a big, young crew and I think that we are only going to get stronger as the years go,” Austin said.
McIntosh and Starr’s Mill were not the only county teams to have a good showing at state this year; the Whitewater Wildcats finished sixth in the girls’ race and seventh in the boys’ race. In the boys’ race, Thomas Hall crossed the line ninth at 17:16, while the top girl was Ashley McMahon at 20:52.
The other top school in the county was not in AAAAA, but instead in 1A private with the Landmark Christian Eagles. In the boys’ race, three guys finished in the top ten to give them second in team competition. Zack Truitt got third (17:09), Kameron Jackson eighth (17:42) and Jack Drury tenth (17:49). For the girls, Landmark captured the championship with four girls in the top ten. Mary Kellison Thorne also solidified herself as the singles champ finishing first with 19:33. Flanked behind Thorne were three teammates in sixth, seventh and eighth respectively with Erin Fegans (20:08), Sarah Foreman (20:10) and Lindsey Biggar (20:58).