By Jordan Miller
Sports Editor –
Three weeks ago, after suffering a knee injury, Carrollton senior Cole Lovett wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to compete at the state cross country meet.
Not only did Lovett compete in the state meet Nov. 5, he placed third out of 186 runners in the Division II race and earned All-Ohio honors.
Lovett and Maddie Dunlap, a member of the CHS girls cross country team, both finished their high school career on the podium at the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Division II State championships. The girls team placed 11th out of 20 teams with 288 points.
Lovett, the lone member of the Carrollton boys team, was in seventh place entering the home stretch. He kicked his performance into gear, passing three runners to record the best finish by a Carrollton boy at the state meet with a time of 15:45.6. Carrollton runner Larry Gardner placed eighth at state in 2002, which was the best finish prior to Lovett’s.
Lovett said his confidence was “lowered” after injuring his knee.
“It lowered my confidence and I thought my season was over,” said Lovett. “I couldn’t be any more happy to bounce back and become this good after an injury. A couple weeks ago, I was like, ‘I’m not making it to the state meet’ and now here I am, third in the state.”
“It’s a great feeling to place third at state. I got second last year in the 1600 during track, but this is a bigger deal. At (track) state last year, there were only 16 runners in the 1600, here there are about 200.”
“Crossing that finish line after that kick and passing three people at the end is the most exciting feeling, it’s better than track,” said Lovett. “It’s been a really emotional day for my parents and I after all these years, it’s just so exciting.”
“The week of regionals, he was out a couple days with his knee injury,” said Coach Mike Aukerman. “We knew that with all the work he put in, a couple days wasn’t going to slow him down. We got him ready for today and we told him it’s a confidence game when you get down to the state meet.”
“It’s awesome, as a coach, to watch a kid who puts in all the time and all the work, get rewarded because unfortunately that doesn’t always happen,” said Aukerman. “His dad and I were running down the home stretch as he was kicking and his dad was jumping on my back and smacking me on the back, we were both high fiving each other and going crazy. Those are memories you’ll always have, it’s special for a young kid like that to have that.”
“He was state runner-up in track and now he’s third place in cross country, I told him the only missing number is one, we’ll come back and get that this year in track,” Aukerman said.
Buckeye Valley junior Zach Kreft won the championship with a time of 15:16.4.
Dunlap led the girls team with an eighth place finish out of 177 runners with a personal best time of 18:33.3 at the state meet. Dunlap’s freshman year she placed 11th, as a sophomore she placed 16th and 30th as a junior.
“It’s a great way to finish,” said Dunlap about ending her season on the podium. “I’m glad I had my PR here and I’m glad I had my best place here. I was looking to do a little bit better but I’m still proud with how I did because I can move forward into track knowing that I placed and ran my best time.”
“It’s definitely awesome,” said Dunlap about running with her whole team at state. “Being here with them is an accomplishment and it made the whole experience of state better.”
Beachwood junior Leah Roter won the championship with a time of 17:55.1.
Other runners competing at the state meet for the Warriors were: sophomore Micah Donley (19:59.9), 82nd; senior Hailey Wells (20:39.3), 116th; sophomore Cindy Lewis (20:44.5), 118th; junior Grace Bartlow (20:47.2), 121st; junior Emmy Days (22:03.1), 157th; and freshman Jennie Stine (22:07.4), 160th.
“The girls were ranked 16th going in and moved up throughout the race 17th at mile, 14th at two-mile and 11th at the finish, one point from making top 10,” said Aukerman as he spoke about the girls finish. “That was incredible. They trusted the process and were rewarded. Hailey, unfortunately had a calf cramp pop up before the race and was unable to get it to let up. Had she run with Micah we would have finished eighth as a team, but she did a great job gutting it out and helping her team to the highest finish at State.”
“We do return five from this team and the challenge will be to keep expectations high despite losing Maddie and Hailey. The talent will return to make another trip down to the State meet.”
“The work ethic and belief that this team shared was amazing. As a coach, just watching them do all the little things and buy in was memorable,” mentioned Aukerman as he spoke about his season highlights. “The girls team emergence and progression the last month was even astonishing to me. They turned it on when they needed to the most.”
“The girls beat two teams at State that beat them at Regionals, and another two teams at State that dominated them in the early season,” Aukerman stated. “It was a fantastic ending to an incredible year.”
Lovett and Dunlap will compete at the Mid-East Cross Country Championships Nov. 19 at Indian Rifle Park in Kettering. The event presents the top 12 high school men and women senior runners from Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and other states.