JACKSON TWP. The postseason is off and running for Jackson cross country and so far, it looks a lot like what came before it.
Running at the Northeast Division I district meet at GlenOak High School, the Jackson boys team captured the team title to mirror the Federal League title it won the previous week. Their counterparts on the girls team replicated their second-place league finish with 64 points, missing out on the team title by just three points to league rival Perry.
The league meet clearly provided momentum entering the district meet and when Jackson head coach Kevin Walsh looked back at the league meet, he was excited about what the team was able to accomplish.
"One through seven for the boys, it was clearly the best Federal League meet I’ve witnessed our team run, from one to seven," Walsh said. "We had a great pack from about 16:10 to 16:49."
Walsh, in his 23rd year with the program, noted that leading up to the postseason, the boys team had been training with two main packs leading the way. One featured senior Nick Regas and junior Evan Akers and the second included the third through seventh runners, all bunched closely together.
That pack mentality led to seven of the top 10 runners at the league meet wearing Jackson purple and gold, with Lake freshman Nathan Moore winning the league title. Moore repeated his feat at the district meet, with Regas and Akers close behind. Jon Uhl (seventh), Michael Stefan (ninth), Andrew Zittel (10th), Josh Szink (14th) and Patrick Baker (15th) were once again bunched together not far off the lead pack, allowing Jackson to send its entire team on to the regional meet.
The girls team punched its own ticket and also rode the momentum from the league meet on to the districts.
"The fact that we had three girls under 20 minutes and fourth girl right at 20-minute mark, it remarkable finish for us," Walsh said. "It was one of those where we ran a great race, but Perry ran a little better."
Shira Weiner and Taylor Etter finished second and third, respectively, at the league meet and Walsh noted that Etter ran the same course at an invitational meet a few weeks earlier, but was 51 seconds faster at the league meet. A ninth-place finish from Libby Dillon fortified the Jackson effort and after finishing 11 points behind Perry at the league meet, the Polar Bears closed the gap by eight at districts.
They’ll have another shot at the Panthers at regionals and this time, there will be a state berth on the line as well.
"I would say without a doubt, the vibe of both teams is very upbeat and very positive," Walsh said. "What they are seeing and what eve tone is seeing is that we put in the work and it’s paying off."
Regas and Akers have gone from, as their coach noted, supporting runners as underclassmen to the two leading men for the boys team and because of their consistency this season and the continued progress of the team’s other runners, reaching the state meet has not only become a viable goal, but one that could be punctuated with a high finish at the state level.
The program has become a regular in Columbus the past few years and the chance to add another chapter to that legacy is looking more and more probable as the postseason wears on.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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