By Kyle Shaner
VERSAILLES – Joe Spitzer hopes to finish his Versailles cross country career as one of the state’s fastest runners on Saturday at the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II state meet.
“This year my goal is probably to be second,” Spitzer said. “There’s Zach Kreft (from Delaware Buckeye Valley), he’s going to be there, and he’s probably the fastest in the country. Behind him there’s a kid from Lexington (Ryan Johnston) who was right in front of me at Tiffin so I feel pretty confident that I can beat him and get second at state.”
Kreft is the fastest cross country runner in Ohio history with a personal-best time of 14:29.95, which also is the fastest time among any high school runner in the nation this year.
“It’s a bit intimidating going up against someone like him,” Spitzer said. “Just got to do what you can, run you race, run the best you can.”
Spitzer ran against Kreft earlier this season at the Tiffin Carnival. Kreft won the individual championship while Spitzer finished third with Johnston in between them.
“Everything else has been nothing but winning for Joe,” Versailles cross country coach Mark Pleiman said.
At last year’s state championships, Spitzer beat Johnston, and he hopes to do so again on Saturday.
“I’m going to get out there and give it my all,” the Versailles senior said.
Spitzer has gained confidence from competing against the best runners in the state. He finished ninth overall at last year’s state cross country meet behind Kreft and seven runners who were seniors last year. More recently he finished third in the 3,200 meter run at the OHSAA state track and field meet.
“It’s definitely nice to get that experience running up there at the top,” the three-time state cross country qualifier said.
Spitzer has continued to get faster and has a personal-best time of 15:41.70, which is second fastest in Versailles cross country history behind two-time state champion Sam Prakel.
Pleiman would like to see Spitzer finish his high school career with a new personal-best time.
“You can’t control what everybody else does,” Pleiman said. “So we’d love to say he’s going to be on top of the podium, but I know there’s a couple of guys with some pretty good times that he’s going to be running against so I’d love to see him top three and standing on the podium once again.”
Whatever happens on Saturday, Spitzer already has proven to be one of the fastest runners around, which he displayed last week at the regional meet in Troy by briefly passing the utility vehicle that was supposed to lead the runners.
“Apparently I’m the only person at Versailles to ever pass the Gator,” he said.
Spitzer will run in the Division II state championship at 2:15 p.m. Saturday at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.