By Rob Kiser
Houston freshman Ava Knouff remembers watching her brother Ethan watch her run at the state cross country meet last year — now he will get to watch her.
Knouff, Houston senior Tristin Freistuhler, and the Bradford (see accompanying story) and Versailles girls all advanced to the D-III state meet at the Troy regional Saturday.
“I was in the eighth grade and I went over to watch my older brother (Ethan Knouff) run at state,” Ava Knouff said. “I was like I have to make it to state next year, because it will be so cool to run at state with him. Even though he didn’t make it, he still had a lot do with me making it to state and really helped me to get there.”
The top 16 individuals and top four teams advanced. Knouff finished 14th in a time of 20:11.9.
“I could hear everyone from Houston yelling at me during the race and telling me I was 15th,” Knouff said. “I was thinking, if someone passes me then I will be 16th, then what. I was really nervous about a couple runners coming up and passing me at the end.”
Knouff has one thought for the state meet.
“Have fun,” she said. “It is not that I don’t care how I do. I do care. But, I just want to make sure I enjoy the experience.”
For Freistuhler, it will be the final race of his high school career.
He finished 10th in 16:44.0, leading Houston to an eighth-place finish.
The Wildcats had advanced as a team last year.
“It is disappointing not to be going as a team,” Freistuhler said. “But, it is great to be going to state. It is the greatest race there is.”
Freistuhler ran around 10th place the entire race.
“The coaches tell us to be top 20 after the first mile and top 16 after the second mile,” Freistuhler said. “But, I just run better when I go all out at the start. I was counting runners the whole race. I felt really good coming into the race.”
And even better as the race neared the finish and he realized he was going to state.
“When we came up top for the second time, I knew I was locked in,” Freistuhler said. “I was just running all out from there. And I probably was running with a smile the whole time.”
Other Houston runners were Blake Jacobs, 31, 17:35.1; Ethan Knouff, 41, 17:50.4; Patrick Meiring, 63, 18:31.3; Ryan Ely, 79, 19:19.9; Brennen Arnold, 87, 19:53.9; and Joseph Earl, 96, 20:18.8.
Newton freshman Ben Hoover just missed qualifying for state, finishing 18th in 16:59.1; while Covington’s Bennett Welborn finished 35th in 17:45.0.
The Versailles girls grabbed the fourth and final spot in the D-III girls race.
And while Tigers coach Mark Pleiman know it wasn’t their best race, he sees the glass as at least half full.
“There are a lot of coaches that are a lot sadder than me right now,” Pleiman said. “Our girls seem to like to make things interesting. We don’t have that top runner, so our depth is definitely a key. We will get our five runners — and sometimes our sixth and seventh in before the other team’s fourth runner.
Versailles runners included Maria Mangen, 18, 20:23.5; Madelyn Holzapfel, 25, 20:52.3; Kara Spitzer, 31, 21:11.6; Liz Watren, 33, 21:20.0; Delaney Barga, 50, 22:05.9; Lauren Menke, 58, 22:20.9; and Emma Peters, 74, 23:17.4.
Russia finished eighth in the D-III girls race, while Covington finished ninth.
Russia runners included Ella Hoehne, 20, 20:40.1; Becca Seger, 30, 21:09.9; Claire Meyer, 40, 21:41.6; Anna Fiessinger, 46, 21:58.6; Emma DeLaet, 65, 22:39.0; Clare Caldwell, 77, 23:25.1; and Sarah Pinchot, 89, 29:51.4.
Covington runners included Paige Boehringer, 23, 20:46.6; Ashlyn Plessinger, 35, 21:26.7; Chelsea Ford, 47, 22:03.2; Alexis Meyer, 63, 22:30.1; Allie Garman, 64, 22:37.7; Hailie-Jo Taxis, 90, 21:51.4; and Yelena Weaver, 95, 33:20.4.
Miami East’s Kiley Davie finished 21st in 20:40.1; while Houston’s Hollie Voisard finished 32nd in 21:15.5.
Piqua freshman Cassie Schrubb capped an outstanding season, finishing 53rd in 19:56.7.
Versailles’ Brooks Blakeley was the lone runner, finishing 75th in 18:24.2.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.