By Rob Kiser
BRADFORD — The news of the state cross country meet being postponed a week due to wet conditions at National Trail Raceway may have not made some teams and runners happy, but the smile hasn’t left Bradford cross country coach Rob Grillot’s face since.
The Railroaders qualified for the D-III state meet for the first time, but were going to be without two of their top runners in Skipp and Austy Miller if it had been held last Saturday as scheduled.
With the race now being held this Saturday, Bradford is back to full strength.
“I think so (it gave the entire team a lift knowing Skipp and Austy Miller can run),” Grillot said. “Looking at things, I think we are shooting for somewhere around 10th (as a team).”
Both Skipp and Austy, who had a prior commitment last Saturday, are excited about the opportunity as well.
Skipp Miller, a sophomore, led the team at regionals with a sixth-place finish in 20:01.9.
“For sure,” Skipp said about being excited about running at state this week. “We had a week off though. We went to basketball practice last week because we didn’t think we were going to be running at state. I don’t know how that is going to affect us. I just want to run the best I can.”
Austy Miller, a freshman, who was 17th at regionals in 20:21.8 agreed.
“It is exciting,” she said. “I didn’t expected to be running at state this year until coach showed us the times early in the season. We ran there (at National Trail Raceway) in the preseason, but they have changed the course since then.”
Karmen Knepp, the only senior in the Bradford seven, finished 10th at state as a sophomore, but has been battling a health issue that has caused injuries ever since.
She finished ninth at the regional in 20:07.0.
“Because of the issues with my hip, I am just hoping to get under 20 minutes for the first time this season,” Knepp said.
As for the Miller’s running, Knepp can tell you exactly when she found out the Millers would be running.
“It was in sixth period at school last Thursday,” Knepp said. “When I saw them earlier (Skipp and Austy Miller), they were crying when they heard my interview on Fish Report. Then, when I saw them, they were crying again (because they were going to be able to run at state).”
Which means everything to Knepp.
“Records are nice, but they will get broken,” Knepp said. “But, we will always be the first team that qualified for state. That won’t change. It is going to be so much better than running over there by myself. Coach (Rob Grillot) even talked about it last year. Being able to get the team to state.”
Bradford’s other runners and their finishes at regional include sophomore Olivia Daugherty, 44, 21:52.9; junior Mercedes Smith, 67, 22:48.9; freshman Jenna Shellabarger, 79, 24:00.1; and freshman Alexis Barhorst, 84, 24:30.5.
And make no mistake, Knepp is the leader of the team.
“She helped us at regionals,” Skipp Miller said. “She was telling me when to push and about how the race would be and different parts of course. And I am sure she will do the same thing at state.”
And while temperatures are expected to be cold, that’s OK with the Railroaders.
“I think whoever handles it the best, those are the teams that are going to do well,” Grillot said.
And he is happy to have his full team there.
“I think having all seven runners changes things,” he said. “I don’t think (a week off) will affect Skipp (Miller) and Austy (Miller). They asked me for workouts over the weekend to get started again (to get ready for state). So, I don’t think they are going to have any problems getting ready.”
Tigers back at state
The Versailles girls team also will be running in the D-III girls race.
Despite not having a front runner, the Tigers have had another successful season.
“We don’t have a front runner,” Versailles coach Mark Pleiman said. “So, depth is really a key for us.”
Pleiman feels like Versailles can improve on its regional showing.
“These girls like to make things interesting,” he said with a laugh after that race.
Places and times at the regionals for Versailles runners included sophomore Maria Mangen, 18, 20:23.5; freshman Madelyn Holzapfel, 25, 20:52.3; senior Kara Spitzer, 31, 21:11.6; senior Liz Watren, 33, 21:20.0; freshman Delaney Barga, 50, 22:05.9; sophomore Lauren Menke, 58, 22:20.9; and junior Emma Peters, 74, 23:17.4.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.