The East Canton cross country team completed their season in dominating fashion as the 2021 Division III State Champions, defending the title it won a year ago.
The Hornets used a strong third mile to hold off Mount Gilead and Ft. Loramie for the team title at Fortress Obetz.
“The challenge to repeat as state champions is one of the hardest things to do in sports,” stated Head Coach Lee Sternberg.
East Canton totaled 93 points for its the third state title in the past five years.
Mount Gilead finished second with 108, and Ft. Loramie was third with 109.
Coach Sternberg was a bit worried at the one and two-mile marks as the Hornets were announced in second place, more than 30 points behind Mount Gilead.
But in reality East Canton was actually leading by a slim margin at the two-mile marker.
It was learned after the race that Gabe Shilling’s chip was not registering, and therefore his placing was not included in East Canton’s team scores at the first two timing markers.
Heading into the final mile adversity hit as the Hornets found themselves down a runner.
Junior Andrew Wade, who was 55th at the 2-mile mark, was forced to drop out of the race.
“Andrew has been battling sickness for a couple of weeks, and was unable to finish the race,” noted Coach Sternberg. “As the team has the entire season, the other members stepped up and ran the best races of their lives.”
Senior Gabe Shilling finished a solid fourth with a time of 15:53.1, earning All-Ohio honors for the second time in his career.
The time was a personal best for Shilling, and the third fastest ever at East Canton.
Junior Brylan Holland and senior Braxton Ohman both ran their way to All-Ohio honors.
Holland finished ninth in 16:05.9, and Ohman was 23rd in 16:24.5.
“Brylan ran an incredible race and was the first underclassmen to finish the race with a lifetime best time,” commented Coach Sternberg. “Braxton ran maybe the most amazing race as anyone, improving from last year's finish by 50 places.
“This is the first time in the storied history of East Canton cross country that three runners from the same team achieved All-Ohio honors.”
Senior Landen Demos moved up seven spots over the final third of the race to finish 54th in 16:56.3.
“In true team-first mentality, and upholding the team’s mantra of nothing’s going to stop us, Landon heard at the 2-mile point that Andrew went down,” stated Coach Sternberg. “He knew he had to make up some places. He ran his fastest last 200 meters ever and finished with a lifetime best time.”
Junior Nathanael Martin rounded out the scoring for the Hornets, placing 78th in 17:10.5.
“Nathanael became the all-important fifth man as he too saw Andrew go down and knew he had to step up,” noted Coach Sterberg. “Step up he did as he finished with a personal best time.”
Sophomore Lucas McCauley was not far behind Martin, running a lifetime-best 17:16.3 to finish in 83rd place.
“We had a target on our backs all season, and to be able to perform when it mattered most and to repeat as state champions is such a great achievement,” commented Coach Sterberg. “We had so many supporters who came to cheer us on. It was just incredible to share this with them. Seeing and hearing from former runners, seeing community members and the administration, along with the unwavering support of the parents - we appreciate them all.”
This article originally appeared on The Alliance Review: Pacmen are back-to-back state champions!