Parkway's Matt Gaerke and Kyle Roth run during the regionals at Tiffin. (DHI Media/Pat Agler)
Parkway's Matt Gaerke and Kyle Roth run during the regionals at Tiffin. (DHI Media/Pat Agler)
The runners are set as the 2017 OHSAA Cross Country State Championships takes place on Saturday at National Trail Raceway. The area will have three representatives competing individually from Division III: Crestview sophomore Ragen Harting, and Parkway sophomore Kyle Roth and junior Matt Gaerke. All of which will be competing for the first time individually in the state meet.

“This is my first year individually qualifying,” Roth said. “Last year, we went as a team, so it won’t be my first run through. However, I don’t think State is as stressful as Regionals because you know going into Regionals that there’s still one more race after that, and it’s almost life or death. So, when you live to fight another day, State is just a place for you to go and have fun.”

“It feels great,” Gaerke said. “I really wish that our team would have been able to make it because it was such a fun atmosphere last year, but it’s still nice going, and to have a teammate going with me makes it less lonely opposed to having to go and just run by yourself.”

“I’m nervous and a little bit anxious,” Harting said. “I’m just ready to run on Saturday.”

The atmosphere around the runners at this point is electric. The excitement revolving around the final race is evident, yet they’re staying composed as with the end of the season in sight.

“I’m hoping to at least accomplish the same time as I did at Regionals, 20:17, or better.” Harting said.

“With it being a State meet, and having so much competition, usually the times are really fast,” Gaerke said. “By chance, usually the weather is nice. I’m just hoping to run a good time and finish the season on a good note.”

“Top 75 or top 65,” Roth said, in regard to his goal at the State Tournament.

There’s no denying the amount of work these runners have put into preparation throughout the season and prior. Combined with conditioning, practices, and meets, these runners have accumulated enough miles to trek coast to coast.

“Usually, Mondays are our long, hard days,” Roth said. “Usually 10 miles, but we’ve been cutting it down now. Tuesdays and Thursdays are sprints. Wednesdays are recovery days, and Fridays are easy days. Usually, we cover about 50 miles throughout the week, but as the season has wound down we’ve cut down to about thirty or forty.”

“We started doing conditioning runs back at the beginning of July,” Gaerke said. “In the summer, we just covered a lot of miles, about 65 miles a week to build up our base. We’ve been trying to cut back lately to keep our legs fresh for these last final meets.”

“Coach Bagley has set-up great workouts for us,” Hartings said. “All throughout the season and even last year, it’s kept progressing and made me and our team better.”

As the season comes to its conclusion, Parkway cross country coach Ann Vian and Crestview cross country coach Jeff Bagley have seen a lot of development within their runners. The goal continues to be run well and get better.

“It’s awesome to have Kyle and Matt running at State,” Coach Vian said. “I’d love to see them up on the podium when it’s all said and done. Top eight or Top 16, it’s high expectations, but I’ll take it. They made so much improvement. Kyle and Matt have both gotten better every year, and they’ve worked so hard; they basically run themselves.”

“Last year, Ragen had a nice year and continued getting better,” Coach Bagley said. “She continued doing the same thing this year. She actually ranks sixth on our all-time best times list. You’re always thankful for the opportunity to have one more week to train, and I would just expect to see her get a little bit better, a little bit faster.”