COUNTDOWN TO THE 2019 State Meet
Fri, Oct 18, 2019



The State Championships

Yet another reason why this meet has been my favorite that my son has ever run... ever. At one time he was the champion at this race and had his “one shining moment” and still reflects on that moment even as he runs through high school.

- A coach/parent

Thank you for all of the wonderful memories created again this year!!! I love how you captured the memories....and of my son (who graced your podiums for 4 years) in the Unicorn Coaching outfit!!!! And a moment with my daughter and I, we were both a little disappointed in our races that day!!!! Thank you Ohio Cross Country!!!!!

- A parent


We have been coming to this event since it was in Groveport and I have to say you guys are getting better with age lol. I own my own company so I know how easy it is to get complacent but you just seem to make the state meet fresh and exciting for our kids year after year.

My wife says you guys have absolutely no idea how special and unique you are.

Thanks again Jim, see you in 2019 and every year after!

- A Coach


Thank you once again for another fantastic day. It's always so well run and such a spectacular event.

- A Coach

Coach Clay,

Thank you for organizing and pulling off a great day for the runners. We had a great experience today. We have seen some well organized and some unorganized meets, today was outstanding. Thank you for a well marked course, friendly packet pick up, fun music in the stadium and graphics on the scoreboard. We especially enjoyed the awards ceremony...simple, organized and well orchestrated.

I hope that you get to enjoy a bit of what's left or your Sunday or at least a smooth week ahead.

- A Parent

Thanks Jim -

We have traveled all over the US running and we all agree that nothing beats your race. It’s the highlight of our year each year. It’s awesome to have three of my kids running in it this year!

- A Parent

I would like to thank you and all the people who put on the meet Sunday. I have been involved with sports for 30 years, and I have never seen anything that nice for Elementary and MS athletes. Being from extreme Southern Ohio, there are very limited opportunities for my daughter to run. We travel to KY for most all of her races. It is easy to feel good about something when your kid wins, but I can honestly say this has been the highlight of my entire athletic experience. I will encourage any athlete who is serious about running to attend future events. The preparation of the course, the encouraging signs, and the awards ceremony was the best I ever witnessed. It is refreshing to know that a person, or group put this kind of effort in to making something that special for kids.

On a personal note, this meet was a God sent blessing to my family. My family spent the summer getting my wife through breast cancer surgery at the age of 37. My kids were unable to do several of their normal activities. Although doctors have all told my wife she is going to be 100% fine, she still fears she may not get to see her children grow up. On Sunday she watched our daughter win a State Championship. You provided that opportunity.

Thank You

- A Parent

Congratulations on a very well run state meet yesterday. The weather you ordered turned out really nice too. Ha ha. I want to thank you for moving up the awards ceremony for the Division 3 races. We were home a lot earlier than previous years. And our kids had a blast.

I’m a firm believer that our High School program is doing better because we took our kids to your meet. It really helped with recruiting more kids to run. My wife told me when we started going a few years back, we had like 7 kids and 4 parents. Yesterday we had 27 kids including some 5th and 6th grade all- stars and over 30 parents!!! You are keeping our future bright Jim!!!!

See ya next year Coach.

- A Parent - 2017

Coach Clay,
Not sure you remember me but I emailed you two year’s ago about your event? I was the one who had been attending the OHSAA middle school event but decided to try yours. My teams and I were there yesterday and I can tell you that you have made a fan for life. Your attention to the smallest details and going above and beyond to make it a special day for all runners just sets you and your staff apart from the rest.

The OHSAA meet is ok but you sir are GREAT! I have been at this a long time and my coaching days are coming to a close, But I can promise you that as long as I am involved you can count on us at your event!

Thanks Jim, See you in 2018 Lord Willing

- A Coach - 2017

Coach Clay,
I just wanted to write and tell you what a great meet you run. Our boys came in first in the Division II race and I was glad to see that all the runners got medals. As a parent of a slower runner it was great to see that he was rewarded for all his hard work this year along with his faster team mates. Keep up the good work.

-A Parent

Mr. Clay,
Just wanted you to know how much our kids and their parents loved your event at Hilliard Bradley on Sunday. Reading thru the comments on your site I saw where one coach referred to your meet as magical and we could not agree more! Our kids said it was the most fun meet they have ever been to. I cannot compliment you and your staff enough for the great show you put on, thanks and see you in 2017.

-A Coach

Coach Clay,
Thank you for another great state meet. A change of venue did not in any way effect the quality of the meet. The course was outstanding, very challenging but very fan and coach friendly. We were lucky enough to take home 2 trophies and our kids enjoyed the ceremony. I look forward to returning next year.

-A Coach

Thank you Ohio cross country for an exceptional event celebrating runners across Ohio! It was very well run at a great venue.

-A Parent

Mr. Clay my hat is off to you sir, my boys and girls teams attended your event Sunday for the first time and all I can say is WOW! I have coached Cross Country for 31 years and thought I had seen it all, but your event takes the cake. We had attended the OHSAA Middle school event the last two years but a friend encouraged me to give you a try and I can tell you it won’t be our last time! Watching my kids get on that podium in front of a packed stadium full of people was an awesome experience. You and your staff are doing incredible things for the sport of cross country, keep up the good work guys, this old coach appreciates you!

-A Coach

It was so nice to meet you, Mr. Clay.  What an amazing experience today was for my girls' team and boys.  They had fun, ran their best, and were rewarded.  Fantastic Job with everything!

-A Coach

Thanks to you and all the people that help pull off such a fun day for Middle School cross country runners. We at Village Academy always look forward to coming out and having a great day.  We had a great day today and had our first ever medal winner at the meet. This was for one of our girls!! We have come a long way in three years.

-A Coach

Thanks for a great experience for runners at the state meet today.  I had a team of 16 boys running in the Division I Gold race.  They all had a great time and enjoyed the day.

-A Coach

1st and 2nd place Boys Silver race!! Great job Braden and Mason!!! So nice to meet your family and the Lakota cross country team. Thank you MSAA and Ohio Cross Country for yet another amazing race!!!!!

-A Parent

Thanks Jim! The kids all had a great time! What a great event! Thank you for putting on such a wonderful meet and taking care of us every year!

-A Coach

Thank you for organizing this top notch program! Kudos to everyone for your hard work and dedication to these kids and cross country in general. You once again put on a flawless state meet!

-A Parent

Thank you again for hosting a great meet. I was surprised to see that all the girls got a medal and not just the top 7. I was hoping that it wasn’t a mistake and that you wouldn’t run out for the DI team members. That was a very nice touch. Our mid/back of the pack kids never get hardware and they were thrilled to have a medal. They kept looking at them during dinner and I wouldn’t be surprised if they slept with them. Great meet and we are looking forward to 2016.

-A Coach

Thanks so much Jim. The boys had such an amazing time Sunday. Great way to finish the season.

-A Coach

Hi Jim, I wanted to thank you for the meet. We had a great time and our 6th grade and under boys and girls had the experience of a lifetime winning the state title. The awards ceremony and trophies were first rate. They will keep that memory for the rest of their lives.

-A Coach

I just want to thank you for the wonderful weekend that my family had this year. My son really enjoyed the event and I couldn't say enough of how well everyone treated us. Everyone working the event was very helpful. The people at registration were exceptionally great. We showed up to preregistration a few minutes late due to missing a turn and they still were friendly with us and went to get my son's packet. The officials were kind before the event and answered all of our questions. The individuals who marked the course did an excellent job and the conditions were great even though it rained the previous evening. The people handling the parking were friendly as well as at the concession stand and t-shirt stand. This was our first time there and I was really impressed with how smooth everything ran and the facilities. You have done a fine job of organizing the event. Everyone in my family enjoyed our time at the waterpark and Noah ran a personal best finishing 3rd in the Div III Gold event so that absolutely put the icing on the cake of our weekend. We look forward to coming back next year so he can run again.

-A Parent

Coach Clay, I haven't had the chance to tell you what a stellar time we had in Grovesport again this year. The Riverside Middle school XC team loves coming to your meet. It is the best way to cap off our season and the runners are always excited to get their best PR. To quote one of our coaches Monique Farenchak. It is MAGICAL! Thanks for all you do to foster a love for running. See you next year!

-A Coach

Thank you. I figured his running would do the talking. Our goal was sub 10 and meet record. One out of two isn't bad. I'm mad my 2 and 3 runners couldn't go, my fourth guy went 1136. Oh well. I was looking up prakel, Chris is in great company and yes I was there. Here are some pics. Thank you for a great experience. Everything was above first class.

-A Coach

Thanks for an absolutely amazing time! My girls team won the silver division and the boys did well too. I had 3 kids on the podium and 9/13 runners had a PR. The course was so beautiful and I am already counting down the days until xc season begins again. Could not have asked for a better ending to our season!!! Thanks so much!

-A Coach

We wanted to let you know how impressed we were with the MSAA race today! My daughter won the D1 race today and was the fastest girl in Ohio! She had so much fun! The races were so well run! On Saturday she won her section at the OHSAA race in Reynoldsburg with the fastest time in all the girls races. There were no chips, no announcements, and you couldn't even tell awards were going on! She ran Sat because that is where her coaches decided to run but also wanted to run the fun meet, the MSAA! Thank you for making it memorable for her and all the other kids.

-A Parent

Thanks I appreciate your help!!! Our kids are so excited. They have never ran a two mile course and have only been running 5Ks all season. We are excited to see what they are capable of doing. You always put on such a great event. Looking forward to a positive event.

Thanks again,

Dear Coach Clay,
On behalf of Josh's Parents and Family we would like to thank you for the opportunity that you gave Josh to compete in your meet on Sunday. We are sorry for any confusion that it may have caused. Josh is very grateful for the privilege of competing against all of the kids In the meet. All of your staff were very informative, courteous and kind. It was an excellent meet. Thank you again for allowing us to compete. You are doing an Amazing job for the sport of Cross Country and ALL of our kids. Keep up the good work.

-A Coach

Coach Clay,
The boys are so excited to be participating in the middle school state championships again this year. We will not be driving in until Sunday morning. Should I pick up the packet at the hotel or at the event? I truly appreciate your time and efforts.

-A Coach

Coach Clay,
We are excited to come and support your long standing, experienced event. I have only heard great things.

-A Coach

All my returning runners have talked about this year is coming back to your meet. Class meet / great hosts and fun for everyone. Including our runners last year we brought 51 people to the meet. The local police blocked roads for 2 miles and gave the kids a police escort to the freeway. This is definitely a special weekend for the kids !! You run a fantastic meet and we will continue to support it as long as I am coaching.

-A Coach

Coach Clay~

I wanted to comment on how wonderful your meet was ran. It is a beautiful course and the weather was perfect. Everyone did a fabulous job. Dylan had a great time and he got a PR! We look forward to next year!!! Please keep me on your email list if you offer or know of any other meets.

Thank you!

-A Parent

Great race! Glad we stumbled on to it. My boys had a wonderful time.

-A Parent

Jim, what a fantastic meet, as always. We really enjoy the meet and look forward to being there again next year. Thanks so much.

-A Parent


I will try my best to keep this relatively short but I want to do my best to tell you what an outstanding event you organized from start to finish.


The parking arrangements
The venue
The concessions
The area for Teams
The officials
The course
The atmosphere
The awards
The Competition

I ran competitively back in the glory days (College Runner 92 Era) and I seriously cannot recall anything more organized and fun since leaving the running scene.

I am just now trying to reacquaint myself with running since my daughter caught the bug recently and was excited to see that events like this are available for youths. I am coming back next year with my daughter Sydney, and I will promote this event the best I can locally.

All my respect,

-A Parent

Coach Clay,

Yesterday was a great experience for all of us; runners and their families. Thank you for your work on this event. Parents of Bexley Middle School students worked together to bring six runners. All the kids enjoyed the day and the event was well organized, which I greatly appreciated since we entered as individuals.

Thanks again,

-A Parent

I just wanted to tell you how pleased we were with the race and how organized it was. I wish all running events could be handled in such a manner.

-A Parent

Coach Clay,

Thank you again for making the accommodation for me and my son. The day went very well and all the volunteers that I encountered were outstanding. It is a wonderful event. Thank you so much for organizing and managing this event. It certainly promotes all that is great about cross country.

-A Parent


Great day for cross country. My first experience with this meet. I hope to add it to our meet schedule in 2013 and bring full teams. May I enter a D2 Silver team and a D2 Gold team??

Thank you for all your efforts and those you worked with as well as the host Groveport Madison. Terrific opportunity for Ohio middle schoolers.

-A Coach

Coach Clay,

I wanted to thank you and everyone involved in the meet today. We (parents, runners, and coaches from Martins Ferry Middle School) found your race to be organized and enjoyed by all! Thank you again for a wonderful day!!! Keep up the great work!

-A Parent

From top to bottom the Ohio Middle School XC Championships brought great races to the fans and a ton of fun for the kids. The state of Ohio is truly lucky to have motivated and dedicated organizers who have an interest in developing the sport and promoting the improvement of their distance runners. You never know if and which one of these young faces might be that of a national champion someday.

-Youth 1 Internet Magazine

Thanks. Awesome job, Coach. Seriously! I organized ran my JH's first home CC meet this year with only 9 teams. The amount of planning for it was mind boggling to me. Not sure what I would do if I had to organize your event....kudos to you and your staff.

-A Coach

Coach Clay, great event this past weekend. For not having our #1 runner this past weekend, the Wadsworth Striders did a good job in the Div 1 boys race. Our 6 girls and 11 boys had a positive experience and gave them some insight as to what other CC runners are doing across the state not just NE Ohio.

-A Coach

Thanks for all your hard work and making it very enjoyable, all the girls and boys had a great time! Sincerely,

Chris Koehler

Coach Clay Thanks for everything you are doing and we appreciate everything you are doing on your end. We think having a Middle School State Championship Is Great. And we hope its the biggest turn out ever. I will be looking at the site to see the final number of runners to attend. And photos.


Jim Did you achieve your goal of getting that high number of teams? Hope so. Your positive spirit for our sport and for the kids is so obvious. Thanks for putting on this event. All the best

Carl Anderson
Cincinnati Oak Hill

Coach Clay, Please accept a belated but heartfelt thanks from all of Notre Dame Elementary. It was my first time at your meet, and we were truly impressed by the obvious work, enthusiasm, and love for the sport evident in the course prep, inspirational signs/music, and the organization of such a huge event. We very much appreciated your reserving a meeting room for the girls to unwind in the night before the race. The team did pretty well against some much bigger schools, and even my youngest "noncompetitive" Jackie got her 10 secs of fame when the medals for the 6th grade and under race extended to 15 th place (she placed 13th and was so bummed she had "just missed" a medal). Her surprise and smile were priceless!! I already have next Oct 23rd marked on our calendar. And if ever you need volunteers for spotters, etc. feel free to ask. Thank you again,

Wendy Clinger

Coach Clay, First of all I would like to thank you for the opportunity that my daughter and her CC team had last weekend at the Ohio Middle School Championships. We truly enjoyed ourselves and look forward to coming back next year.

-A Parent

Hello Jim I wanted to thank you as a parent of a first time runner at MSAA. It was a wonderful and well organized event. We appreciate the efforts everyone made to make this event happen.

-A Parent

Coach Clay,

I just wanted to let you know that our daughter had a wonderful time at the meet this weekend. She took 6th in the 7th grade Silver. The course was beautiful with the fall leaves, as well as both runner and spectator friendly.Everyone was friendly and sign in went smoothly. And of course the weather couldn't have been more perfect. Was a little disappointed that the place the runner got wasn't engraved on the back of the medals. But in all it was a great experience. We can't wait until next year.

-A Parent

Coach Clay~ What a wonderful event you and your staff put on. My son, Alexander, remarked how well the course was marked and appreciated the use of a lead and chase vehicle. The venue at Groveport was very spectator friendly, making it easy to view much of the race from start to finish. All of the kids from St. Sebastian ran their PR's for the year and Alexander even medaled. What a memorable experience for all of us. Keep up the GREAT work!

-A Parent

Coach Clay,

Just wanted to thank you for a great day and wonderful event. Congratulations to you and the staff for a great day. Looking forward to next year

-A Parent

Hi Coach Clay. My daughter finished 9th in the 7th grade silver race... She had a great time and as a spectator i was very impressed, very well organized and clean. Great job. Good luck on the many more to come...Thanks again and by the way I submitted pics and a article to our local paper

-A Parent from London, Ohio

Coach Clay,

As a parent and a fan, I want to thank-you for a well-run meet today. My son's coach recommended this to our middle school team, and I'm glad we were able to register him and two of his teammates, a great experience for them to compete against many of the best runners in the state. My son achieved his best time today, and I'm glad he had this final opportunity to do so.

The staff today were excellent, the registration was easy, and it was great to see so many competitors and fans today. We enjoyed the way the course was laid out, so that we could see a great deal of the race from the bleachers. Even the PA announcer was top-notch - I understand he's a student, but he sounded very professional and classy.

Great job!

-A Parent

"Oh I wanted to say, what a great race you guys put on, it was very well organized and was lots of fun for the kids thanks"

-A Parent

Troy Schultz - an eighth grader at Troy Junior High School - won the middle school state title in cross country Sunday, posting a time of 10:24 to break his own school record by two seconds at Groveport Madison. The junior high race is a two-mile race, while the high school race is a 3.1 mile race, or a 5K. "I was just hoping I could go out and run a good time," Schultz said in a phone interview with the Troy Daily News. "This was the best competition I faced this year. I knew one other kid (J.T. MacKay from Northmont) and I tried to stay with him. I like to kick in the last 300 meters and I was able to win. There was a spot of confusion in the end as Schultz crossed the finish line first, but three other competitors collided at the line. Schultz is looking forward to his days ahead in the high school ranks. "I am looking forward to the challenge next year," Schultz said. "I know I am going to be a freshman and the competition is going to be tougher, but I am looking forward to it." And even though this has been the best competition Schultz has faced this season, he has been part of plenty of big races throughout his still young career.

"I have run in Iowa and Michigan for track and Alabama, Washington, West Virginia and Rhode Island for cross country and those were pretty big," Schultz said. I thought that the location was great! Course was very spectator friendly! I thought that the breakdowns and competition were GREAT! My son ran the race of his life: Josh Irvin - 7th grade Silver and finished 7th - he set his PR that day! That said - I was VERY disappointed that his medal did not have the engraving on the back to state his place and the year. I have ordered trophies in the past, and it's my experience that the engraving is included. That said, my son is still very proud of his accomplishment that day! I have no opinion about the team race - because I feel that our school would not enter as a team. I thought that the breakdowns were great and I love that the 7th and 8th graders competed seperately. That is just my opinion though. My son as a 7th grader could never compete with the pace set by the 8th graders. Overall - what a wonderful experience! Thank you for providing these kids this opportunity! Just work on getting the medals engraved!

-A Parent

I know that kids from Fremont really enjoyed the experience from the fastest runner to the slowest it was a day I am sure they will never forget. Maybe the teams that were there should be spreading the positives, so the meet will be what it should be in years to come. The sad thing to me is that more teams didn't sign up to enjoy the experience. We need to figure out why more teams didn't sign up- the teams that were there are awesome teams because they make cross country important and are passionate about the sport.

When you bring great teams and runners together awesome things can happen and that's what took place all day Sunday. I am sure a lot of people look at the results and say that course must be so easy but I think the major factor was the overall numbers of great runners at the meet. I would like to thank everyone that was a part of this event and keep up the good work!

-A Fan

Very positive experience for our daughter. Big confidence boost to carry us into her high school cross county experience. Thanks for holding such a beneficial event.

-A Parent

You and your volunteers did a wonderful job. You just can not make everyone happy. My daughter Carissa and her teammate William had so much fun and really gave it their all for this meet. I would recommand this meet to anyone for next year.

Thank You so much for everything you did.

Jessica Jenkins-Dailey

Thanks for a great meet. Sarah said this was her favorite meet this year, even better than Tiffin Carnival, and we all look forward to next year. She loved the fast course, knocked 57 sec. off her PR! Very impressed with the quality of runners. The host hotel was great.

A Parent

"Awesome event today! We were there for our daughter, Jordan, (10th place 7th grade gold) and to cheer on two other Boardman runners in the 8th grade gold boys race. This is our second year coming down to Columbus for this and we plan on being back next year (hopefully with more runners).

We took advantage of the host hotel and enjoyed our time there, too. Thank you!"

A Parent


"I cannot thank you enough. Again, the event was great. We really liked this location - nice course, easy to get to, close to restaurants/hotels. Do you think the meet will be there next year?

Thank you, again!!"

A Parent

"Maybe I am not seeing things the same because my child was not in a team race but I was there to watch quite a few but I thought it was nicely done. We just did not have enough kids to make a team.

The registration was easy online, checking in and getting the numbers was easy and fast enough. The stadium area was very nice for a cross country race.

We were there to get DD and another friend to compete against the best of the best in middle school and to prepare them what high school might be like. We were going to have my DD sit out because she was not well with her chest cold but once we were there at the stadium there was no way of stopping her when she saw the going ons."

A Parent

"There was a total of 18 athletes from Beavercreek that came to this meet. The water park was a blast for the kids Saturday, they stayed up late that night in the hotel and were really able to build the team cohesion that they will need in High School. I have not heard one athlete say one word about the race, or how the race was set up. Only how much fun it was. Its Middle School, who cares who is the 'fastest' or best team..just have fun!!!

We had a blast and will be there next year with a less talented team and probably will lose. But we will lose with dignity."

Creek Fan

My son is now a freshman in High School. Thank you for all your great work on the Middle School Cross Country State Championships. My son ran in the Championships the past several years and they were a FABULOUS experience and one that make him a far stronger high school runner this year.

Thanks again,

Julie Steible

Sorry I didn't get to meet you at the meet, but I wanted to thank you and your staff for making it a wonderful experience for my runners and I. They had a great time and made memories that will last a lifetime. Thank you again for putting on this event! We will be back next year!

Greg DeRodes

Good Morning!

Just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed the day in Dublin yesterday. The meet was well-organized, the facilities terrific, and weather ideal. My daughter enjoyed the race and said how nice all the girls in her event were. It is great that kids from all over the state can get together and demonstrate good sportsmanship and camaraderie.

Thanks for all your hard work -- it was a great experience!

Joan Kaatz

Coach Clay

Nice job on today's meet! Hopefully it will continue for future middle school athletes.

Marisa enjoyed the day even though she said she didn't run her best. She got boxed in at the beginning and finished 9th. A great experience overall.

Thanks again to you and others for providing this experience for Marisa.


Mick Papp

Coach Clay----- Thank you!!!!-- I am Paulette Thomas and I had the little 5th grader , Grace, from St Brigid at the meet Yesterday( we talked via e-mail in Sept). I am writing to tell you how much our family enjoyed the event----- it was soooooo well run , everyone was GREAT to my daughter and helpful, as this was her first experience------ Kudos !!!!!to you and your Staff----please make sure they all know what a great job they did!!!! Grace can't wait to do some more, next time she may even know what to do!!!! She placed 11th with a 16:07 and was so excited to get a medal( you know 10 year olds still like the medal thing!!!!)--- I am going to try and get St Brigid to start a Cross Country team next fall!!!!!--- I will continue to check the web-site to school myself in this sport!!!! If you have any suggestions-- I could sure use them!!!!

Paulette Thomas and Grace

Again a great event. We enjoyed and appreciated the chance to run against competition from around the state. Everyone I was around on Sunday I believed felt the same. Good job and thanks for your time meet directors.


On a side note, I've heard complaints on the length of the course, but Abby enjoyed the race and knows that courses vary in difficulty along with other factors. I'm a track and cross country coach, and I enjoyed going to the meet also. You guys did a great job, and I hope you keep it going.

Bob Masters

The meet was fantastic, very well organized and pleasant hosts. I know the kids enjoyed the day with friendly competitors and especially, the fun music which lead to some interesting and creative dance moves between races and on the staring line. Carly had so much fun, we stayed to cheer on her friends in 8th grade. She just started running in August and already looks forward to next year. Thanks for a great day.

Holly and Carly Croyle

By SEAN GOLDEN - Sports Writer - November 10, 2008

Buzz up! BALTIMORE - Brandon Altiers had a plan, but as it turned out all he needed was his speed and endurance.

The seventh-grader at Liberty Union Middle School capped off his first-ever season of cross country by winning the seventh-grade race at the Ohio Middle School Cross Country State Championships at Dublin Coffman on Oct. 26.

"It was pretty cool, just to be out there in front of all the fastest kids in the state," Brandon said.

Altiers helped Liberty Union Middle School win a Mid-State League Cardinal title this season, finishing at or near the top in every race he ran.

The competition that Brandon faced - 76 seventh-graders from around the state - was unfamiliar, but the uneasiness that came with facing a new field didn't last long.

"That made it harder because I didn't know who was running up against me," Brandon said. "Me and another runner were in the lead pretty much the whole time, and I just started pulling away from him."

The 12-year old hoped to figure out where he stood by the midway point of the 3,200 meter race. The strategy was a bit simpler once he took the lead.

"You just have to kind of pace yourself, and if you hear the kid behind you know you've gotta go harder," Brandon said.

Brandon had never run cross country before this season, but it quickly became apparent that he had a knack for withstanding the grind competitors face in every race.

"By the end of the first week of practice, I knew he was going to be a really positive asset to the team," Lions coach Renee Mangette said. "His mental mindset is what has made him so good."

On Sept. 24, Brandon placed second behind teammate Jeff Hanson at the MSL-Cardinal junior high meet. After that impressive finish, discussion began with Mangette about entering the state championships.

Brandon put in two weeks of training with Liberty Union's high school cross country team before competing at Dublin Coffman.

The training worked, as Brandon defeated the race's second-place finisher by nine seconds.

"I knew by the mile mark that he was going to win," Mangette said. "I was just so happy for Brandon and his family, because I know he worked hard for it and he deserved it."

Matt and Brandon's mother, Lori, followed Brandon from various points on the course during the race. Matt was on the backstretch to let Brandon know if anyone was closing in on his lead.

"It was a neat experience," Matt said. "It was emotional. It makes you feel good that your kid does well at something and to see them happy is just wonderful."

Brandon also played soccer this fall for the U-13 Lancaster Select Wildcats, who were 2008 Mid-Ohio Select Soccer League regular season champions.

Matt said that, along with his team training for Liberty Union, the extra workouts he got for the Wildcats helped turn Brandon into a tough runner.

"Brandon's the type of kid that wants to perform at the top of his ability in every game," Wildcats coach Tim Galecki said. "Every time he steps out on the field it's 100 percent, nothing is left in reserve when it's over."

Brandon said that he plans on sticking with cross country for his eighth-grade year, and also trying out the sport at the high school level at Liberty Union.

"He holds nothing back," Galecki said. "I don't think this will be his last state championship."

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