By Josh Brown
WEST MILTON — A reigning state team champion on the boys side, as well as a host of returning and potential state runners in both the boys and girls races.
Yet the Miami County Championships cross country meet was a preparatory race in another way, too.
“With the weather, it definitely felt like running at the state meet, or the Midwest,” Troy’s Stephen Jones said. “Only at the Midwest meet, it’s snow.”
Cold temperatures and a frigid wind chill paired with a constant drizzle that at times turned heavier made for tough conditions Saturday morning at Milton-Union High School — but the first truly cold meet of the year mixed with top-notch competition also set the stage for solid times across the board at the County Meet, with Tippecanoe’s boys and girls sweeping the team titles, the Red Devils’ Mitchell Poynter winning the boys race and Troy’s Morgan Gigandet winning on the girls side.
“It reminded me of the postseason, definitely, as cold as it was. Stephen was smart wearing those long armsleeves,” Poynter said, drawing a chuckle from Jones and Newton’s Brady McBride — the top three finishers on the boys side.
Poynter won the race in a time of 15:40, Jones was second in 15:46 and McBride was third in 15:53.
McBride didn’t seem phased by the cold — he was too busy feeling great about his time.
“This is my first time ever going under 16 minutes,” he said, drawing congratulations from both Poynter and Jones. “It feels great. I knew it was a perfect opportunity to do it today, racing against these guys in these conditions.”
Poynter and Jones agreed.
“I was happy with today,” Poynter said. “I love racing against great competition like these guys.”
“It’s definitely good to be able to go out racing against guys I know,” Jones said. “And it was cool to watch Brady go under 16, too. Now my next goal is to go under the school record of 15:23. I went 15:32 at Centerville last week, so with good competition and good — better — weather, I think I can get there.”
Records were already falling on the girls side.
Troy’s Gigandet, who broke the school record last week, approached it again Saturday, going under 18 minutes for the third straight week and winning in a time of 17:57 — a Miami County Championships record.
“I don’t know. I just run and let time do its own thing,” she said about her recent record-breaking streak.
Last weekend, she ran against last year’s Division I and II individual state champs at the Centerville Night Lights meet — where she broke the Troy school record. Only a sophomore, she finished fourth, staying with the reigning champs all the way to the end.
“It just builds (confidence) more. I see what I can do against people that already are the champs,” Gigandet said. “It’s really cool to see that I can compete with them.”
Teammate and fellow sophomore Megan Myers was second in 19:01, her second recent runner-up finish. A few weeks ago, she was runner-up at the Troy Invitational, the first Trojan across the line.
“I feel a lot better about being second today. I knew Morgan would beat me,” Myers said. “It takes the pressure off a little. I know that I don’t have to be first. I still want to do well for the team, but Morgan is up there, too.”
And when asked about the conditions, the normally reserved Gigandet cut loose.
“It. Is. So. Cold. Oh my God,” Gigandet said. “I can’t feel my mouth or ears or arms or legs. I’m just numb all over. I mean, the colder weather helps. But it wasn’t this cold during practice this week. I mean, I’m here in shorts and a tank top. I’m freezing.”
“Honestly? To me, this temperature feels better than when it’s really hot,” Myers said. “But it is cold. I couldn’t feel anything while I was running. I just went numb.”
The team race on the girls’ side was a close one.
Miami East’s Lorenza Savini finished third (19:08) and Covington’s Carly Shell was fourth (19:11), but after that four Tippecanoe runners came in in a row.
Kaili Titley was fifth (19:17), Katie Taylor sixth (19:22), Laura Fink seventh (19:23) and Abbi Halsey eighth (19:23). Stephanie Fink finished 10th (19:29) to lead the Devils to the team victory with 36 points.
“I was a little disappointed that my first runner didn’t finish second behind Gigandet, but the girls ran well,” Tippecanoe coach Byron Kimmel said.
Troy finished second with 43 points. After Gigandet and Myers, Kate Pence was ninth (19:27), Emma Shigley — who was Troy’s No. 2 runner last year but has been out with an injury most of the season, running in her first varsity race on Saturday — was 12th (20:08) and freshman Olivia Tyre was 19th (20:43).
“Man, talk about coming out of nowhere. Olivia ran a great race today to come in fifth for us,” Troy girls coach Kevin Alexander said. “Morgan ran a solid race, and Tippecanoe just ran a great race to win. We’re just trying to get healthy right now.”
Covington was third with 76 points. After Shell, Paige Boehringer was 13th (20:12), Anna Dunn was 14th (20:13), Ashlyn Plessinger was 23rd (21:16 and Kelsey Dysinger was 26th (21:28).
Miami East was fourth with 86 points. After Savini, Marie Ewing was 15th (20:25), Lindsey Yingst was 16th (20:28), Emma DeWeese was 30th (21:49) and Kaitlyn Mack was 33rd (21:54).
The boys race wasn’t as close, as Tippecanoe ran away with it with 35 points. After Poynter, Jacob Stillwagon was seventh (16:45), Jordan Brown was eighth (16:46), Spencer Ranft was ninth (16:47) and Thomas Cheney was 10th (16:48).
“This is a very veteran group that’s focused on the postseason,” Kimmel said. “This is actually only the third time the varsity has run this year. I wouldn’t have done that with a younger group, but these guys can handle it.”
“This was only my third race, so it was pretty much a fitness test,” said Poynter, who finished third at state as an individual last season to lead the Devils to their first-ever state championship as a team. “I’m still not in that confident postseason form yet. My biggest goal is to win state individually and to qualify for the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships (by getting top 10 in the region). If I don’t win state, though, I still want to help my team win again. After we won last year, we feel like we need to this year.”
The host Milton-Union boys finished second as a team with 94 points. Will Brock was sixth overall (16:30), River Spicer was 13th (17:02), Liam Godin was 19th (17:43), Colton Graumen was 23rd (17:55) and Sam Motz was 48th (18:55).
Troy was third with 103 points. After Jones, Parker Hench was 20th (17:45), Pete Sheehan was 34th (18:25), Carter Hench was 37th (18:35) and Adam Falknor was 38th (18:36).
Miami East rounded out the top four with 116 points. Gavin Horne was 15th (17:18), Luke Mengos was 18th (17:41), Noah Shook was 24th (18:03), Justin DeWeese was 42nd (18:44), Taton Bertsch was 43rd (18:45) and Brandon Mack was 44th (18:49).
Covington’s boys were fifth with 147 points, led by Jared Ford (28th, 18:16), Conner Ryan (30th, 18:22) and Nathan Lyle (35th, 18:30).
Newton’s boys were sixth with 165 points, led by McBride and Ryan Mollette (17th, 17:37).
“Last year, I had a bad showing at state. I want to go there and have a great race this year,” McBride said.
Bethel was seventh with 171 points, led by Korry Hamlin (fifth, 16:18) and Coleman Clark (21st, 17:51). Piqua was eighth with 186 points, led by Andy Mayse (fourth, 16:16). Troy Christian was ninth with 200 points, led by Nick Pratt (29th, 18:19) and Isaac Flora (33rd, 18:25).
Rounding out the girls race, Milton-Union was fifth with 156 points, led by Megan Trittschuh (28th, 21:37), Lauren Meredith (40th, 22:15) and Kiley Jacobe (47th, 22:57).
Piqua was sixth with 191 points, led by Kenna Bell (51st, 23:08), Meredith Butt (52nd, 23:09) and Juliya Hsiang (53rd, 23:13).
Newton was seventh with 191 points, led by Macy Flanary (17th, 20:31). Bethel was eighth with 237 points, led by Kaitlyn Balkcom (64th, 24:00). Sophie Pitsenbarger led Troy Christian in 71st (24:22).
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.