Accomplishing a goal they set for themselves during team camp in the summer months, the Waverly Tigers completed their run at the Division II boys state cross country meet on Saturday afternoon at National Trail Raceway.

The Tigers faced a stiff field of competition in the event, but it was all about the experience for them. Ultimately, Woodridge ran away with the team title, finishing with 37 points with the top five runners on the team finishing fifth, sixth, seventh, 17th and 18th. A familiar competitor from southern Ohio, the Unioto Shermans, finished as the state runner-up in Division II, the highest placement for the team in school history. They ended with 115 points.

The individual Division II race winner was Caleb Brown of Shelby, who completed the course in 15:05.5. Defiance’s Mhalicki Bronson was the runner-up in 15:13.2.

For Waverly, senior Aidan Judd was the only Tiger who had experienced the state cross country meet, having qualified for the first time as a junior when he finished 90th in 17:48. It was a brutally cold day with horrible course conditions.

With the weather much better and his previous race experience, this year Judd ran the course nearly one minute quicker and moved up to 56th place, completing it in a time of 16:48.4. Freshman Mitch Green was close behind, finishing 64th in 16:52.6.

“The state meet went a lot better and smoother for me (this year). The conditions were so much better than last year. I knew that I had to get out a lot harder to not get swallowed in the crowd. I took it a mile at a time,” said Judd. “I had Mitch pulling me along. He got out a lot stronger than I did. I didn’t get him until the end. Mitch passed me at the mile mark. It could have been a lot different if I didn’t have him there to try and run with. For a freshman, Mitch really showed up big.”

Judd was 82nd after the mile mark, hitting it in 5:11.9. He moved up six places by the two-mile mark, running 76th in 10:46.9. At the 4,200-meter split, Judd had gained two more spots, moving to 74th in 14:18. He made up 18 spots in the final 800 meters.

Green was stuck in the pack during the first mile, running 94th in 5:13.5. He really took off in the second mile, gaining 27 spots to climb to 67th in 10:43.5. At the 4,200-meter split, Green had gained seven more spots, moving to 60th 14:12.36 before ultimately ending 64th.

For Judd, it was so much better to be there with teammates than the previous year when he was the lone Tiger.

“In the pre-race, it was like any other meet. I wasn’t on the starting line alone with just my thoughts. I had teammates to talk to and keep a normal routine with before the race, which helped a lot,” said Judd.

“It took last year for me to realize what it was like running with these types of runners. In an experience like this where it is a lot different than regular season races, even regionals, you have to learn to navigate through the runners. Everybody here is good. There’s nobody who isn’t. Everyone came here to run their best.”

The next Tiger to finish was sophomore Jack Monroe, who was 143rd in 17:55.3. Senior Philip Evory was 148th in 18:03.5, followed by junior Calob Ramirez, who was 163rd in 18:17.2 to complete the scoring. Sophomore Aidan Kelly (179th, 19:10.2) and junior A.J. Sibole (181st, 20:06.2) completed the results for Tigers.

“I didn’t have it today,” said Evory, who wasn’t satisfied with his finish, but was glad to have the opportunity to compete. “It was really special, especially since it has been 20 years for Waverly. It was nice seeing everyone at the finish line for the last race.”

Monroe will miss running with the senior class, including Judd, Evory and Spencer Fraley. It was expected that Fraley would be running all season long, but he was ruled out for the season after the conference meet with a leg injury.

“It was an amazing experience. It is very surreal to get to run with these guys. It is my last cross country race with my best friends of four or five years. It was really nice that I got to go with them in their senior year and run the race of my life with my best friends. We all ran well for as tough as the competition is,” said Monroe.

“The first person I saw when I crossed the line was Mitch. I looked at him and said, ‘I’ll be ready to go next year.’ Mitch and I are ready to get that podium and get all-state together. We have two more years together, so we are going to make it the best we can.”

Their coach, Linda McAllister, is thankful for what the senior class did, but she is also looking forward to the future.

“I think the state meet gave them a taste, and they are ready to come back and be stronger. My seniors have been tremendous leaders. They’ve led the pack and worked really hard,” said McAllister. “Mitch will probably be one of the top freshman in the whole field. He’s had some great role models. He is only going to get better. I’m proud of them. Now that we’ve made it, I think we’ll be back stronger than ever.”

It certainly has been a special year for this pack of Tigers.

“It was the best way I could imagine ending my high school cross country career,” said Judd. “I feel like this will carry over into track season — the energy that the team got from being here. I wanted to finish on the podium and All-Ohio, but I can’t complain after having the team there with me. I still feel like we ran strong.”

“They are the greatest group of guys I’ve ever met,” said Monroe. “I never knew we could have a team, best friends, and family all in one.”

Email at jbillings@newswatchman.com; follow on Twitter @ Julie_Billings

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