HEBRON — With his final high school state cross country meet nearing its end Saturday, Josh Hill figured he might as well go for broke.
So maybe he wasn’t going to win a state title. He knew he had to push himself as far as he could.
He didn’t disappoint.
The Amherst senior finished third out of 186 finishers in the Division I boys meet on Saturday at National Trail Raceway, rallying from fifth place with three-quarters of a mile left, He actually moved into second before Twinsburg senior Ryan Adkins outkicked him the final 50 meters.
Adkins clocked 15 minutes, 46.1 seconds with Hill right behind at 15:47.5. Neither were too far behind winner Conant Smith of Middletown, who pulled away in the last mile to take it in 15:43.4. Smith was runner-up last year.
“I would have never forgiven myself if I had gotten fifth place,” Hill said. “I knew I better push it to the best of my ability. I’m happy with my performance.
“I tried to pull away (from Adkins), but my legs went numb, my arms went numb and kind of accepted I was going to get third. I’m satisfied.”
Columbia junior Matt Pettegrew also earned All-Ohio honors, finishing 14th out of 181 runners in Division III in 16:59.1. He’s only the second Columbia boy to advance to state and the first to be All-Ohio.
“I’m excited,” Pettegrew said. “It (All-Ohio) means a lot to me. I missed qualifying to state last year by two places so today I wanted to make sure my effort was worth it.”
Hill defeated Warren Howland senior Vincent Mauri (15:57.8), who beat Hill by 13 seconds to win the Boardman regional on Oct. 27.
Adkins was 10 seconds behind Hill at Boardman for third place.
“The second two miles went as planned,” Hill said.
“The first mile I got trapped the first 800 meters. I was like in 50th place, (but) I slowly was able to work my way up. It was a little slow start but I came back.”
Hill’s finish is the best by a Lorain County Division I boys runner since Midview’s Charles Lange was third at the 1981 Class AAA meet.
He is the Amherst boys’ first two-time All-Ohio runner since Doug Drew (1976-77) and Jeff Wilhelm (1975-76). Hill was seventh at state last year and 26th as a sophomore and barely missed making All-Ohio (top 25) in 2016 by a mere 0.3 of a second.
The only Amherst boy to earn three All-Ohio honors was Peter Kummant (1972-74), the Class AAA state champ in 1973 and ’74.
“I’m going to rest,” Hill said of his immediate plans. “I’m not going to Foot Locker regionals in two weeks. I’m going to rest, then try to get the best training I can for indoor track and hopefully contend for a state championship in the 3,200 and hopefully contend for a national championship in the 5,000.”
Amherst boys coach Rob Glatz was understandably thrilled with Hill’s performance.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Glatz said. “It’s an excellent finish. He put himself right where he needed to be. He didn’t go out too hard at the start. He ran a very smart race. He put on a major move with a minute left in his race and gave it all he had. I know he emptied the tank. I couldn’t be more proud of his effort. Third place is incredible.”
The meet was delayed a week due heavy rains at the race site, marking the first time in the 90-year history of the meet that it was postponed. Poor course conditions forced two major course changes by tournament officials.
On Saturday, runners got to deal with temperatures that never rose above 30 degrees, making it the coldest state cross country meet in more than 30 years.
“I’m so proud of the obstacles he’s overcome,” Glatz said of Hill. “He overcame patellar tendinitis, a concussion suffered at the Midwest Meet of Champions and a staph infection in his leg. He bounced back from all those things and came out here with all these other obstacles here and dealt with it with incredible optimism. He came out here and laid his best effort on the course. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Ayersville junior Noah Fisher was the Division III boys winner in 16:14.4, beating out East Canton junior Demetrius Snellenberger (16:19.7).
“I was trying not to lose any ground with the group of guys I was running with,” Pettegrew said. “I think the footing was definitely the toughest part. It was pretty muddy and wet in some sections. I stumbled a couple of times but never fell.”
“I’m so excited,” Columbia coach Adam Bailey said. “Any time you can get anywhere in the top 20 you’re doing very good. He came down here and took care of business. It’s very, very cool. He did a good job. He put himself up around 10th and was pretty much there the entire time until the end. That was the plan to be up there and not get boxed in.”
It was a tough day the other two area runners, Columbia freshman Madeleine Finton and Vermilion sophomore Luke See. Finton was 71st out of 179 in the Division III girls race in 21:09.8, while See was 95th out of 178 in the Division II boys race in 17:51.8.
Kinsman Badger junior Miranda Stanhope won the Division III girls race, beating out defending champ Emma Watcke of Minster, 18:51.6 to 18:53.3. Lexington senior Ryan Johnston won the Division II boys race in 15:52.9.
“It wasn’t the best race, but it wasn’t one of the worst,” Finton said. “The initial pace was super fast. The air was a little heavy today. It was hard for me to breathe. There just came to a point where I kind of broke. That hasn’t happened ever. A lot of negative thoughts went through my head throughout the whole race. That’s not going to help you running. But I’m going to take this and work harder.”
“I couldn’t pass anyone,” See said. “Even when I hit the second mile you were packed into a position. Everyone went out fast. I didn’t expect everyone to be so bunched together. I thought there would be enough room to go by people but there wasn’t. But overall, I loved the experience. It was great. I’m going to try to come here next year.”