Sunday, November 07, 1999

LaSalle's Padgett runs to glory

St. Xavier team second in state cross country

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COLUMBUS — The trap was set but La Salle senior Steve Padgett refused to bite.

        “I wanted to play it smart and run my race,” Padgett said. “The first mile was too fast. They went out in 4:35 the first mile. Last week at the regional, the first mile went in 4:55.”

        Laying off the pace early, Padgett came on strong at the end to capture the Division I state cross country championship in 15:19.9. He joined Doug Bockenstette (1993) as La Salle's only cross country champions.

        In the team race, Brunswick won the state championship (87 points) with 1998 champion St. Xavier a distance second with 125 points.

        Also in Division I, La Salle took fourth, Elder eighth and Moeller 10th. They were the only teams from Cincinnati qualifying to state.

        Andy Smith, the third-place finisher, set the furious pace in the Division I race with Jerry Claunch from Lakota East matching the Hudson senior stride-for-stride. It wasn't until the two-mile mark that Padgett made a move.

        “When he (Smith) started looking back to see where I was, I knew it was over,” Padgett said. “When we got outside the track, I made a move. I started sprinting at the two-and-one half mile mark.”

        Coming back into the stadium with about 400 meters remaining, Padgett had a comfortable lead and Niles McKinley's Chris Acs' bold move fell less than seven seconds short.

        Padgett admitted that winning was a lot tougher than he expected.

        “Nobody has challenged me most of the season,” Padgett said. “Those two guys behind me were tough and my hat's off to them.”

        Last year, Padgett finished third. He was 10th as a sophomore.

        “The whole atmosphere up here can make you lose focus,” Padgett said. “I was able to channel everything out and run my race. I think some of the other runners lost focus and that's why the pace was so fast in the beginning.”

        Padgett and coach Frank Russo discussed strategy before the race.

        “We knew it would be aggressive early,” Russo said. “I told Steve to be patient the first mile but not to let any of the contenders get away and put too much real estate between him.”

        This past week, Russo cut back on training for the runners.

        “My legs felt fresh and I had a lot of spring,” Padgett said.

        Padgett was congratulated by Michigan State coach Jim Stinzi after the race. Padgett will sign with the Spartans this week.

        Padgett is Cincinnati's third Division I state champion in the past five years. Brian Godsey from Lakota East won last year with Harrison's Ernie Ziegler taking first place in 1996.

        St. Xavier coach Larry Merkel was happy with the second- place finish.

        “It's nice to be champions but I'll take second,” Merkel said. “Brunswick is a heck of a team and there's nothing we could have done to beat them today.”

        Andy Weitmarschen, the Bombers' top finisher in 11th, was already looking to next year.

        “I tasted what it's like to be a champion last year,” Weitmarschen said. “I'd like to taste it again next year and before I graduate.”

        St. X returns its top three runners, Weitmarschen, Tim King (34) and Ryan Busse (35).

- LaSalle's Padgett runs to glory
Ohio boys cross country results
Colerain team, Anderson's Homan run to state titles
Ohio girls cross country results

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