Minster Goes Back-to-Back, Watcke Divison III Champ

Staff Writer

The rest of Division III again didn’t stand a chance.

The Minster girls cross country team, led by the individual state champion Emma Watcke and five of the top 22 runners in the field, set a new Division III points record and won its second straight state championship on Saturday at National Trail Raceway.

Minster scored 34 points — four points better than last year’s record-setting  performance. The record-setting point total was 97 points better than second-place Mount Gilead. McDonald took third and Minster’s neighbor Fort Loramie took fourth with 174 points.

“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Minster senior Cassie Francis said. “It’s humbling. To do it with your best friends, it’s a lot of fun.”

The title is Minster’s  11th state championship, adding to legacy that includes being the only cross country program in Ohio (boys or girls) to win more than nine state championships.

Watcke won the individual state championship with a 18:38.4, pulling away from the field and finishing along the waterlogged straightaway in front of the drag strip grandstands lined with small American and state of Ohio flags without a competitor in sight.

Watcke didn’t have any time in mind before her race, wanting to see the conditions and how the field ran the race around her. With overcast skies and cool weather, it was conducive to a dominant day for the sophomore, who improved on a fifth-place finish as a freshman.

Watcke, who added another individual state championship after winning the 1600 meter state crown at the OHSAA track meet last spring, became the first Minster runner to win the individual state crown since the great Sunni Olding back in 2003, a three-time state champ.

As Watcke put herself in rare company in program history, the Wildcat program appears to be set for even more success over the next couple years, too. Sophomore Gwendolyn Meiring finished fourth (19:03), junior Kaitlynn Albers took ninth (19:12.6) and sophomore Mackenzie Bohman took 13th (19:15) to earn All-Ohio podium honors. Add in freshman Ella Boate’s 22nd-place finish (19:26.5) to round out the Wildcats scoring made for a record-setting day. Cassie Francis, the team’s lone senior who had the honor of hoisting the state championship trophy at the podium, took 47th (20:08.5) and junior Madeline Magoto was 50th (20:14.5).

This year’s championship squad joins the 2016, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2005, 2004, 2001, 2000 ,1999 and 1982 Minster squads to win state titles.