By Dan Woodlock
Times-Junction Sports Editor
The Flashes' Regional run at Hedges proved to be a thorny one.Willard's boys cross country team fell one spot short of advancing to State, while senior leaders Brady Deaner and Brittany Fry came within four positions and an injury, respectively, of potentially extending their prolific careers one more week, as the WHS cross season came to an end Saturday at Tiffin's Hedges-Boyer Park. Willard placed fifth in the 16-team Division II Regional field with 177 points. Otsego nabbed the fourth and final State-qualifying team position with 145 points. Also landing State berths were Van Wert (111), Bay (110) and Regional champion, Lexington, who placed three of the top-five runners, including Regional champion Nick Stricklen (16:02), with 57 points. "We knew we needed to improve and have our three-to-seven spots come down some to have a shot," said Willard Head Coach Dom Fratta. "Times were pretty slow for everybody that day with the course being slow and the weather being warmer." Brady Deaner fell 12 seconds and four places shy of an individual State qualification for Willard, as he ran a 17:14 and finished 20th. Kaden Moore (17:17) was close behind in 25th. Corey Barnett was the third WHS runner to cross, finishing in 17:45, for 46th. Brayden Mahl (17:56) and Seth Vipperman (17:59) took 58th and 61st to round out the Flashes' scoring positions. Keaton Moore placed 86th with a time of 18:35, while Austin Strayer was 110th at 19:14. The Flashes finished comfortably ahead of both Defiance (193) and Perkins (203), along with the remainder of the field that included Firelands (226), Bellevue (234), Wauseon (236), Buckeye (258), Celina (276), Napoleon (284), Fairview (334), Lima Shawnee (340) and Liberty-Benton (345). "Our one and five spots were only 45 seconds apart, and you can't ask for any more than that," said Fratta. "It was great for our guys to be able to beat a team like Perkins and also Defiance, which was last year's State champion. That was a big accomplishment to finish off a very good season." Nine individual runners earned State berths, including Wauseon's Quintin Reiser (16:03), Buckeye's Colin Theis (16:17), Ontario's Brett Cortelletti (16:26), Defiance's Jon Crowell (16:43), Liberty-Benton's Ty Gleason (16:44), Upper Sandusky's Dominic Solis (16:46), Perkins' Nick Reyes (16:47) and Owen Krewson (17:02) and Napoleon's Jacob Fellers (16:50). In the D-II Girls Regional, Willard freshman Emily Rothhaar capped a brilliant season with a 56th place run in her Regional debut. She finished in 21:32. Fry wasn't as fortunate, as an injured ankle beset her bid to make a run for State, following a season in which she consistently made her mark as one of the premier runners in the Northern Ohio League and Northwest District. "Brittany fell somewhere around the two-mile mark," said Fratta. "She's okay. I think she was more scared at what happened than hurt." Only six girls qualified for State individually at Tiffin, including Olivia Hammons of Clyde (19:36), Hannah Sponaugle of Eastwood (19:50), Lauren Turner of Bellevue (20:08), Calah Bishop of Perkins (20:10), Shannon Wargo of Keystone (20:11) and Ashley Sneider of Edison (20:15). Lexington won the girls D-II Regional title with 52 points, followed by Wauseon (110), Bay (131) and Defiance (151), who all punched their ticket to State. Although the season ended a week sooner than desired, Fratta noted that his teams put together almost as complete of a season as they could have hoped for. "Other than wanting to get the boys to State and Brittany, as well, I think we accomplished most of the goals we set at the beginning of the season," said Fratta. "Most of these kids have only been running for two or three years. Brady's my only four-year letterman." Five Flashes seniors, Deaner, Mahl, Kaden and Keaton Moore and Fry, wrapped up their WHS cross country careers on the day. "I can't say enough about our seniors," said Fratta. "These kids have been with me throughout their careers and they have done a fabulous job of leading our teams. They helped build our program to where it is now. We still have a good junior nucleus that's coming back to go along with our underclassmen."