By Rob Kiser
TROY — Versailles junior Joey Spitzer ran the race of his life Saturday at the Troy Division II boys regional cross country meet.
Tiger senior Noah Pleiman shocked even himself — and will join his regional champion teammate at the state meet on Saturday.
In one of the most exciting finishes to a regional cross country race, Spitzer edged Carroll senior Mike Laughlin in a photo finish — winning by three hundreths of a second. Spitzer was clocked in 16:17.07; while Laughlin was timed in 16:17.10.
“It feels great to be a regional champion,” Spitzer said. “I was 12th last year. Hopefully I can go over to state and do something — maybe top five.”
Laughlin had held off Spitzer to win the district title last week — Spitzer was determined not to let that happen again.
“He was able to open up a lead on me last week,” Spitzer said about Laughlin. “This time, I decided to stay with him. I took the lead at the two mile mark and hoped I could hold him off.”
At the three-mile mark, they were neck-and-neck.
Laughlin took a slight lead, before Spitzer just did get him at the finish line — with both runners in a dead sprint.
“We were running really fast there at the end,” Spitzer said with a smile. “He (Mike Laughlin) ran a great race. Fortunately, I was able to get him.”
Spitzer was just as excited to see his teammate Pleiman come across the finish line in ninth-place in 16:56.66 to make it to state.
“I wasn’t expected to do anything like that,” Pleiman said. “But, then anybody who knows me knows I rarely do what is expected. I think I was supposed to finish 19th or something like that.”
Pleiman overcame an early challenge with his hurdling skills.
“I am not sure what was going on in front of me,” he said. “There were about four guys that went down. One guy barrel rolled in front of me and I had to hurdle him. But, I still ran a 5:05 mile, so I thought, here we go.”
Pleiman continued to improve his position throuhgout the race.
“At one point, I heard the coaches yell I was 19th,” he said. “I passed three or four guys and I just kept moving up from there. Early in the race, I went past some guys I normally run with and it worked out.”
Anything he can do next week is just an added bonus.
“I had to stop running at the end of last year because of my knees,” Pleiman said. “This is just a blessing to be where I am. Whoever thought I would do this. I know I am not expected to do anything at state, but I rarely do what is expected.”
Miami East sophomore Gavin Horne will be making his second trip to the state meet after finishing 14th in 17:00.17.
“To get to state as a freshman and sophomore, I am happy with that,” Horne said. “I took it a little light this summer. That was a mistake. I didn’t run as much as I needed to. I have only run in the 16s (minutes) twice this year.”
Horne was 10th at the two-mile mark and held on for a state berth.
“I did what I needed to do,” he said. “That last mile was tough.”
And he learned from his experience at state last year.
“The guy I paced myself with at state last year pulled his hamstring,” Horne said. “So, I wasn’t doing as well as I thought. Hopefully, I will find a better guy to pace myself with this year. I just hope we have a better hotel than last year.”
Newton’s Ryan Mollette finished 52nd in 18:12.72.
Miami East finished sixth as a team.
The rest of the Viking runners were Noah Shook, 41, 17:55.86; Justin DeWeese, 54, 18:18.13; Taton Bertsch, 66, 18:34.31; Alex Hayes, 68, 18:43.83; Luke Mengos, 83, 19:03.05; and Keagan Carsey, 86, 19:08.84.
Russia finished eighth as a team.
The Raiders runners were Zachary Bell, 24, 17:30.59; Mason Dapore, 46, 18:03.58; Alex Seger, 47, 18:03.93; Gavin George, 60, 18:27.28; Ethan Monnier, 78, 18:53.11; Jordan Busse, 82, 19:01.88; and Andrew DeLoye, 87, 19:08.87.
Houston finished ninth as a team.
The Wildcat runners were Ethan Knouff, 30, 17:43.82; Tristin Freistuhler, 33, 17:46.25’ Jacob Slater, 67, 18:39.29; Dakota Francis, 75, 18:52.11; Blake Jacobs, 84, 19:03.34; Devyn Ostrander, 97, 19:38.97; and Patrick Meiering, 108, 20:24.76.