VERSAILLES – In his second trip to the Ohio High School Athletic Association state cross country meet Versailles junior Joe Spitzer has his sights set on a top five finish.
In his first appearance at state as a sophomore Spitzer finished 37th in the Division II boys race with a time of 16:34.7, but this year he feels better prepared and more focused.
“Last year I kind of went out a little too slow,” Spitzer said. “This year I’ve got a clearer goal in mind. I want to get top five.”
Spitzer has grown accustomed to finishing at the top. In 11 races this season he’s recorded nine victories. He finished second at the OHSAA district meet at Cedarville University and 10th at the Tiffin Cross Country Carnival in his only non-victories.
While he’s won a lot, Spitzer surprised himself last weekend when he won the OHSAA regional championship at Troy.
“I was really excited. I didn’t expect to win regionals this year,” he said. “I was 12th at regionals last year. This year I was the regional champion. It’s a big improvement.”
In the past year Spitzer has made big strides. He’s now the second-fastest cross country runner in Versailles history only behind two-time state champion Sam Prakel.
“Joe is just a fantastic competitor,” Versailles cross country coach Mark Pleiman said. “You can tell he works that hard at practice, he works that hard in a meet, and that’s what makes him as great of an athlete as he is. He’s got that drive and desire to go out and set those goals and then accomplish them.”
The Versailles junior credits his improvement this year in being more dedicated and training harder.
“I did a lot of training over the summer,” he said. “I kind of tried to up my mileage a little, and it’s really helped out with my decrease in times.”
Spitzer’s personal-best time came at the Midwest Athletic Conference championships in Coldwater where he had a winning time of 16:00.3.
“Joe’s goal this year all year has been to get into the 15s, and he’s going to do it this weekend,” Pleiman said. “It will be a lot of fun to watch.”
Having knowledge from last year, Spitzer said he’s definitely more confident entering this year’s state championships. He has a plan for how he wants to race, knowing when to stay with a pack and when to make his moves.
“I think I’ve got the ability,” he said. “Right now I’ve got the seventh fastest regional time, and there’s a couple kids I’m planning on trying to run with.”
Spitzer is set to run in the Division II state championships at 11:45 a.m. Saturday at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. If all goes as planned he’ll prove himself to be one of the fastest runners in Ohio and earn a spot on the podium.
“We definitely want to see Joe up on the podium,” Pleiman said. “He deserves to be there. He’s that good of runner. He needs to be up there.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.