by Adam Baum, Cincinnati Enquirer Photo by Adam Baum
Over the last year, Oak Hills has been waiting. Its boys cross country program came up one spot (fifth) shy of qualifying to the Division I regional meet as a team.
It's an unpleasant feeling, one that coach Joe Zeinner said left his team disappointed but also hungry to rebound this year.
Zeinner didn't coach Oak Hills last year. He said it was his second season away from the program, but he "still paid close attention." Zeinner's now in his fifth season overall as coach at Oak Hills, and his current senior class ran under Zeinner as freshmen so there's still a familiarity within the program.
Zeinner said the Highlanders, ranked No. 5 in The Enquirer Division I area coaches' poll, lost only two runners from the district meet last season, but they've also added a lot of talent.
Senior Tom Seibert's a team captain and a four-year varsity runner. Zeinner said Seibert was one of his runners as a freshman and it's "great to come back and see how much he's grown ... he's had a fantastic summer; really look for him to lead this team."
Sophomores Drew Toon, Chris Guy and Mitch Luken were all part of the district team last season, Zeinner said, and they've all improved. They're just part of the youth movement, which will provide stability to the program for years to come.
Senior Anthony Papathanas didn't race at the district meet last year, but Zeinner said he's had a "phenomenal" summer and he should help contribute to the scoring in only his second year in the sport.
"They just work hard," said Zeinner. "This is my fifth summer as an Oak Hills coach and during the summer, you don't have to be at summer practice. It's not mandatory, but we probably had 25-28 guys every single day this summer. They have unbelievable team chemistry. Everybody counts on this team, everybody contributes ... We've had some good teams at Oak Hills and this team really stands out."
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