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Belpre boys excited for state cross country meet

Photo by Jordan Holland The Belpre boys cross country team is headed to the state tournament Saturday. The team members are, from left to right, Blake Rodgers, Kayden Wright, Eli Fullerton, Evan Wells, Andrew Miranda, Cy Varner, Davis Leach and Nick Diaz.

BELPRE — Belpre senior Eli Fullerton will be making his fourth trip to the Ohio high school cross country state tournament Saturday at Fortress Obetz.

His first three years, Fullerton qualified as an individual. This year, he’ll have some company, as Belpre placed fourth at regionals to qualify for state as a team. Joining Fullerton will be fellow seniors Davis Leach, Evan Wells, Kayden Wright, Cy Varner and Andrew Miranda, sophomore Nick Diaz and freshman Blake Rodgers. The Golden Eagles are guided by head coach Jen Wells.

“It’s going to be so much more fun,” Fullerton said of going to state as a team. “Usually I just sit in the hotel room and just watch TV by myself and kind of just wait for the next morning. It’s going to be a whole different experience with all the guys there.”

It’s the first time in program history the Belpre boys will go to state as a team.

“It feels really, really good,” Wright said.

Varner joked, “It feels like I didn’t waste six years.”

Fullerton finished second (16 minutes, 18.9 seconds) individually at regionals while Rodgers was fourth (16:40). Coach Wells thinks they can both earn All-Ohio honors.

“We do believe they’ll both finish in the top 10,” she said. “That will help us as a team and if our other guys do what they need to do, I think we do have a chance for the top 10 (as a team).”

Belpre’s senior class has been running together since middle school and a lot of hard work has been put in to get to this point.

“We’ve been running a lot of miles for a long time now, ever since seventh grade,” Evan Wells said. “So it’s nice that we’re finally rewarded.”

The feeling of getting to state as a team feels a bit surreal for the Golden Eagles.

“I think freshman year, none of us seniors really thought we would make it to state as a team,” Fullerton said. “To get there our senior year and be able to do it I think is just unreal for most of us. We never thought we’d all make it.”

For the two younger runners on the team, they’re happy to see the seniors get rewarded.

“Overall, the team made it and that was really cool,” Rodgers said.

Added Diaz, “It’s going to be strange not having them next year, that’s for sure. They kind of taught us how to run a good race.”

Belpre leaves for state at 11:15 a.m. Friday.

“Happy to be making Belpre history,” coach Wells said.

“It was kind of a sense of relief. We built that expectation all season long and for it to finally come to fruition, it was exciting but more of a relief. Until they get to the state meet and they see the excitement of it, they really won’t know what they’ve gotten themselves in to. I’m excited for them to have that experience.”

There will be a parade honoring the Golden Eagles on their way out of town. They’ll have a police escort up Washington Boulevard.

“We know the community members are supporting us,” the coach said. “It’s a shame the spectators are going to be limited. We really feel strong support from the community. I know that a lot of people, if they would have been able to come they would have. Hopefully maybe on Friday they’ll be able to get out and give the boys a cheer as we leave out of town to go to the meet.”

Belpre will get a feel for the course on Friday leading up to the final race on Saturday.

“Appears to be flat and pretty spectator friendly,” coach Wells said. “We’re looking forward to seeing it.

“We’ll just do our traditional pre-race practice. Walking the course and then we’ll do just a nice, easy recovery run on that course just to get a feel for it after we walk it.”

Fullerton will be capping off an incredible prep cross country career.

He’s looking to become a three-time All-Ohioan, and he’s in the running for the Division III state championship. Overall, his main goal is to enjoy the experience with his teammates.

“It feels really good knowing we’ve all worked so hard over the past six years and that we can all celebrate it together by going to state senior year,” he said.

“No better way to go out in my opinion.”

Jordan Holland can be reached at jholland@mariettatimes.com.

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