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Christopher brothers cherish state experience

Salem’s Hunter Christopher crosses the finish line with his arms outstretched after an eighth-place finish at Saturday’s Boys Div. II state cross country meet at Hebron’s National Trail Raceway.

HEBRON — Salem senior Hunter Christopher made all his dreams come true at the 91st annual state cross country meet Saturday.

Christopher ran his fastest race to give the Salem boys their highest state placer in 26 years and finally got to run with his twin brother at state.

“I got two All-Ohio honors in a row and knew I had a chance to get on the podium,” he said. “It’s a great way to finish my high school cross country career as a Quaker.”

Hunter Christopher finished eighth out of 183 Division II boys runners. He covered the 3.1-mile course at National Trail Raceway in 15 minutes, 59.5 seconds.

“(Getting on the podium) was a huge goal and he ran exceptional,” Salem coach Ted Yuhaniak said. “He got under the 16-minute mark and that was a bonus.”

“It’s long overdue,” said Hunter, who was running in his third state cross country meet. “We ran some fast courses this year and I was wondering if it was going to happen.”

Cameron Christopher said he watched his brother for a while before he got out of sight.

“I knew were I was,” Hunter said. “The whole time I was sitting fifth or sixth. I went with the leaders and was feeling good after two miles. I knew if I got the mental game down, I could be up there.

“The kids I knew I should run with I did and it worked. I just ground it out.”

Cameron showed what he could do in his first healthy season of his high school career. He placed 79th in 17:04.7.

“I’m not happy, but I’m not sad,” he said. “It’s an awesome experience and I got to run with my brother.

“All the years I’ve watched him run and now I get to experience it. There are a lot of great runners.”

“We are extremely proud of them,” Salem coach Ted Yuhaniak said. “They knew their game plan. They are savvy runners. They went out and executed.”

Cameron wasn’t going complain after all the injuries he has endured.

“It’s not a bad time,” he said. “Here you have to go out fast and I couldn’t hang on.”

He said he stayed with some runners he knows in the Eastern Buckeye Conference, like Minerva senior Nick Bledsoe, who was was 75th (17:02.0).

“Even if you get down here, it’s still a business trip,” Cameron said. “All the good runners are here. Everyone who is here deserves to be here. You want to do your best against them.”

Most people don’t know what Cameron went through to get back.

“He’s just overcome so many hardships and injuries,” Hunter Christopher said.

Only runners know what it’s like not being able to compete.

“Let alone not running, but to come back into it and perform like he has,” Hunter said.

“At one point last year, I discovered I wasn’t going to be running with the team,” Cameron said. “It felt like I wasn’t part of the team.”

Cameron was determined to return.

“You have to have a strong mindset,” he said. “This sport plays with your mind. You have to push through it and the results will come.”

“That’s just not Cam to give up,” Yuhaniak said. “He kept fighting. That’s both of them. They instill that in their teammates, too.”

Hunter isn’t ready to say what he’ll remember about his high school career.

“Not yet,” he said. “Looking back on cross country at some of the high finishes and coming through when it mattered the most.”

How much will the Quakers miss the Christophers next season?

“We were talking about that the starting line and it was emotional,” Yuhaniak said. “We’re going to miss them and not just what they do on the course, but their leadership. And the kids are going to miss them.”

Meet notes

¯ Peninsula Woodridge captured its record ninth state title (all since 2006) with five of the top 18 runners in the Division II boys race with 37 points.

Hunter said he wanted to stay with the Woodridge pack.

“I knew they were a good group,” he said. “They pulled me through.”

“If you see maroon, you’re OK,” Yuhaniak said. “They’re awesome.”

¯ Hunter committed to Youngstown State University on Oct. 8 — his 18th birthday.

“I love YSU,” he said. “YSU is already good, but we are going to try to take it to the next level.”

He said he received a nearly-full scholarship through a combination of athletics and academics. He will be running cross country and track for the Penguins.

¯The Christophers will be leading the Salem distance crew in track season next spring.

“This track season is going to be great,” Cameron said.

¯ Hunter’s finish is the highest by a Salem boy since junior Jason Julian placed sixth (15:52) in leading the Quakers to the 1993 Division II state title.

Salem senior Dan Nye was right behind in 12th (16:08). Sadly, Nye died Oct. 23. He won’t be forgotten.

¯ The Louisville boys were 14th in the Division I boys team standings with 293 points.

Louisville senior Miklos Hendricks — the son of Ed Hendricks, who ran on United’s 1990 state runner-up 400-meter relay team — was the Leopards’ second runner. He finished 52nd (16:15.2).

Miklos ran 38 seconds faster than last year when he placed 48th.

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