ANSONIA – The Ansonia Boys Cross Country Teams historic season will culminate at the 2023 OHSAA Cross Country State Championships at Fortress Obetz and Memorial Park on Saturday November 4th.
The team earned their first ever conference championship in school history by winning the WOAC league meet last month with senior Matthew Lee winning the overall race to claim back-to-back Conference “Runner of the Year” awards.
Ansonia Jason Wright leads both the boys and girls Cross Country programs and was selected as the WOAC “Boys Coach of the Year”.
Coach Wright talked about the season and the historic 1st league title.
“Fifteen years ago, we had a really good girls’ program back in the mid 2000s and it’s hard for me to imagine what I know now that we just never could get guys to come out and run. So, I’m really proud and excited that we’ve seen such an upswing in our in our men’s side of the program,” Wright stated.
Much of that success can be attributed to the current senior class who has steadily improved over the last 4 years.
“When you look at the leadership that we have from our older kids, Lee, Matthew Barga and Ethan Sparks, I think it starts with them and then it kind of works its way down. What they’ve been able to do and accomplish has just encouraged more kids to come give our sport a try and I couldn’t be prouder of this group who really set the standard for what we’re looking for in this program,” Wright commented.
Obviously, Matthew Lee stands out as the leader of the pack and is having a great year, but it’s been a process for him. Lee placed 9th in the District Meet with a time of 16:55 and then ran a 16:36.52 in the Regional Meet finishing 10th to advance to the State Meet.
“You know, when you look at where he started from junior high, even his freshman and sophomore year high school, he has willed himself to get to this elite level. I don’t know of anybody who’s had that kind of drive and desire, the mileage that he has put on his feet to get to this point. He is so deserving of all of these accomplishments he remains hungry, and I can’t wait to see what he’s does in the state meet,” Wright said.
Lee has knocked off over two minutes from his times registered during his sophomore year.
Joining Matthew at the state meet on Saturday will be freshman Bennett Lehman who has come in and given the Tigers a 1-2 punch in most meets this year as the young star has had some impressive runs and times this season. Lehman placed 15th in the District Meet with a time of 17:13 then improved time and placement at Regional finishing 13th in 16:51.42.
“I can’t say enough about our younger kids, Lehman and sophomores Luken Longenecker and Gavin Stachler and so many others who are going to be around for a couple more years they are really going to do some great things,” smiled Wright
It’s been Bennett Lehman though hitting the trails and turning heads this year giving the Tigers another vaunted runner.
“He has hit some amazing numbers, that you just don’t see very often as a freshman. We could see in junior high he was going to be very special. I mean, he’s got a gift. I don’t know if we saw the kind of numbers he’s has put up his freshman year. You know, he split time with cross country and football last year and this was really his first year being at cross country practice every day, every week. And I mean, if this is where we’re starting, I don’t know as a team how we are going to finish in the next couple years, but it’s going to be special,” Wright boasted.
Wright went on to say not only do they have great kids dedicated to the program they also have assistant coach Allen Newbauer who has been a blessing and big supporter of running, not just with Ansonia, but throughout the area, he is willing to share his passion and give his time to help those who want to run.
“Oh, my word. We are so blessed to have Allen. He has worked with so many runners, not just from Ansonia, in Greenville and Arcanum. You know, he has so much experience and is one of the most genuine guys you’re ever going to meet. We are so fortunate to have him be with us every day. His experience, both personally and the networks he’s been able to create, through his experience. Our kids have grown mentally, physically, beyond anything I could have thought so he is so deserving of a lot of the awards and accomplishments we as a team have gotten,” Wright praised.
“Yes, I know the kids have earned it … but his guidance has really made the difference for this team this year.”
Coach Wright is quick to give praise to everyone while deflecting any attention upon himself and is quiet, unassuming and a soft-spoken man … but clearly he has motivated and empowered his staff and runners to become the best they can be, that’s a sign of a good coach and leader.
“It’s been really cool so far this season and I’ve been blessed; our kids have been healthy and what a privilege it has been to coach them,” Wright concluded.
Wright will get to enjoy one more special moment come Saturday as he supports both Matthew Lee and Bennett Lehman on the biggest stage as they take to the course one last time this season in Columbus to add one more piece of history to an already Historic Season.