Riders Follow Tobin's Lead

St. Marys' Noah Tobin does his signature point toward the camera as he leads the pack in the Auglaize County Invitational earlier this season.
Sports Editor

The St. Marys Roughriders boys cross-country team has a chance to do something on Saturday the program has not seen since the early 90s, finish in the top three in the Western Buckeye League. 

Saturday’s WBL Championship at Defiance is just the beginning of what the Roughriders hope will be a long playoff run behind senior and four-year runner Noah Tobin, but the program is also hoping to begin that run with its best league finish since winning  the WBL in 1994.

One thing the program has going for it is leadership, starting with Tobin. 

“I feel the transition of leadership me, Jordan [Heitkamp] and Jack [Cisco] are giving them right now is what we never had as freshmen,” the senior said. “I culture of our sport is really taking off as maybe a kind of built for Minster-type of dynasty. Maybe not as good as Defiance, but at least up to that level.”

Throughout his high school career, Tobin has incorporated leadership in a way that he never had in the program. As he grew in the program, Tobin pointed to Dominic Brown as someone he looked up to, but Brown, like many seniors, ran into seniorities when Tobin was a freshman and lost passion for the sport as Brown was focused on life after college.

“I understand where he was coming from, but the funny thing is I saw him over the summer — he is a junior in college now — and he was excited about how the team was doing,” Tobin said. “Which I never thought he would have that attitude when I was in school. He was a really good runner, but he was in the program during a really bad time.” 

Tobin, along with Jordan Heitkamp and Jack Cisco, have taken their share of lumps throughout the years in the cross-country program. As freshmen, the Roughriders finished ninth in the league, but catapulted up to fifth in their sophomore season and by then, the program had something it never had before.

An expectation to be better.

That expectation showed when Tobin believed his team could finish in the top three last season at the WBL meet in Celina or even win the league, but the team placed fifth instead for a second straight season. 

“I get excited and I can talk a big game, but you have to it thrown in your face sometimes, but when you say things, you have to be aggressive about it,” he admitted.

But last season was just the beginning of Tobin’s leadership and he credits a lot of that to his sister, Hannah, who ran for the girls program before she graduated in 2015. 

Tobin said his sister’s focus was about building the team when she graduated. Her leadership trickled down to girls such as Kelly Wilker — who was a state-qualifier in the two-mile run in track and led the Roughriders girls team to a state berth in cross-country when Tobin was a freshman in 2016 — then to Morgan Henschen — who helped begin a fun run club and was an all-league runner — to the current girls on the roster in Brianna Cisco and Ellen Schloemer — two runners who are leading the girls team this season. 

“I looked at that like, ‘I am going to be like my sister, but I am going to make us go to state while I am here,’” he said. “But sometimes you have to realize that that might not happen.

“But next year if I am running in college and I hear that St. Marys boys are going to make it to state, that is awesome and that is what I want. I don’t care if I am not a part of the team, but it does matter that I helped.”

Tobin added there needs to be someone from the program that has the leadership that he has and he pointed to first-year runner in sophomore Craig Stuttler — who came out for football after his freshman year after the cross-country program recruited him. 

Tobin recounted when coach Rob Cisco talked about Stuttler, he was impressed with the sophomore’s fast one-mile time of around 4:50 when Stuttler was in the eighth grade.

“He came back to us and I will never forget it. It was the offseason between cross-country and track, but he quit football four months after the season ended and we thought we had totally lost him. But we kept the pressure off him and I think he is where he wants to be and I am glad that he is because I feel better about where the program is when I graduate. Just because I am gone, it doesn’t mean that Craig Stuttler can’t go out and run a 16.10 and break the record.”

But right now, the program will have to make due with Tobin and what he brings as a leader in these next two meets at league and districts next week. With Stuttler settled in as the No. 2 runner, followed by Tyler Birt’s steady climb at No. 3, the Roughriders have a nice combination of veteran runners, including the seniors Heitkamp and Cisco, and youth to allow them to do something the program has not done in years and possibly beyond that with another freshman in Michael Crites running well before an injury and a solid junior high team that is working its way up.

“Sometimes, you can set goals that are all the way up there, but sometimes you need to come back down to earth and just feel it out, but I think we’ve got a good understanding of it now and Rob has been coaching for a long time and he knows what he is doing,” he said. “The freshmen on the team are just really blessed because they are getting something that I never got. I am excited about this group of kids even after I graduate.”