• Geoff Cowles/News Fredericktown’s Thomas Caputo, right, catches his breath after finishing second in the Denny Stevens Invitational Cross Country Tournament Tuesday at Fredericktown.
  • Geoff Cowles/News Highland’s Camberly Schade comes down the final stretch during the Denny Stevens Cross Country Invitational on Tuesday. Schade finished third overall.

FREDERICKTOWN — Mount Gilead and Fredericktown finished first and second in both, the boys’ and girls’ team standings, in the 2019 Denny Stevens Invitational Cross Country Tournament, held at Kokosing Dam on Tuesday.

The top individual finisher locally was Thomas Caputo of host Fredericktown High School. His time of 16:30.55 was four seconds off the pace of individual winner Clay Reynolds (16:26.55) of Mansfield Christian.

Both runners moved to the front, early in the race, and never looked back.

“Around the one-mile mark, things opened up,” Caputo said. “It started thinning out around there. I think even before that it was already kind of thinning out. The ones that started out too fast, started dying out and the people who know how to race took over from there.”

The Freddies, who had 94 points — second to Mount Gilead’s 38 — were also buoyed by Caputo’s teammates. Evan France was eighth (17:06.27), followed by fellow Fredericktown runners Titus Krabill (18th place, 17:36.59), Roghan Roddy (31st, 18:16.12) and Ethan Dudgeon (35th, 18:22.68).

“When you’re racing with some great runners like I was today, they work together and it makes racing a lot easier,” Caputo said. “It’s great to have other guys, who have the same goal as you, right there, pushing you to make sure you give it your best.”

In a race of superlatives, from the crowded field of 364 varsity runners, to the performance of the Fredericktown High School Football Marching Band, which plays at the Denny Stevens Invitational every year, this race has spawned its own set of traditions. Even the hills have their own names.

“Without a doubt, the worst one is Infinity Hill,” Caputo said. “It’s a killer, but it’s all about your mentality, going up that hill. For me, I just tell myself, ‘The faster you get up there, the faster you’re done. The faster you finish, the faster you are done.’”

After he pointed out Infinity Hill, Caputo pointed out an even worse hill called Profanity Hill. While he was speaking, Caputo was reaching out to congratulate each of the finishers from the other schools, in what has become one of the biggest annual sporting events to be held by any school in Knox County. The congratulating of all the finishers, as they cross the finish line in this grueling race, is a tradition that is most associated with former Fredericktown High School student Nick Gaumer, who was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 2011.

“Nick Gaumer started this when he was in high school here,” Caputo said. “A lot of us never met him, but he is still the epitome of what a great teammate is. He gave encouragement to everybody

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Geoff Cowles: 740-397-5333 or gcowles@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @http://twitter.com/mountvernonnews