Braxton Tate

Galion's Braxton Tate leads a group of runners during Saturday's Division II race at the 91st boys cross country championships at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.

GALION — Braxton Tate capped his senior year in style.

The Richland Bank Athlete of the Week, Tate finished third in the Division II race at Saturday’s cross country state championships at National Trail Raceway. The Galion senior came across the line in 15 minutes, 45.8 seconds, putting an exclamation point on one of the greatest cross country careers in school history.

“It’s a good way to end my senior year,” said Tate, a three-time state qualifier and two-time podium finisher.

Saturday’s race played out almost exactly like the Tiffin regional meet a week earlier. Tate finished third at Tiffin in 15:23.59, behind regional champ Caleb Brown of Shelby and runner-up Mhalicki Bronson of Defiance.

The same three runners swept the top three spots at state and did so while running by themselves for most of the day. Brown won the state title in 15:05, while Bronson was second in 15:13.2.

“That was a good race. Mentally it was very difficult for me because I was by myself for the whole race,” Tate said. “I knew there was a bunch of good guys chasing me, so just to stay good mentally through the race was very difficult.

“I was hoping to be closer to those guys in front of me, but they just pulled away from me.”

Saturday’s race was a far cry from his first state appearance as a sophomore in 2017. Tate finished 57th in 16:55.8 after taking sixth at the Galion district meet and seventh at the Tiffin regional.

Last year Tate finished fourth at both Galion and Tiffin before making a quantum leap at state, finishing ninth in 16:33.7. That set the table for a memorable 2019. He won the Division II race at the Galion Cross Country Festival, one of the biggest events in the state, and finished second to Shelby’s Brown at the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference meet.

“He’s the best of the best,” Tate said of Brown. “Knowing there’s someone faster than me and he’s in my conference for crying out loud. He’s always there to help me push through.”

Tate, who placed seventh in the 3,200 run at last year’s Division II state track and field championships, couldn’t have scripted a more fitting conclusion to his senior cross country season.

“It is very difficult to stay right in your head when those guys are that far in front of you and you know guys are chasing you,” Tate said. “It was tough, but it couldn’t have ended much better.”

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I have covered high school sports in Richland County since 2000. Email him at curt@richlandsource.com or follow him on Twitter: Follow @curtjconrad on twitter.

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