After running at Lima Bath last season, it is Defiance’s turn to hold serve this year as hosts of the Western Buckeye League championships on Saturday at Fred J. Brown Stadium.

Both Defiance teams are defending champs. The Defiance girls will be vying for their sixth straight title, while the boys are looking for their fifth consecutive league crown.

Individually, Defiance senior Mhalicki Bronson is the defending champ and Van Wert senior Caylee Phillips won last year’s girls race.

Defiance’s Shay Soukup won the WBL race as a sophomore in 2017. Soukup finished third last season.

Defiance used its home course once this year on Aug. 24. Then, Bronson won in 15:15.21.

Seven weeks later, Bronson – who has a goal of breaking 15 minutes – has a chance to do just that.

Last weekend, at the Portage Invitational in Michigan, Bronson took first in the Division I race in a school-record time of 15:00.3.

As a team, the Defiance boys, ranked fifth in the state in Division II, are favored. Defiance boys coach Obie Mouser said the team is looking forward to running on its home course.

“We are looking forward to this meet,” Mouser said. “Running on (our home) course is huge to our team. As a team, we have been struggling lately. But at Portage, we had an excellent race!”

Last year, Defiance topped runner up Van Wert, 26-67. Five of Defiance’s top six runners return. Colin Moats placed fourth a year ago while Brennen Roehrig was sixth, Cooper Morton 11th and Eli Fortman 15th.

Mouser expects Defiance’s toughest competition to come from Ottawa-Glandorf and Lima Shawnee.

“Ottawa-Glandorf and Shawnee had big wins lately in their invitationals and are much improved,” Mouser said.

The Defiance girls topped runner up Lima Shawnee last year, 45-95. But this year, Shawnee comes in as the favorite.

“Shawnee has performed the best this season, but also Van Wert and Celina are much improved,” said Defiance coach Scott Saner. “It should be a good race Saturday.”

Defiance returns five of its top seven runners. Of those runners, last year Soukup placed third, Kameron Burkhart was 15th, Abby Horvath finished 17th, Emily Wahl was 19th and Olivia Moats placed 22nd.

Soukup won the Defiance Early Bird meet, but Horvath has come on as of late and finished ahead of Soukup at last weekend’s Portage Invitational.

While Shawnee is the favorite this season, don’t count out the Bulldogs.

We always look forward to competing in the WBL Championships,” said Efiance coach Scott Saner. “We have been a little inconsistent this season and are trying to get healthy and mentally focused for Saturday. We need to run our race, do our job and run how we are capable of running. There are several teams that have really improved this season and we need to step up our game, if we want to compete for a league title.”

The boys race is slated to start at 10 a.m., followed by the high school girls race, at 10:45 a.m.

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