By John Bombatch
TROY —A good bit of history was made during Saturday’s girls races at the regional cross country championships along the Miami River levee near Troy Memorial Stadium.
The Bellbrook Golden Eagles pulled off an exciting upset to win the Division II regional cross country title, Beavercreek may have practiced too hard before earning its spot in the state championships, and a Xenia Legacy Christian team won’t run in the state championships for the first time in eight years.
While the Golden Eagles team was one of the favorites to advance on to the state meet, few picked them to finish ahead of Tipp City Tippecanoe — a team that had been ranked no. 1 in all of Ohio at one point this season. Bellbrook won with ease, totalling 70 points to runner-up Tippecanoe’s 94.
Senior Madison Pelfrey led the way with her sixth place overall finish in the field of 101 runners. Pelfrey completed the 6,000-meter course in 19:42.53. Other Bellbrook finishers were: Lauren and Elise Kemper (15th and 16th respectively with times of 20:28.84 and 20:32.71); Kayla Parker (18th, 20:49.12); Emi Ford (19th, 20:54.58); Kylee Parker (46th, 21:45.40); and Maddie Crane (73rd, 22:42.32).
“The girls have worked so hard, and this is a testament to how hard they’ve worked this season. It was Game On, and they brought it!” said Bellbrook coach Jeanne Johnson.
In the Division I race Beavercreek advanced to the state championships with a fifth-place finish in the team standings, but the anguished looks on the runners and their coach showed that they expected to finish higher.
Freshman Taylor Ewert led the way with an eighth-place finish with a time of 18:52.90, with Lauren Shuman next at 21st (19:35.30), followed by Jodie Pierce (24th, 19:41.71), Jordan Grant (57th, 20:37.82), Morgan Rhoades (65th, 20:42.59), Stephanie Pierce (75th, 20:52.50) and Emma Johnson (98th, 21:39.25) in the 129-runner field.
“We are disappointed. Some teams beat us that hadn’t beaten us this year. We’re trying to get ready for the state meet and so we did kind of a hard workout on Wednesday, kind of risking it. But I think it will pay off next week at National Trail,” Beavercreek coach Howard Russ said.
Technically, Xenia Legacy Christian has never been to the state championships. That’s because in the years prior to this, the school was known as Xenia Christian. Injuries befell the Knights (formerly Ambassadors) this season. Standout Rachel Sweeney was out most of the season with a broken foot, but was cleared to run just before the district meet.
Despite top-20 finishes by senior Ariana Nelson (18th) and Tory Estepp (19th) and a yeoman’s effort from Sweeney (32nd), Legacy Christian placed fifth as a team. Unfortunately for them, the Division III race sent four teams to state.
“Rachel got here on her own by finishing 31st last week at districts, which is an amazing accomplishment for her being out for so long,” Legacy coach Robin Norman said. “We said that if we ran our very best, that we’d probably finish fifth. …. We finished fifth. Rachel went down with the broken foot, and several other girls were involved in soccer as well, and that may have slowed them down.
“But that’s all right. They ran their hardest and turned in great races. I’m proud of them, they ran well.”
The 39th annual girls state cross country championships will take place from 1:30 p.m. until 3 p.m., Saturday Nov. 5 at the famed National Trail Raceway drag strip in Hebron, just east of Columbus. The girls events start with the D-III race at 1:30 p.m. followed by the D-II race with Bellbrook (at 2:15 p.m.) and then Beavercreek’s Division I event at 3 p.m.