By John Bombatch
HEBRON — Four area high school cross country teams came home with top-10 finishes or better, and a trio of individual runners earned podium spots among the state’s top-20 at Saturday’s cross country championships at National Trail Raceway.
The Beavercreek girls placed third in the D-I race, and Bellbrook’s girls team finished sixth in D-II.
Freshman phenom Taylor Ewert, then younger sister of Beavers senior runner Ben Ewert, ran her first state cross country event as if she owned the place. Ewert placed 13th out of 156 runners in a time of 18:11.4. Other runners on the girls team were Jordan Grant, Emma Johnson, Jodie Pierce, Stephanie Pierce, Morgan Rhoades and Lauren Shuman.
“After regionals (where they finished fifth), the girls were really bummed,” said Beavercreek coach Howard Russ. “We knew Troy and Centerville were really good, and we ran with them as best as we could. We’re really young, but they ran their hearts out. … I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Madison Pelfrey led the Bellbrook Golden Eagles team of herself, Maddie Crane, Emi Ford, Elise and Lauren Kemper, and Kayla and Kylee Parker with a 43rd-place finish in her final high school race.
“It felt really great. I wanted to give it all I could in my final senior race, but I’m hoping to run in college and keep it going from there,” Pelfrey said. She finished with a 19:19.6, and has Morehead State and a few D-II and D-III colleges vying for her talents.
On the boys side, ‘Creek placed 10th in D-I while the Carroll boys were fourth in the Division II race.
Taylor’s big brother, Ben, wrapped up his senior season with a podium finish of 18th in the 186-runner D-I boys race. The Beavercreek standout finished in 15:41.2, a personal best. In fact, the top 4 Beaver boys runners — Ewert, Matthew Gregson, Luke Kleinfelder and Riley Bucholz — each turned in personal-best times, joining teammates Jake Benigno, Michael Stephenson and Ian Johnson for a solid team finish.
“Ben ran a really smart race. He started out easy and moved up. And only a couple of these guys were varsity runners last year, so to be 10th in the state meet is a great accomplishment,” Russ said. “This is the closest group of boys that I’ve coached since 2008, and they’re good buddies. It was great to watch them run. … Most of them ran either season bests or PRs (personal records) today, so I can’t ask for more than that.”
Carroll’s Mike Laughlin also wrapped up his high school career with a podium finish. Laughlin placed 19th in the 170-person D-II boys race. Pats coach John Agnew was understandably happy for his fourth-place team.
“It was a great day, and we’ve had an awesome year and they all ran great races. This was a super way to finish it,” Agnew said. “This is the 20th team we’ve had here and this finish would be the highest finish we’ve had. It’s because of a great team effort, with great guys who worked hard all year to earn this. This is just great.”
Joining Laughlin on the Patriots boys team were: Grant Arnold; Michael Ciesko; Jason Dong; Karl Grossman; Sam Janson; and Brad Klingbeil.
The area’s individual runners each had something in common: they both finished 101st in their respective races.
Bellbrook’s Justin Boreman ended his high school career with a time of 16:33.0 in the boys Division I race; and Xenia Legacy Christian’s Isaac Erlandson was 101st in the D-III race with a 17:28.8 time over the 5,000-meter course.
“I don’t feel so great,” Erlandson, a junior, explained. “I didn’t have a good race at all. … I can’t explain it, but it felt like I just wasn’t into it mentally today, and so I don’t feel that I pushed myself as hard as I could have. … Hopefully, I’ll be able to do better here next year.”