On Saturday morning, cross country teams from the Southern Ohio Conference met at Minford High School to compete in the conference championship meet.
In the SOC II realm, the event was dominated in by the Waverly Tigers, who won both the boys and the girls competition. However, the SOC Iraces were split between two Scioto County schools, as South Webster won the SOC I girls as a team, and Green took home the SOC I boys crown as a group.
In the girl’s race, Waverly had all 13 of their registered runners finish within the top 50 overall. Most notably, Hannah Goodman led the way for the Tigers, finishing first with a time of 21:29. Her finish was nearly a minute faster than the second place runner, Bailey Ward of Oak Hill, who finished at 22:24.
For Goodman, it was a goal finally met in her high school career.
“It’s pretty crazy because it’s something I wanted since I was a little junior high runner,” Goodman said. “I won it in junior high, and I thought it was going to be easy again in high school, but it was really challenging and I finally worked my way up to get the win.”
The road to first place came with lots of frustration along the way, though.
“There were several ups and downs,” Goodman recalled. “Some days, I would run 23s in hot weather, and some days I would run a 20 and would just be mentally down.”
Goodman was happy not only with her performance, but the performance of her team as well.
“You know how you have a Snapchat streak? Our team tries to have a winning streak,” Goodman said. “We’ve won it ever since junior high and all the way through here, so it would’ve been a heartbreak if we didn’t win. All of us really wanted it, and it meant a lot to us, so we all pushed ourselves really hard throughout the season to get here.”
South Webster showed their skills in the girl’s race, winning first place as a team in their division.
Kayleigh Blevins (4th – 23:06) and Grace Raison (8th – 23:46) both cracked the top ten for the Jeeps. Hailey Marshall (20th) and Brittany Barnett (21st) rounded out the top 25, and all six runners for South Webster finished in the top 45 or better.
The team win was one to remember for head coach Tim Conley, who hopes his Jeeps can continue their success at the next stop.
“We always want to get kids to the next level to the regionals,” Conley said. “The top 26 kids get out to the regionals, we’d like to think our girls as a team have a shot. We’d like to see our boys as a team have a shot.”
Conley credits the competition from other conference members as a positive for his team and their growth throughout the year.
“The competition with Green and the other schools have just been great for our sport,” Conley said. “Our kids are the beneficiaries of this great competition from all of the schools combined.”
Wheelersburg had two top 20 finishers in the girl’s race, as Lyndlee Willis (6th – 23:33) and Gabby Deacon (19th – 25:31) were impressive for the Pirates.
All six runners for the Minford Falcons finished in the top 30, as the Falcons finished second in division two behind Waverly as a team. Minford had four of those six runners place in the top 15 overall.
Abby McKinney (12th – 24:32), Kara Dillon (13th – 24:39), Amy Shoemaker (14th – 24:54) and Emily Shoemaker (15th – 24:58) were the aforementioned four finishers for the Falcons.
Valley’s Marissa Campbell (16th – 25:06), Northwest’s Josie Tackett (17th – 25:09) and Katie Argueta (25th – 26:36) and Green’s Megan Johnson (22nd – 25:34) rounded out the top 25 finishers from Scioto County schools.
As for the boy’s race, Eastern Pike’s Evan Leist continued his stellar season. Leist finished in first place with a time of 16:58. Right behind him was Minford’s Matthew Harris, who came in second place with a time of 17:13.
Harris called the feeling of winning second place “surreal” and hopes he can keep the ball moving and advance to regionals.
“I’m hoping to make it on and move on to regionals,” Harris said. “I did it last year, ran a disappointing performance at regionals last year, so I’ve got a bit of a fire for this year.”
That disappointing performance at regionals in 2016 has given Harris an additional fire over the past year in preparing to do better this year.
“Through track season, I was determined and working on speed work a lot with my track coach,” Harris said. “It just added up this year in cross country too.”
Minford also impressed overall in the boy’s race as a team, finishing second in division two behind Waverly once again.
“I think my team did very well,” Harris said. “We might not have accomplished our goal that we wanted today, but we definitely came close and I’m excited to see how we perform in districts.”
The Falcons had seven runners finish in the top 50, and five of those finished inside the top 25.
Alongside Harris, Dutch Byrd (8th – 18:24), Collin Bennington (12th – 18:51), Ryan Higbee (21st – 19:17) and Michael Henry (24th – 19:35) excelled for Minford.
Northwest put on a solid display as well, with three top 25 finishers, including Landen Smith (4th – 17:41) who was able to keep his strong season going. The Mohawks also had great performances from Josh Shope (13th – 18:53) and Gabe Morrell (22nd – 19:24).
Wheelersburg had three top 20 finishers, and the Pirates posted a good showing with six runners in the top 50 overall. Nate King (18th – 19:10) led the way for Wheelersburg, joined with Andrew Clark (19th – 19:11) and Alex Morris (20th – 19:16).
Waverly had four runners finish in the top nine overall, and the Tigers bolstered their resume in what has been a superb season thus far.
On the division one side of things, it was the Green Bobcats who came out as the victors.
Green had three runners finish in the top 20, and six runners place in the top 50 overall. Zachary Huffman (14th – 18:55) led the charge for the Bobcats, joined by his teammates Tanner Kimbler (15th – 18:57) and James Hallam (17th – 19:09).
The success of Green is crazy considering the Bobcats have only had a program for several years, but their head coach Randy Smith knows a thing or two about cross country.
“We only started the program a few years ago,” Smith said. “I coached at South Point for 37 years, and came up here and started the program and they’ve done really well every year that we’ve run up here.”
This isn’t the first year that Green has gotten a big win in the conference championship, though.
“Two years ago, before they split the divisions, we were the top team in division one,” Smith said. “Last year, the first year they split it, we had an injury and still finished second. So, this year, to come back and win it again is pretty nice.”
The opportunity for Smith to build a program from the ground up has been “fun” in his own words.
“You get to start rock bottom, and you can’t blame anything on anybody else,” Smith said. “You get to take the blame, and you get to take the credit. It’s pretty neat, just starting fresh … it’s a unique opportunity. It’s what I look forward to, and I’m really glad I got to do it.”
Rounding out the division one schools, Mason Blizzard placed 6th overall with a time of 18:09. Blizzard was one of three Jeeps to place in the top 50.
The success for area schools didn’t stop there, though, as Scioto County teams combined to put five runners on first team All-SOC rosters.
Rio Grande will host the district race on Saturday, Oct. 21 starting at 10 am.
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 or on Twitter @BSpicerPDT