WAVERLY — As they passed the one-mile mark, the two-mile mark, and ultimately the 5K finish line on Saturday — Northwest was ahead of Waverly throughout the top-10…and in all the key spots.
But perhaps the body language of both teams following the conclusion of the race was most telling.
There was indeed a new Southern Ohio Conference boys cross country team champion.
That’s because the Northwest Mohawks, in their fifth full year returned as a program, had unseated the five-time defending conference champion Waverly Tigers — as part of Saturday’s SOC championship meet on a chilly and blustery morning at Waverly’s Bristol Park.
The young Mohawks, as they swept the top-two individual spots and finished ahead of the host Tigers all throughout the top-10 and even the top-20, had a team score of 25 — as Waverly wound up with 30.
All seven of the Mohawks whose individual places were scored Saturday finished among the top-16, as their only other two runners — in fact — ended up way back in 59th and next-to-last.
For the team-tally counting first-five places, Northwest crossed the finish line in first, second, sixth, seventh and ninth — while Waverly’s fivesome finished third, fourth, fifth, eighth and 10th.
“We knew we had one of our best teams ever, and Waverly was at their best, but our goal was to stick with them…and then on the last mile be grittier and tougher than they were. Our kids ran really well,” said Northwest coach Adam Schroeder. “We stressed this week that every single point matters. Waverly would win some battles, but as long as we win one more than they do, we had a chance. Our kids showed up today, each one, and stepped up when they needed to. It’s nice to have those kids be clutch when it’s the most important time.”
Speaking of time, it had been since 1985 when Northwest — coached by current Wheelersburg assistant coach Bernard Tilley — last won a conference championship in boys cross country.
Schroeder said his Mohawks “had run a lot of hills this year to prepare for this”, although the Bristol Park course is primarily a flat venue — amid some softball and baseball diamonds along with woods and a cornfield.
The top-10 was either all Northwest or Waverly runners, as the top-seven runners in both the boys and girls races earn first-team all-SOC.
The next seven secure second-team all-league, as there were 77 runners in the boys high school race.
The individual champion AND runner-up represented the Mohawks and finished only four seconds apart — as Landen Smith captured the race in 16 minutes and 13 seconds, while Josh Shope (16:17) was right behind.
“Landen Smith ran really well in winning the race. He is one of the most talented kids I’ve ever seen. It’s good for him to come out and do what he needs to do to win. Then Josh Shope had a huge PR (personal record) today — a breakout race for him. He beat Waverly’s top three runners, he had a good race today, so it was nice to see him be successful,” said Schroeder of the SOC’s top-two boys for 2019.
The Tigers’ trio of top placers were all within 11 seconds of one another — as Aidan Judd was third in 16:38, followed by fourth-place Mitch Green (16:49.00) and fifth-place Philip Emory (16:49.23) in 16:49 apiece.
The Mohawks’ third finisher — Kailin Marshall (16:49.57) — managed sixth, and was only 54 one-hundredths of a second behind Emory.
Northwest’s Ricky Gambill, claiming the final first-team all-league spot, was seventh overall in 17:34.
The top three second-teamers were Waverly’s Calob Ramirez (8th in 17:40) and Jack Monroe (10th in 17:45), sandwiched around Northwest’s fifth scorer — Gabe Morrell (9th in 17:44).
All of the top-1o times were within a minute and 32 seconds of each other, so each place was critical, Schroeder said.
Even for the sixth and seventh runners had it come down to a tiebreaker, because Northwest’s Eli Marshall (15th in 18:37) and Mason Breech (16th in 18:41) were ahead of Waverly’s Spencer Fraley (20th in 18:58) and Aidan Kelly (21st in 19:08).
“Our third, fourth and fifth runners all worked together and were able to keep their spots and beat the people they needed to today,” he said. “I’m proud of all the kids. Hard work always pays off and they realize that. The work you put in leads to moments like this.”
Wheelersburg was third with 93 points, as David Brown in 11th in 17:54 and Andrew Clark in 14th in 18:08 were the Pirates’ pair of second team all-league honorees.
Rounding out the second-team all-SOC unit were Valley’s Alex Morris (12th in 17:55) and South Webster’s Mason Blizzard (13th in 17:58).
The remaining top-20 runners were Wheelersburg’s Zach Whitley (17th in 18:42), Oak Hill’s Landon Hines (18th in 18:48) and Minford’s Skylar Allen (19th in 18:53).
The other boys team scores included those of Eastern (4th at 142), Portsmouth West (5th at 146), South Webster (6th at 153), Oak Hill (7th at 165) and Symmes Valley (8th at 180).
In order to post a team score, a squad must field at least five runners.
On the girls side, Wheelersburg — with five schools recording team scores — won the SOC championship for the first time since a four-year streak from 2010 thru 2013, and following a three-year run from 2006 thru 2008.
The Lady Pirates placed four runners within the top-14 to make all-SOC, as South Webster — with a score of 53 — was the runner-up with two all-leaguers.
Wheelersburg’s Alyssa Dingus paced the Lady Pirates with a third-place performance in 22 minutes and 22 seconds, while Amanda Salmons (6th in 22:43) made first-team as well — crossing just 21 seconds behind Dingus.
Gabby Deacon (11th in 23:34) and Natalie Parker (14th in 24:43) were the Pirates’ second-teamers, as 17th-place Ryen Bishop (24:49) was Wheelersburg’s fifth score.
South Webster was led by seventh-place Macie Rhoads (22:45) and ninth-place Brooklyn Blanton (23:04), as Rhoads was the final first-team all-league runner — with Blanton being the second second-teamer.
The Jeeps’ other counting times belonged to Ali Newman (15th in 24:47), Rylee Hagen (19th in 24:58) and Rose Stephens (23rd in 25:30).
Waverly — spearheaded by race runner-up Sarah Crabtree in 22:09 — was third with 59 points, as Jullia Clark claimed second-team accolades in 12th in 23:52.
Eastern’s Abby Couchenor, in a fast 19 minutes and 36 seconds and almost three full minutes ahead of Crabtree, captured the girls race championship — and paced the Lady Eagles’ 72-point effort.
The Eagles and Green, with a team score of 134, had the minimum five runners apiece.
Northwest did not post a team score, but Kodi Burton (4th in 22:34) and Brooke Shope (5th in 22:39) secured back-to-back top-five finishes for first-team all-league.
Oak Hill’s Ivy Gentry (8th in 22:57) and Minford’s Macy Wright (10th in 23:06) and Alyson Bailey (13th in 24:28) rounded out the ladies’ second-team all-SOC.
Rounding out the top-20 were Kaylee Jones (16th in 24:48) and Sofia Salisbury (20th in 25:01) of Eastern and Olivia Cisco (24:50) of Waverly.
There were exactly 50 runners in the girls high school race.
A complete list of results from Saturday’s SOC championship meet can be found at www.baumspage.com.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved