Jacquelyn Witt, of Marysville, focuses on the last few feet between her and the finish line during the Division I race of the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Cross-Country Championship at National Trails Raceway in Hebron.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
On a misty, cloudy and wet morning, 184 ladies began a 3.1-mile journey down a course that weaves its way around the grounds of the National Trails Raceway in Hebron.
The girls comprised a group of runners that came from all corners of the state to compete in the 2017 Ohio High School Athletic Association State Cross-Country Championship on Saturday.
The Union County area was represented by athletes in all three divisions.
Marysville sophomore Jacquelyn Witt competed in Division I, Morgan Hicks and Maddie Davis, a pair of Jonathan Alder freshmen, toured the course in Division II and Triad senior Holly Cole ran in the D-III meet.
Witt had trouble finding room on the course in a jam-packed race.
“It was different,” she said. “I’m not used to being so crammed in, so it was a different experience and it helped push me along and I was pulled along by other girls.
“It was fun to race against so many other good competitors.”
Witt managed the by-now rutted and gouged course (after two previous races) to take 68th place in a time of 19:26.
“I’m not used to having this many people around, but it was fun,” she said.
“The week’s rain slowed the course a little, but Jacquelyn attacked her race with gusto,” said MHS coach Luke Sundermeier. “She came through the one-mile mark in 5:50 and continued fighting for position throughout the entire race.”
Going down the stretch, Witt passed four runners for her final finish.
“Jacquelyn isn’t used to running in that much traffic, so the state meet was a valuable experience in negotiating the field,” said Sundermeier. “She handled the entire week with humility and wanted to run hard for her teammates.
“The entire team and coaching staff have worked incredibly hard over the last two years to return Marysville cross-country to a competitive position in central Ohio,” he said. “Division I is intensely competitive and for Jacquelyn to represent the team at the state level is terrific. We were one spot short of making it here last year, so this year it feels great for the whole team.
“As we now look forward to track season (in the spring), we will write down new goals and continue to hold each other accountable on our journey to reach them,” said Sundermeier.
Cole was the first local runner up as the D-III meet began the day.
She started out the race packed in as the ladies made their way past the grandstands in the first quarter mile. The sound of 368 track spikes squished in the mud as the runners jockeyed for position.
“Yeah, it was pretty tough,” said Cole. “It being sloppy didn’t make much difference. I have run in a lot of races that have been much worse.”
When Cole came around the final turn, she found some leg room and came across the line in a time of 20:28 to take 70th place.
“I felt strong,” said Cole. “I felt pretty good.”
The Division II race was next on the schedule where Hicks and Davis made their state meet debut.
They found themselves in a similar situation of tight packs of runners on a course that was less than ideal.
“It was definitely one of the tougher courses,” said Davis. “It was a great experience. It wasn’t the fastest course and I don’t think a lot of people PR’d (personal record).
“It wasn’t great conditions, but it was still fun and we are glad we made it.”
Hicks kept her stride throughout the course to finish in a time of 19:27 for 46th place. Davis was close behind at 19:46 to take home 56th place.
“(It was) definitely not my best race, but I’m still happy that I got to run here,” said Davis.
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