DELPHOS — It’s difficult to defeat a cross country team that has a solid pack of runners.
The Columbus Grove boys team displayed just how lethal a pack of runners can be when it dominated at Saturday’s Blue Jay Invitational.
Columbus Grove placed its top five finishers in the top 14 overall en route to the team title. The Bulldogs scored 29 points, while Lincolnview came in second (70). Crestview finished third (86) while New Bremen was fourth (108). There were 12 teams in the boys race.
On the girls side, Liberty-Benton ran away with the team crown, scoring 29 points. Spencerville was second (57), Kalida was third (90), while New Bremen came in fourth (151). There were 11 full teams in the girls race.
Columbus Grove’s Jake Graham broke away from the pack after the first mile of the race and pulled away for the victory in 16 minutes, 34 seconds. Graham had plenty of company from his teammates. Colton Grothaus finished third (16:58); Alex Shafer was fourth (17:06); Grant Schroeder was seventh (17:23) and Nick Schmiesing was 15th overall (18:12).
Graham approached Saturday’s race a little differently than he did in the season-opener on Tuesday when the Bulldogs competed at Benjamin Logan.
“I was going to go out at a 5:15 pace and try to keep it. And I went 10:27 for my 2-mile (mark). I was trying to keep an even pace and I was catching people. I wasn’t going to slow the pace, so I just kept pulling away,” Graham said.
Columbus Grove boys coach Terry Schnipke was pleased at how his team performed against Saturday’s competitive field of teams.
“I was liking that pack up front. There’s a lot more teams here and more competition than on Tuesday. It’s a little different competition. There were a lot more NWC (Northwest Conference) teams here. I think they (Columbus Grove) wanted to make a good impression. I really thought they might get caught up in all the adrenaline and burn out. I’m very proud of them for running a smart race,” he said.
In the girls race, Liberty-Benton claimed the top two spots. Kate Baumlein won the race in 20:10, while teammate Madi Greiner was second in 20:22. L-B’s next three scorers finished sixth, tenth and twelfth overall.
For second-place Spencerville, Karri Purdy was the top runner, finishing fourth in 21:04. The rest of Spencerville’s scorers were Cierra Adams (fifth, 21:05); Kacie Mulholland (14th, 22:22); Tori Hardesty (16th, 22:25) and Schylar Miller (28th, 23:14).