COLUMBUS GROVE — Good runners visualize their races in hopes they can have their best performance.
This past week at practice, Columbus Grove senior Alyssa Ellerbrock was visualizing each mile of this weekend’s upcoming race.
Ellerbrock came out Saturday at the Columbus Grove Invitational and clocked her best time ever on a 5,000-meter course, winning in a time of 18 minutes, 31.7 seconds. Ellerbrock’s closest competitor, Carey’s Sarah Reinhart, was over a minute behind her (19:36.7). Ellerbrock’s time broke the school record.
Ellerbrock’s stellar performance helped lead her Columbus Grove team to the girls small school team title Saturday, defeating second-place Carey 49-92. Hopewell-Loudon (128), Patrick Henry (132) and Crestview (153) rounded out the top five squads in the 12-team field.
“We had a great week of practice this week,” Ellerbrock said. “In one of the days (at practice), we did mile repeats and I was staying right with the times that I wanted to get. That really gave me the confidence that I needed, because I knew if I can run it at practice, I can run it at the meet.
“The first mile (on Saturday), I had plenty of girls to push me to give me a good start. In the second mile, it came down to what I always try to work on – my mental focus – because that’s where I usually drop off. So, I just kept telling myself, ‘Six minutes (per mile), six minutes.’”
Last season, Ellerbrock earned all-Ohio honors at the Division III state cross country meet with a 16th-place finish (19:52.9) on a soggy course at Hebron. The team placed 12th at the state meet.
The pack of Columbus Grove runners behind Ellerbrock on Saturday were not too far behind.
Rounding out the top five runners for Columbus Grove were Erin Downing (20:41), Leanndra Price (21:10), Ellie Keehn (21:33) and Sydney Witteborg (22:10).
“What we’ve been talking about this summer is, what kind of team we want to be,” longtime Columbus Grove girls coach Jason Jay said. “When you have teams like West Liberty-Salem, Minster, Fort Loramie – that’s the class we want to be in. That was the challenge we put out there.
“What I saw today, besides the performance of Alyssa, was the pack really tightening the gap. I think that once Alyssa crossed the finish line, we had our next six girls on the track at the same time (final 300 meters to the finish line).
That’s really what it’s going to take. They really stepped up to the challenge today.”
On the boys side, Columbus Grove slipped past Botkins 76-97 for the boys small team title. Minster (98), Hopewell-Loudon (107) and Lincolnview (145) rounded out the top five teams.
Columbus Grove was led by two sophomores, Caleb Stechschulte (fourth, 16:37.3) and Carson Closson (12th, 16:58.8).
“I’m extremely happy with my time,” Stechschulte said. “I didn’t expect to break 17s at all. … It felt great. I paced myself in the race better than I have in the past. I think that really helped.”
Tanner Smith (17:09), Breece Pringle (17:16) and Roy Langhals (17:44) were the next three scorers for Columbus Grove.
“My wife will tell you that I don’t get too emotional,” longtime Columbus Grove boys coach Terry Schnipke said. “But I was emotional today, because they ran really well.
“We pushed them really hard at practice this week, and I wasn’t really sure how well they would respond. I thought they’re either going to come out and run really well, or they wouldn’t, because we worked them so hard during the week. The former happened, which was good to see. So, I’m very pleased.”
There were only two seniors in Columbus Grove’s top seven spots Saturday.
“We have a good mix of experience and young kids; and the young kids keep getting better, which is good to see,” Schnipke said.
Last season, the Columbus Grove boys placed 16th at the Division III state meet.
In Saturday’s boys small school race, Ayersville senior Noah Fisher pulled away from the pack early and nearly broke the course record, en route to a winning time of 15:20.
Last season, Fisher won the Division III cross country state title.
“The goal coming in, was to try to get it (course record),” Fisher said. “I was one second off my PR today. So, I got a really good race out of this.”
In the girls big school race, Minster pulled away for the team title, defeating second-place Findlay 37-76. Van Wert (143), Wauseon (164) and Van Buren (192) rounded out the top five squads in the 17-team field.
Minster’s Ella Boate finished second (18:46.9) to Findlay’s Amanda Tremains (18:33). Van Wert’s Caylee Phillips finished fourth (19:06). In the boys large school race, New Haven claimed the team title, defeating second-place Findlay 62-112. Ottawa-Glandorf had the best local performance, placing sixth out of 20 teams.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.