OTTAWA — Van Wert senior Caylee Phillips knew she was quite capable of putting on a good kick at the end of Saturday’s race at the Ottawa-Glandorf Blue/Gold Invitational at Ottawa Memorial Park.
Last track season, Phillips was a Division II state qualifier in the 800 meters. Last fall, she also was a Division II state qualifier in cross country.
So, Phillips remained calm, early on, in Saturday’s cross-country race.
In the final 800 meters, Phillips showcased her ability to break away as she gapped her competitors and then hung on down the stretch, en route to a winning time of 18 minutes, 55.6 seconds on the 5,000-meter course in the girls large school division (Blue Division).
Coldwater’s Haley Alig, who ran with Phillips for most of Saturday’s race, closed the gap toward the end and finished second in 18:56.7. Archbold’s Kylie Sauder came in third (18:59.6).
Those three athletes ran in a pack by themselves for most of Saturday’s race.
“At about the 2-mile (mark) they started to actually pull away from me,” Phillips said. “Then, at about the 800 mark, my coaches told me, ‘You have to go now, if you want to win.’ I started to get in front of them and started to go.”
Phillips was coming off a race this past Tuesday at the Elida Invitational, where she battled Columbus Grove’s Alyssa Ellerbrock. In the final mile at Elida, Ellerbrock pulled away from Phillips for the victory.
“I really had to trust myself,” Phillips said. “Recently, I haven’t been able to do that.”
In the final team standings of the girls large school division, Wauseon won with 72 points, while Archbold finished second (82).
Kenton and Van Wert both scored 123 points. However, with Kenton’s sixth runner placing better than Van Wert’s sixth runner, Kenton was awarded third place. Coldwater finished fifth (125). There were 14 full teams in that division.
“Van Wert beat us by one point (at Tuesday’s Elida Invitational),” longtime Kenton head coach Jared Manns said. “Today, we tied and it went to our sixth runner. …That was a lot of fun.”
Kenton’s top performer Saturday was Kierra Krohmer, who finished sixth (20:14.3).
Manns said his girls team is starting to come together.
“Our top girl (Krohmer) is super ambitious,” Manns said. “She is highly motivated. Her workouts are going great. She was a little disappointed (on Saturday), even though she had a PR of 20:14. … She’s been wanting that 19 (minutes) for so long. It’s helping to motivate the rest of the team.
“She’s the obvious leader of our team. Then (runners), two through five could really be anybody. That’s what is cool about our pack.”
In the boys large school division (Blue Division), Wauseon claimed the team title, defeating second-place Tinora 96-113. Otsego (121), Fairview (125) and St. Marys (128) rounded out the top five squads in the 18-team field.
Bryan’s Joshua Taylor won the boys large school race, in a time of 16:24.9. Van Wert’s Hunter Sherer had the best area performance, finishing fifth (17:01.8). St. Marys’ Noah Tobin was close behind Sherer, placing sixth (17:03.3).
In the boys small school division (Gold Division), last year’s Division III state champion, Ayersville’s Noah Fisher pulled away from the pack early, en route to an easy win. Fisher crossed the finish line in 16:06.4, while Perry’s Brady Yingst came in second (16:56.6).
“Today’s strategy was to just go out and work on some of the things I want to work on for state – that’s getting out in the first mile, and then focusing on the finish. Next week, I’ll be down at Centerville in a big race. So, I wanted to save a little energy for that.”
Yingst, a sophomore, wanted to stay close to Fisher in Saturday’s race.
“He got out pretty quick,” Yingst said about Fisher. “I was supposed to stay with him, but he ended up gapping me.”
Yingst is coming off a win this past Tuesday at the Elida Invitational, where the runners experienced some extreme high temperatures. Three days before that, Yingst recorded a win at the Spencerville Bearcat Invitational.
“It was a quick turnaround,” Yingst said. “My legs were tired and it showed. I didn’t run as fast as I wanted to (on Saturday).”
Holgate (34) won the team title in the boys small school division. Ayersville (100), Ottoville (115), Kalida (116) and Marion Local (120) rounded out the top five squads in the 10-team field.
In the girls small school division (Gold Division), St. Henry won the team title, scoring 40 points, compared to Delphos St. John’s score of 66. Marion Local (70), Holgate (96) and Spencerville (112) rounded out the top five teams.
Holgate’s Raena Willett won the girls small school race in 19:20.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.