DEFIANCE — At Saturday’s Western Buckeye League Championships at Defiance High School, it looked like the weather could be a factor.
The temperatures dropped — which is normally a good thing — but the bitter wind gusts definitely posed a challenge for the cross-country runners.
However, the bitter winds didn’t seem to affect everyone Saturday.
In the girls race, Van Wert senior Caylee Phillips, defended her WBL crown from a year ago, by pulling away early in Saturday’s race, en route to a stellar winning time of 18 minutes, 42.78 seconds. Phillips’ nearest competitors were Celina’s Kaylie Dameron (19:16.66) and Joscelyn Dameron (19:51.66), who finished second and third, respectively on the 5,000-meter course.
Phillips took the lead early in Saturday’s race, and then pulled away for the relatively easy win.
“This week, I just ran my own race,” Phillips said. “Prior to the race, we talked about it and we did our own virtual race, basically. I knew my PR before today was 18:55, and I was already like 25 seconds ahead of the next girl (coming into Saturday’s race).”
Phillips has her sights set on making another run in the postseason, which begins next weekend at the Division II district at Ottawa.
“I want to win districts and regionals, because that’s what I did last year,” Phillips said. “Then, I want to get to state and do better than I did last year. … I got sick at state.”
Last season, Phillips finished 46th overall out of 177 runners at the Division II state meet.
In the girls final team scores Saturday, Shawnee slipped out with the win, defeating second-place Celina 59-64. Van Wert finished third (83), while Defiance (87) and St. Marys (125) made up the top five teams. Rounding out the nine-team field was Kenton (sixth, 130), Wapakoneta (seventh, 170), Bath (eighth, 183) and Ottawa-Glandorf (ninth, 231). Elida did not have a full team.
Shawnee’s top performer Saturday was Celia Spieles, who placed fifth (20:08.12). Rounding out the top five runners for Shawnee on Saturday were Alaina Williams (ninth, 20:25.95), Molly Stump (12th, 20:41.45), Lily Cleaves (15th, 20:45.87) and Lexie Marshall (18th 20:50.44).
“We had a really nice pack,” longtime Shawnee coach Russ Holly said. “I think we had five all-league (performers on Saturday). Everybody has been working hard. They did what they needed to do today.”
On the boys side, Defiance placed its top seven runners in the top 10 overall spots, en route to a dominant win.
Defiance outdistanced second-place Ottawa-Glandorf 22-77. St. Marys finished third (97), while Shawnee (97) and Van Wert (139) rounded out the top five teams in the 10-team field. The rest of the field was comprised of Celina (sixth, 140), Wapakoneta (seventh, 211), Elida (eighth, 218), Kenton (ninth, 221) and Bath (10th, 249).
St. Marys garnered the third-place spot, based on the sixth-man tiebreaker with Shawnee.
Leading the way for Defiance was senior standout Mhalicki Bronson, who pulled away from the start and crossed the finish line in a league-record time of 15:23.85. Like Phillips, Bronson defended his WBL crown from last season.
Bronson wanted to run his own race Saturday.
“I kind of wanted to break 15 (minutes),” Bronson said. “So, I went out with a 4:44 first mile. Then the second mile, I was like 9:55. So, I was still in the range of getting it. But that last straightaway was all wind and I really didn’t have anybody to push me to stay in it (sub 15-minute pace). So mentally, I kind of fell off a little bit. Then when I realized I had to go, it was a little too late.”
Bronson’s all-time personal best is 15:00.3, which he clocked in his win at the Portage Invitational (Portage, Michigan) last Saturday.
Bronson’s top two competitors at Saturday’s WBL Championships were his teammates, Cooper Morton (second, 16:26.52) and Brennen Roehrig (third, 16:27.94).
Colin Moats (sixth, 16:43.79) and Eli Fortman (10th, 17:00.72) were Defiance’s fourth and fifth runners, respectively.
“We broke a little bit toward the back (of the pack),” longtime Defiance boys coach Obie Mouser said. “I’m really surprised everybody ran so well, because the wind was horrendous. It (the course) is wet in spots and it’s pretty cold.
“But it was a great day. It was a pretty competitive race. The kids were getting out there and getting after it.”
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