HEBRON — Waynesfield-Goshen freshman Taylor Spencer had never competed in cross country until this year.
Now, she’s First Team All-Ohio in that sport.
At Saturday’s Ohio High School Athletic Association’s Cross Country State Championships at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, Spencer positioned herself in the lead pack throughout the entire race and went on to finish sixth in a time of 18 minutes, 52.2 seconds on the 5,000-meter course. The top 30-placers in each race Saturday earned all-Ohio status.
In middle school, Spencer was an 800-meter, 1,600-meter runner in track.
This fall, Spencer has developed into one of the top cross country runners in the state.
On Saturday, Spencer knew she had to be cautious on how fast to start off the race.
“I really didn’t want to have to set the pace,” Spencer said. “But I wasn’t too worried about doing that, since the Springfield (Catholic Central) twins are really fast. So, I just tried to stay right behind them and the pack, the whole time. My goal was top eight. So, I was trying not to go out too fast. “
Addie Engel from Springfield Catholic Central won Saturday’s D-III race in 17:47. Her twin sister, Bridget, finished fourth (18:44.4).
“The first 400 meters, I had to push really hard to just get up there (in the lead pack),” Spencer said. “Then, I tried to pace myself until about the last 600 meters of the race. It felt really fast.
“(Early on) I felt like I needed to go faster. But I thought, ‘Wait, these girls are like me, and faster’. So, I pretended that I was running by myself the whole time and kept telling myself that.”
Also in Division III, Columbus Grove senior Alyssa Ellerbrock wrapped up her illustrious cross country high school career on a strong note, as she finished eighth overall in 18:53.4. With Saturday’s stellar performance, Ellerbrock walks away with three all-Ohio honors in cross country.
“It’s so special (three all-Ohio medals), running with some great girls and having a great coach that have pushed me along the way to help me reach my full potential,” Ellerbrock said. “If you would have told me my freshman year that I would be in this position, I would have said that you’re crazy. I had no idea that I would be at where I am today.”
Columbus Grove’s girls team competed Saturday as well. The Bulldogs finished 11th out of 20 teams.
The rest of Columbus Grove’s squad included Erin Downing (88th, 20:52.6), Leanndra Price (105th, 21:17.9), Ellie Keehn (116th, 21:34.4), Sydney Witteborg (131st, 22:05.6), Addison Schafer (143rd, 22:21.8) and Zoe Stechschulte (150th, 22:44.3).
The girls team from Delphos St. John’s placed 19th Saturday in D-III. Making up the St. John’s squad were Catherine Kopack (102nd, 21:10.2), Kambrynn Rohr (102nd, 21:37.7), Jenia Freewalt (133rd, 22:08.7), Rylee Pohlman (144nd, 22:21.8), Adara Fuerst (151st, 22:46.5) and Abby Shafer (169th, 23:41.3).
Coldwater’s Haley Alig finished 15th in Saturday’s Division III race with a time of 19:06.6, and earned all-Ohio honors.
Van Wert’s Phillips
closes out as all-Ohio
Last season, Van Wert’s Caylee Phillips won the Western Buckeye League title, district title and regional title. However, at last year’s state meet, Phillips finished 46th overall.
This season ended a little differently for the senior Phillips.
In Saturday’s Division II race at the state meet, Phillips got out to a strong start and stayed near the front, en route to a sixth-place finish in a new personal-best and school-record time of 18:23.4. Phillips broke her own school record, one that she set earlier this season.
“Last year, I didn’t do what I wanted to do,” Phillips said. “So, this year I had the most positive mindset that I’ve ever had, coming into the race and during the race. I kept saying things to myself that would keep me going. I knew at the beginning, I had to push with my head and my brain and tell myself to go. And at the end, I pushed with my heart.”
Phillips said her confidence grew as Saturday’s race progressed.
“At first, I was nervous,” Phillips said. “So, I knew I had to be strong and tell myself to go. Then after the 2-mile mark, that’s when I knew I had this.”
In the Division II team scores, Celina finished 19th and Shawnee came in 20th.
Celina’s team was comprised of Kaylie Dameron (39th, 19:28.6), Caleigh Ross (87th, 20:11.9), Joscelyn Dameron (91st, 20:15.4), Zoey Aukerman (156th, 21:48.5), Rose Kraner (166th, 22:33.9), Kyleigh Giesige (171st, 23: 08.1) and Rianne Daniel (176th, 29:04.2).
Shawnee’s pack included Celia Spieles (78th, 20:08), Alaina Williams (107th, 20:35.3), Molly Stump (117th, 20:45.7), Lily Cleaves (126th, 20:59.2), Lexie Marshall (157th, 21:51.6) Emily Bryan (161st, 22:01.4) and Katie Curl (175th, 23:23.0).
Other area state participants
Division III (girls): Crestview’s Ragen Harting (65th, 20:24.9), Lincolnview’s Madison Langdon (50th, 20:08.2), Spencerville’s Lillee Stewart (89th, 20:57.2), St. Henry’s Leah Hietkamp (84th, 20:44.9).
Division III (boys): Perry’s Brady Yingst (80th, 17:29.6), Coldwater’s Isaac Schoen (74th, 17:25.7), Lima Central Catholic’s Quentin Potempa (92nd, 17:35.4), Parkway’s Kyle Roth (32nd, 16:50).
Division II (boys): Shawnee’s Isaiah Johns (98th, 17:14).