KENTON — It’s all about the pack.
Longtime Shawnee cross country coach Russ Holly preaches to his athletes the importance of having a strong pack of runners.
At Saturday’s Western Buckeye League Championships at Kenton, Shawnee’s pack of runners, especially in the girls race, backed up their coach’s philosophy.
The Shawnee girls team put five runners in the top 17 overall spots, en route to winning the WBL team title.
Shawnee outscored second-place Ottawa-Glandorf 46-85 to notch the WBL title. Van Wert finished a close third (96), while Wapakoneta (116) and Celina (125) rounded out the top five squads in the 10-team field.
“The ‘pack attack’ is the important thing,” Holly said. “You want the gap between your first and seventh runners to be tight. So, they’ve been working on that. They’ve done an awesome job.
“Sometimes, the kids worry about who wins the race, individually. I don’t worry about that. I worry about where you place in the race. When you put people close together — that’s the deal.”
Alaina Williams led the pack for Shawnee on Saturday. Williams finished fifth overall on the 5,000-meter course around the Kenton campus, in 20 minutes, 24.74 seconds. Teammate Molly Stump was not far behind in sixth (20:39.45). Lily Cleaves (seventh, 20:53.58), Tayma Jmiai (13th, 22:02.95) and Lena Parsley (17th, 22:22.04) rounded out the five scorers for Shawnee.
After winning the WBL title Saturday, Holly will now quickly turn his team’s focus on the upcoming postseason tournament, which starts next Saturday at the Division II district tournament at Columbus Grove. Shawnee hopes to advance to regionals, and then eventually to the state meet.
“The girls have been there (to the state tournament) the past two years,” Holly said. “So, they really want to go back.”
Celina’s Kaylie Dameron won Saturday’s girls race in 19:18.55. Dameron pulled away from Ottawa-Glandorf’s Alexa Fortman, for her second consecutive WBL title.
“I took the first two miles out a little faster than what I normally do,” Dameron said about Saturday’s race. “Then I just tried to hang on as much as I could, the rest of the race.
“I think after mile two, I started to gap her (Fortman). I wanted to get a big enough lead to where she could not out-sprint me at the end.”
Fortman finished second (19:45.45). Van Wert’s Kyra Welch (20:05.42), Celina’s Joscelyn Dameron (20:12.24) and Shawnee’s Alaina Williams rounded out the top five. Joscelyn Dameron is Kaylie’s sister.
Rounding out the top 11, and earning First Team All-WBL honors were Stump, Cleaves, Elida’s Emily Durham (eighth, 21:03.1), St. Marys’ Maria Jutte (ninth, 21:17.34), O-G’s Madelyn Hovest (10th, 21:30.22) and Van Wert’s Tyra McClain (11th, 21:36.07).
Last season, Kaylie Dameron placed 23rd at the Division II state meet.
On the boys’ side Saturday, Defiance won the team title, defeating second-place Van Wert, 44-56. Shawnee (62), Ottawa-Glandorf (108) and St. Marys (140) rounded out the top five teams.
Defiance placed all five of its scorers in the top 15 spots.
Longtime Defiance boys head coach Obie Mouser notched his 20th career WBL title Saturday. In school history, Defiance has now garnered 27 league crowns in boys cross country.
“We’ve been working really hard,” Mouser said. “We had one kid sick and one coming off an injury; and they’re just starting to get back into it. If they do (get healthy), we can have some good results.”
Van Wert’s Hunter Sherer pulled away from the pack later in Saturday’s race and went on to win in a time of 16:48.13. Shawnee’s Noah Williams (second, 16:59.48) and Isaiah Johns (third, 17:05.53) were hot on Sherer’s heels, early on.
Last season, Johns won the WBL title, while Sherer settled for second.
“On the second lap, I kind of felt them pulling back a little bit,” Sherer said about Saturday’s race. “So, I thought I would just pull up around them; and that’s when I started to chug ahead of them.”
Last year, Sherer placed 17th at the Division II state meet, where he set his personal best of 16:14.5.
Rounding out the top 11 for the boys race, and earning First Team All-WBL honors were Defiance’s Josh Horvath (fourth, 17:09), Shawnee’s Carter Cleaves (fifth, 17:11.26), Defiance’s Eli Fortman (sixth, 17:13.98) and Caleb Brashear (seventh, 17:27.11), Van Wert’s Gage Wannemacher (eighth, 17:30.40), O-G’s Ty Rosengarten (ninth, 17:38), Van Wert’s Drew Laudick (10th, 17:38.63), and Wapakoneta’s Axton Fosnaugh (11th, 17:41.14).
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.