SPENCERVILLE — Longtime Shawnee head cross country coach Russ Holly always looks at the big picture.
Holly realizes that developing a solid pack of runners is a process.
However, after Saturday’s Spencerville Bearcat Invitational, Holly has to be feeling optimistic at what he saw.
The Shawnee girls team placed three runners in the top five overall spots Saturday, en route to winning the team title in the Black Division on the 5,000-meter course on the Spencerville campus.
Senior Molly Stump led Shawnee with a second-place finish in a time of 19 minutes, 44.1 seconds. Anna’s Paige Steinke ran away from the pack early on, en route to an impressive winning time of 18:13.2.
Senior Alaina Williams (third, 19:53.4) and freshman Jenna Stump (fifth, 20:59.6), Molly Stump’s sister, were close behind for Shawnee. Tayma Jmiai (14th, 22:56.4) and Addy Hull (38th, 25:38.1) rounded out the top five runners for the Indians.
Shawnee scored 59 points Saturday. Benjamin Logan placed second with 86 points. Van Buren (104), South Adams, Indiana (104) and Anna (115), rounded out the top five squads in the Black Division. Van Buren and South Adams tied with 104 points. However, Van Buren was awarded third place, due to the sixth-runner tiebreaker. There were nine full teams in the Black Division.
“Molly’s sister (Jenna), was our third runner. … She’s right there, too,” Holly said. “Tayma Jmiai was pretty close. I was missing my fifth runner today. But I had a freshman (Addy Hull) come up and do a nice job for us. … Pack-attack, that’s the deal.”
As Saturday’s race progressed, Molly Stump began to realize that it was going to be a big challenge to reel in Anna’s Paige Steinke, who led from start to finish.
However, coming into Saturday’s race, Stump did not realize how strong of a runner Steinke was.
“I actually didn’t know until after the very beginning of the race,” Stump said with a grin. “But I’m happy with my time this year (at Bearcat Invite), compared to last year. … I went a lot faster.”
Molly Stump is hopeful that her team will continue to improve.
“We have some solid runners,” Stump said. “I don’t know how deep our team is, though. So, we’ll see how that plays out throughout the rest of the season.”
Steinke, a junior, was coming off a race at last weekend’s Columbus Grove Invitational, where she clocked a winning time of 17:47.79, which was a personal best.
Last season, Steinke’s personal-best time was 19:51.30, when she placed 49th at the Division III state meet.
“I’m just hoping that if I make it to state, that I can get a really good time there,” Steinke said.
In the boys Black Division, Shawnee junior Noah Williams came on strong late in the race to win in 16:45.1.
Van Buren’s Hudson Sendelbach, who briefly led Saturday’s race, finished second (16:54.6).
“In the backstretch (the latter part of the race), it’s kind of windy,” Williams said. “I saw him (Sendelbach), and I realized he was keeping my pace. So, I thought if I got behind him, he’s going to take the wind for me. … That way, I would have a better last 800 meters.”
Williams’ strategy worked out, perfectly.
Down the stretch, Williams shifted to a whole different gear, and pulled away for the win.
As a team, the Shawnee boys placed fifth (91) in a field of nine full squads.
Van Buren won the title in the boys Black Division with 64 points. Anna (78), Bath (80) and Wapakoneta (86) were the top four teams.
Wapakoneta’s Axton Fosnaugh finished a close third (17:00.9). Shawnee’s Carter Cleaves placed fourth (17:27.3).
Bath placed two runners in the top nine Saturday. Jacob Wireman (sixth, 17:53.1) and Landon Jones (ninth, 18:13.3) led the Wildcats.
In the girls Red Division, Miller City sophomore Andrea Pfau took control of the race early on, and pulled away for the win in 20:10.9. Riverdale’s Allison Woodruff finished second in 20:34.4.
“I was trying to get at least 19:50, but it didn’t happen. But I did PR by five seconds,” Pfau said with a grin.
Pfau has some high goals for this season.
“I made it to regionals (last year), but I missed state by five spots, I think,” Pfau said. “The goal is to place at least in the top 10 at regionals and to go to state.”
In the girls Red Division, St. Henry won the team title with 44 points. Parkway was second with 76. Russia (82), Wayne Trace (90) and Delphos St. John’s (97) rounded out the top five squads. There were seven full teams in the Red Division.
In the boys Red Division, Jackson Center senior Kellen Reichert pulled away for the win in 16:34.8. Spencerville senior Lanny Oakman finished second (16:52.7). Upper Scioto Valley senior Joe Parker came in third (17:36.7).
Reichert, an all-Ohio runner in Division III at last season’s state meet, shrugged off Oakman late in the race, and went on to cross the finish line first.
“I could definitely hear him (Oakman) in the first mile,” Reichert said. “He was pushing me a little bit. Then, I heard his footsteps start to fade away. But he still ran a good race. … I was happy with mine, too.”
Oakman said, “I let him get away at about the one-and-a-half (mile mark). I felt like my legs were dead.”
Russia won the team title in the boys Red Division (49). Hicksville (100), Parkway (102), Antwerp (151) and Jackson Center (155) rounded out the top five squads. There were 12 teams figured into the team scoring.
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