MG girls 13th at state; Northmor’s Blum is All-Ohio
The Mount Gilead girls’ cross country team claimed 13th place in the Division III state cross country meet on Saturday.
In their second straight year of advancing to the state meet, the Indians were led by senior Raychel Gress, who was 61st in 19:58.24.
“I’m so happy — I’m blessed,” said Gress, who has battled injuries throughout her cross country and track career with the Indians. “All the goals I set for myself in middle school, I met this year.”
Included in those goals was earning one of the top times in school history, alongside an aunt (Jenny Gress) who ran for the Indians in the past.
Gress is considering running in college for possibly Ohio Northern University or Akron University. She will major in communications and is looking to work for non-profit agencies.
This year, the team tended to run as a pack, which she liked.
“I love it,” she said. “I run with them (my teammates) and against them.”
Two of those teammates finished roughly half a minute behind Gress. Bryanna Bolha was 80th in 20:26.14 and Rachel Bush took 81st in 20:26.6.
The two runners, both sophomores, felt their state meet experience last year was helpful in handling the course at National Trail Raceway, Hebron, this time around.
“The race was really exciting,” said Bush. “It was great to come back. You definitely try not to be close to other people.”
Bolha added, “And watch how you start. It (the race) wasn’t too bad — it was a lot of fun.”
Jenna Shipman placed 90th in 20:41.92 to be the next Mount Gilead runner to finish. Taryn Chapman claimed 109th in 21:23.44, while Makenzie McKirgan took 112th in 21:29.23 and Sophia Friesen ran 127th in 22:10.04.
Three Morrow County athletes ran as individuals in the state meet, with one earning All-Ohio status.
Northmor senior Dani Blum placed 18th in the Division III girls’ meet in 19:07.9 to finish as an All-Ohio runner for the second time.
Blum, who ran in the state meet all four years, was an All-Ohioan as a freshman before not quite making the top 25 the past two years.
“I was aiming for the podium, but to finish All-Ohio as a senior is all I could ask for,” she said. “Who’s going to be unhappy with All-Ohio and a better place than before?”
Blum improved her position dramatically over the last mile to finish in the top 20. She said that she fell back after getting out to too fast of a start and then had to make up places over the final mile.
“My whole plan was to start 10th and keep in 10th to 25th the whole time,” she said. “I got so scared at the start that I started sprinting and led the first 100 meters.”
Blum hasn’t picked a college yet, noting that she likes Heidelberg, but hasn’t made her final decision.
In the Division III boys’ race, Cardington’s Jacob Long fell seven places short of All-Ohio status. As a freshman, he finished 32nd in 16:30.56. He was the highest-placing freshman in the race.
“It was awesome,” he said of the state meet. “I enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun and a great experience.”
Long also was able to use the race as a learning experience, as he plans on returning to the state meet over the next three years.
“The pace was fast, which I expected, but I was able to run my race,” he said. “Making it to state as a freshman is a great accomplishment.”
Highland’s Logan Ebersole ran in the Division II boys’ race, where he placed 65th in 16:54.94 as a junior.
“It was amazing — everything I could ask for,” he said of the atmosphere. “I felt great and the race went by fast.”
Ebersole has two hopes for next year. He’d like to earn All-Ohio status as a senior and would also like to come with the rest of his team. The Scot boys advanced to regionals this year with an underclassman-dominated team.
“After what I’ve seen today, it’s almost just another race,” he said. “I just have to share my experience — it’s not impossible. I’ll take this with me next year. I know I’ll need to take it up — I want to go strong and get All-Ohio.”