Wauseon’s Taylor Vernot reacts after winning the Division II cross country championship in a time of 18:04.4 on Saturday at National Trail Raceway.
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE/PHIL LONG
HEBRON, Ohio — Taylor Vernot's only thought before the Division II girls state cross country championship was to go out and give it her all.
The Wauseon junior's best proved to be better than the rest as she finished first with a personal-best time of 18 minutes, 4.40 seconds Saturday at National Trail Raceway.
"I tried to get in the lead pack and just keep at the top of the race as long as I could," she said. "At the end I found myself battling for first and I just gave it everything I had left and it worked."
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here for more photos from the meet
Vernot, who placed fourth at state last year, conjured up a strong kick to pass by Oakwood's Mary Kate Vaughn with 50 meters remaining in the race. Vaughn finished second at 18:09.70.
"I couldn't believe it and I was in shock because I was so, so happy," said Vernot, who was running at the state meet for the third time.
Wauseon coach Joe Allen commended his top runner with finishing out the race with a strong push to earn the victory.
"I knew if she was there with a thousand meters to go, it was going to be a good duel," Allen said. "Mary Kate [Vaughn] pulled her right through like we thought she would and she ended up having a little more kick at the end.
"Every week we do a day of just speed working and really work on that sprint kick to the finish. We work on relaxing the legs and today it happened."
Vernot helped the Indians place sixth overall in the team standings with 179 points. Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary claimed a girls record fifth title in a row with 101. Bay placed runner-up with 119 points. Wauseon finished with 179.
Allen, who is in his first season as coach, considered it a stellar showing by the Indians.
Seneca Wyse ran second for Wauseon and placed 53rd (19:55.60), followed by Aneesa Volkman (61st, 20:04.20), Kylie Archibeque (65th, 20:07.60), and Lindsey Archibeque (76th, 20:20.90) scored for the Indians. Megan Beck (20:51.30) and Aleea Volkman (21:39.60) placed 103rd and 125th, respectively.
"I thought our team ran really well," Allen said. "They knew they had to run in a pack. Our second through our fifth girl were in a nice pack.
"Of course, in a race like this even with great times there were going to be people in-between you. They really moved today. It was nice."
Eastwood's Hannah Sponaugle covered the 5-kilometer course in a time of 19:37.40 to claim 33rd place, while teammate Maddie Jackson posted a 20:21.30 for 78th place.
In the D-II boys championship, Otsego junior Brandon Avers earned All-Ohio status after finishing 11th with a time of 16:25.73 to make his first state meet memorable.
"This is a race I've trained for my whole life," Avers said. "I put in 1,500 miles in since this time last year, working toward this day.
"I got 33rd at regionals last year and got 11th at state this year. So, it's a huge improvement from last season."
Wauseon junior Quintin Reiser finished 14th with a time of 16:27.18.
Bryan's Evan Morr placed 24th with a time of 16:49.51 to help the Golden Bears earn sixth-place in the team standings with 197 points.
Defiance claimed the state championship with 107 points and Tippecanoe was runner-up with 140 points.
Jacob Will (45th, 17:02.18), Levi Carr (76th, 17:25.79), Brandon Krupp (84th, 17:30.31), Michael Sheridan (90th, 17:33.52), Jordan Spiess (125th, 18:08.37), and Kenny Beucler (137th, 18:44.08) were part of Bryan's effort.
"I think the boys were disappointed because you work towards first place, but we finished sixth out of 16 teams, so I think that's pretty impressive," Bryan coach Kurt Plouck said. "You consider the last pole that came out had us 10th, so we beat some top teams.
"As a group our times weren't as well as we wanted them to be, but as a pack we ran a pretty tight pack. I was pleased overall with our performance."
Oak Harbor's Tyler Sievert finished 34th with a time of 16:55.43, while Eastwood's Tim Hoodlebrink came in at 40th at 16:59.38. Lake's Tyler Rickman ran a 17:15.74 to finish 63rd.