TIFFIN - For most of her freshman cross country season, St. Ursula Academy's Alli McMaster has been searching for a challenge. Afterall, winning many races by nearly two minutes just didn't push her.
But in yesterday's Division I regional meet at Hedges-Boyer Park, McMaster, like many other competitors on this day, found the No. 1 test coming from the weather.
Some managed to fight through the near-40-degree temperatures and gusty winds and forged ahead. Others, like McMaster, were impacted physically and mentally.
McMaster surrendered her lead midway through the 3.1-mile (5000-meter) race to eventual champion Michelle Sikes (18:14), a junior from Lakewood, then slowed down the stretch to allow Celina junior Kris Roth to take second (18:39) by two seconds.
“I was just too cold and my arms wouldn't move,” said McMaster. “My body just froze. I like it cold, but not this cold. When (Sikes) got ahead of me, I thought I could still catch her. But I just didn't have it today.”
Anthony Wayne freshman Rachel Beakas, also admittedly impacted by the elements, braved them for a fourth-place overall finish at 19:01.
“It was a tough race,” Beakas said. “I couldn't feel my legs. They were just tingly. None of the runners were in a stable position. They kept switching spots. I made it because I was just mentally prepared, I guess. It was worth it. I fought through it.”
St. Ursula - winners of the City League championship and a district title the past two weekends - failed to qualify for state. The Arrows placed seventh in the team race with 187 points, 14 behind sixth-place Southview, the top area D-I team.
The Cougars were led by senior Chelsea Poling (eighth, 19:06), and junior teammates Megan Tittle (12th, 19:31) and Alison Tittle (15th, 19:36). All three, along with McMaster and Beakas, qualified for Saturday's state meet in Columbus as individuals.
Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph won the Division I team title with 93 points, Strongsville was second at 108, Ashland third at 120 and Lakewood was the fourth team state qualifier at 137 points.
But where the local big schools failed to take teams to Scioto Downs, the Eastwood girls will get there riding some momentum with a first-place finish in Division II, matching the Eagle boys' first-place effort yesterday.
Eastwood was paced by junior Casey Ulinski (fourth, 19:51), senior Katie Hartman (eighth, 20:09) and senior Stacey Weiland (25th, 20:44). Hartman, who qualified for state for the fourth time, was seventh in the team race, Weiland 18th. The Eagles' other point contributors were seniors Megan Stiner and Lindsay Madaras.
“I was just trying to do my best to help my team get to state,” Ulinski said, downplaying her contribution. “I kept trying to just get the person ahead of me. That's what I went for.”
Eastwood scored 73 points to beat runner-up Napoleon (98), third-place Van Wert (127) and fourth-place Huron (137).
“We're going on and that's the real goal,” said Richard Morgan, who coaches both victorious Eastwood teams. “There's a little pride that says you want to win it, but it doesn't matter at this point. Next week is the most important thing.
“We ran pretty well today. The conditions weren't a factor for us.”
Napoleon sophomore Kathryn Huddle won the D-II individual title with a time of 19:32, three seconds ahead of Huron junior Amy Renner, whom she didn't think she could overtake.
“I don't know if I was so confident at first,” Huddle said. “(Renner) is an awesome runner and I just tried to stay with her the whole time. I'm not a very confident person and I really didn't think I could win. I think I ran out of fear.”
Because of the large number of Division III girls teams in northwest Ohio and the adjoining north-coast area, that regional competition was divided into two (A and B) regional races which each qualified three teams to state instead of the four that go from Divisions I and II.
In the Division III-A meet, Hopewell-Loudon won a great duel with Seneca East for the title, scoring a 44-45 victory. Otsego was the third team qualifier at 138.
Sophomore Carime Reinhart of Hopewell-Loudon dominated the III-A race individually, posting an 18:51 that was 65 seconds faster than senior runner-up Kristen Elmlinger of Seneca East. Reinhart's junior teammate Amy Jacobs took third overall in 19:59.
“It was cold but I felt really good today,” Reinhart said. “My time was slower, but I think it was because of the conditions. I knew I had it when I was off by myself after a half mile. I was off by myself, so I just kept running.”
Senior Sophia Alfridi of Maumee Valley placed fourth overall in 20:06 to qualify as an individual. Otsego's top finisher was sophomore Molly Gillespie, who took 13th overall in 20:40.
Minster won the Division III-B race with 44 points, Liberty-Benton was second at 95 and Spencerville took third at 108.
The top area finisher in that race was Liberty-Benton senior Lindsey Kayle, who was third at 19:26. Archbold sophomore Lindy Sauder and senior Jessica Sauder placed fifth and 11th overall, respectively.
“All week my teammates have been teasing me about being the sissy on the team,” Kayle said. “Today, they wrote `Sissy' on my hand. The whole race I kept thinking, `Don't be a sissy.' For the first time ever, I just snapped and took off sprinting. I wanted it so bad.”