COLUMBUS - By the standards set by the Bowling Green girls cross country team, this year it was close.
The Bobcats won their third straight Division I state title yesterday at Scioto Downs, bettering second-place Massillon Jackson by "only" 24 points after winning their previous crowns by 62 and 71 points.
But the closeness of the race went beyond the point totals.
The BG camp shared two post-race concerns: the final tally and the health of junior Anne-Marie Simon.
Simon fell a few yards from the finish line, then struggled just to get across and needed medical attention.
"I almost had a heart attack [at the finish]," Bobcats coach Brian Tucker said. "We thought we had the best 1-2-3 [combination] in the meet, so we thought it would come down to our fourth and fifth [runners]. By golly, Anne-Marie and Andrea [Pereira de Almeida] came through."
Christy Titus led Bowling Green by placing seventh overall and fourth in the team race with a time of 18:43. Fellow junior Barbara Powers took ninth and sophomore Shannon Titus placed 15th in the team race.
Pereira de Almeida finished 24th, just beating Jackson's third runner, while Simon was able to pick herself up and earn 26th to seal the win.
"I didn't feel like myself - I felt like I was watching myself," Simon said of her eerie finish. "I felt I was losing consciousness almost. [When I fell] I saw people passing me and I thought, 'Oh, no.' "
But Simon's effort did more than clinch the victory; it also earned the respect of her teammates.
"I felt bad that she feels sorry about [her finish] because she was amazing," Christy Titus said of Simon. "You know when someone drops at the end of a race that they gave it everything they had. We know she did that."
Tucker agreed, adding, "It took a lot of guts for Anne-Marie to just cross the finish line."
Individually, Findlay's Alison Leckrone placed 25th while Ashley Evens of Anthony Wayne took 38th.
In the Division II team race Wauseon and Maumee finished fifth and sixth, respectively. But the two schools had different reactions to their finishes behind champ Salem, which beat Kettering Archbishop Alter 60-73.
"When the girls finished, most of them didn't feel very good about their race," Wauseon coach Rebecca Stuckey said. "It's a tougher course than Tiffin, and probably any other course we've run this season. I was hoping we'd come in in the top four, but fifth was really close to that."
The good news for the Indians is that their entire lineup returns next season, led by freshman Holly Baird. Baird placed 17th individually and seventh in the team race with a time of 19:43.
Meanwhile Maumee had one of the strongest packs in the Division II race. Senior Anna Leck's time of 20:25 was good for 20th in the team race and 40th overall as the Panthers' pack all finished within 56 seconds of one another, a margin only two other teams could beat.
"The whole year we had stressed keeping ourselves in a pack," Maumee coach Angie Gugger said. "We don't have that individual who's going to win a meet, but they pack it in practice and in meets. We ran smart, and we ran well."
The top local individual in that race was Kelly Gephart of Oak Harbor, a senior who earned all-Ohio honors by finishing 14th with a 19:39 clocking.
In the Division III race Liberty-Benton finished second behind Minster. Gibsonburg, which finished 11th, was led by sophomore Ashley Fisher's eighth-place effort in the team race - she placed 14th overall in 19:34.
Lakota's Carly Reese was the top individual finisher in Division III as the freshman used a strong finish to place 13th with a time of 19:33.
"I was 16th coming into the finish, and the top 15 make the podium [for all-Ohio]," she said. "I knew I had to catch one girl and I ended up catching three."
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.39.96196 -83.00298