It was a "Statement Saturday" in the four Division I district cross country races run on a muddy, sloppy course at Pearson Metropark yesterday.
The first statement, made by St. John's Jesuit in the boys District 1 race, was that while yesterday was important, it was more important to get ready for the weeks to come.
The Titans used a strategy of keeping their top runners bunched together rather than pushing for a rout. St. John's, ranked second in the final state poll, still won the race with 28 points, 50 better than Whitmer and Maumee.
"We were trying to pull our fourth, fifth, and sixth runners so they knew what kind of pace they had to run," Titans coach Todd Black said. "Not to overlook this meet, but we're looking at what we have to do to get those guys running faster in the next two weeks.
"Our top three guys had to suck up some pride and take a loss to Bo [Waggoner], but they knew it was for the team."
Waggoner, a senior from Maumee, won the individual title with a 16:30.8 clocking.
"Originally my strategy was to go out and follow the leaders, then move up in the race," he said. "But they made a group tactical decision to go out slow, so I felt I had to take the lead early and try to push it a little bit.
"I know they're focusing on the regional and state [meets], and I am too. So this meet is just to get through, then see what happens next week."
The statement St. Francis made in winning the boys District 2 race was that a team needs to win the little battles to win the war.
All five of the Knights' scoring runners beat their Northview counterparts by one or two spots, and the cumulative result was a 30-38 victory over the Wildcats.
"We knew [the race] would come down to winning the individual battles," St. Francis coach Jim Neary said. "Fortunately, our guys did what they planned. They got out in a good, competitive position, and they raced hard to win those one-on-one battles."
The Knights were led by junior Colin Pettiford, who passed Northview's Austin Hendrix in the final half-mile to win the race with a time of 16:25.3.
"Early on I tried to stay within the top 10, but I'm usually in the back [of that pack]," Pettiford said. "Then halfway through the race I like to pick it up, step it up, and catch some of the guys in front of me. When I got out in the clear with about a half mile left, I just went."
In the girls District 1 race, Bowling Green's statement was obvious: The Bobcats are poised and prepared to win their fourth state title. BG placed all five of its scoring runners in the top eight, with all seven of its runners finishing in the top 13, to score 20 points.
Clay was second with 66 points, while Northview also advanced to the regional with 71.
"We were very pleased with our girls," Bowling Green coach Brian Tucker said. "We wanted to keep this momentum going, to keep trying to improve our times and keep our pack together. By and large, we did that."
Individually the Bobcats were led by seniors Christy Titus and Barbara Powers, who took the top two places with times of 18:59.9 and 19:20.9, respectively.
"I wanted a better time, but what can you do in these conditions?" Titus said. "You have to go out there and run for a place, and know that you did the best you can do."
The girls District 2 race was the most closely contested, both for individual and team honors, which made a clear statement that every place counts in a cross country race.
Notre Dame earned a narrow 59-61 victory over Southview in the team race thanks to keeping the split between its first five runners to less than a minute.
"I was hoping for a little wider margin [of victory], but it has been close between us and Southview every time we've run against them this year," Eagles coach Becky Mincheff said.
The race for the final regional berth also was close, with Findlay edging Anthony Wayne 101-106.
"We didn't have our third runner, so we knew it was going to be tight," Trojans coach Mark Gleason said. "Then our fourth runner went down with 150 meters to go, so we lost probably 15 spots there.
"I told the girls we were probably fourth or fifth, so this shocks me. I'm going to have to eat some crow, but I'd rather it go this way than the other way."
In the individual race, Ashley Fischer of Fremont Ross passed Findlay's Alison Leckrone in the final half-mile to win with a time of 19:19.0.
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com or 419-724-6481.
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