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HEBRON, Ohio — If the Liberty Center girls cross country team hadn’t already earned consideration as a team worthy of dynasty recognition before Saturday, it certainly deserves such status after its performance at the Division III state championships at National Trail Raceway.
The Tigers captured a third straight state title, while junior Brittany Atkinson claimed her second individual championship in three years.
“That senior class has been on the podium all four years,” LC coach Tim Atkinson said. “They were runner-up their freshman year, and now champions the last three years. I think that speaks volumes of their work ethic.”
Yet no one has probably meant more to the Tigers becoming a fixture in the state rankings than Brittany Atkinson, the coach’s daughter.
Atkinson outlasted Coldwater’s Christina Seas to cross the finish line with a time of 18 minutes, 31.45 seconds.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here for more photos from the meet
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Brittany Atkinson said.
The rest of the Tigers followed Atkinson’s lead.
Liberty Center collected the crown with 98 points, while the Tigers’ boys team made the most of its first state championship meet in several years by placing sixth with 177 points.
The LC girls held off Gilmour Academy, the runner-up with 110 points.
Coldwater placed third with 113 points, followed by St. Thomas Aquinas (133), Minster (157), Garaway (182), Russia (187), Independence (212), Columbus School for Girls (216), and Summit Country Day (249) in the top 10 teams.
The Tigers’ coach said he thought the outcome could have ended with the possibility of four teams ending up as the state champion.
Nevertheless, LC did it once again with plenty of fan support.
“It’s a little bit of luck, and it’s timing, and it’s desire,” Tim Atkinson said. “The last three years we’ve had some major events. The first year we won it, they were running for my brother, who passed away of cancer.
“The second year we lost two teachers, and they dedicated that race. This year they just wanted to do it for the community. All week that’s all I’ve heard from those kids, ‘I don’t want to let my community down.’ ”
Paige Chamberlain — one of two LC seniors along with Hannah Knapp to run in the race — gave the team another top-10 finish by placing ninth with a a personal-record 19:06.82.
Jenna Vollmar placed 22nd (19:36.51), Olivia Kundo 30th (19:51.37), and Cheryl Davenport finished 77th (20:34.30). Rachel Pinson was 78th (20:36.18) and Knapp 127th (22:09.14) for the Tigers.
“This means everything, and I’m so excited we’ve done this three-peat,” Chamberlain said. “I owe it to the community and my teammates and the coaches. Without them this wouldn’t have been possible.”
Pettisville’s Alexa Leppelmeier ran 36th overall with a time of 19:58.09.
Holgate freshmen Gabbi Willett (20:15.52) and Emma Willett (20:36.87) placed 53rd and 79th, respectively.
McDonald claimed the D-III boys team championship with a score of 94 points, followed by Maplewood with 103 points and Garaway with 141.
Cameron Weaks placed 29th with a time of 16:52.71 to lead the Liberty Center boys.
Colin Burns ran 42nd for the Tigers with a time of 17:01.13, followed by Kyle Nash (73rd, 17:27.07), Matt Baker (78th, 17:34.31), and Vince Pinson (88th, 17:44.12). Jason Hadley (17:50.62) and Alan Meyer (19:03.75) placed 94th and 136th, respectively.
Overall, it was the Tigers’ day.
“This is exciting, and I’m excited for the community,” Tim Atkinson said.
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302, or onTwitter @DemmonsBlade.