BYESVILLE - Both St. John Central and Shadyside have rich traditions in the sport of cross country.
The two schools found themselves in the winner's circle once again here Saturday morning at the annual Cal Pokas OVAC Cross Country Championship.
For the Fighting Irish of Coach Jeremy Midei, the most recent victory marks the school's 10th conference title and now eighth in a row.
Shadyside, meanwhile, hasn't made room in its gymnasium for a distance running banner since 1999 when the Tigers' boys and girls swept the crowns. The Lady Tigers ended the drought at Meadowbrook High School with a decisive victory in the small-school race.
ST. JOHN came into the meet thinking it could contend with St. Clairsville for the overall title. However, when the dust settled, Midei was left wondering if his team had done enough to hold off an impressive effort from Barnesville.
However, once the scores had been tabulated, the Irish finished with 111 points, which was five fewer than the Shamrocks.
SHADYSIDE’S Tara Tollett heads toward the finish line. She was the top Lady Tigers’ runner during the OVAC?meet, which fueled Shadyside to the Class 1-A/2-A team title.
ST. JOHN Central’s Ramon Nieves was the Irish’s top runner Saturday at the OVAC?Cross Country Championship. He finished fifth overall and second in the small-school division. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
BARNESVILLE’S Wesley Lewis finished second overall and helped the Shamrocks to a third-place overall finish and second place in their class.
"It was a bittersweet race for us," Midei said. "We knew coming in that St. Clairsville and Barnesville had very good teams, so it was going to be an up-hill battle. I wish we had competed better than we did (for the overall title)."
Through the first three runners on the respective teams, the Shamrocks held a lead over the Irish. However, St. John's fourth and fifth runners made up the deficit.
"Barnesville ran a great race...probably the best race they've ran all season," Midei said. "I think both teams deserved to win. I am certainly stoked we were able to pull it out. No offense to Barnesville, but we didn't expect it to be as close as it was. That's just a testament to how well they ran."
The Irish were led by their veteran, Ramon Nieves and Matt Riffle. Both were members of the Irish state championship team in 2008. Nieves finished fifth overall in 16:36. Riffle, meanwhile, was sixth in 16:45.
Junior Matt Thomas was the third Irish runner to cross the line. He did so in 22nd place in a time of 17:39.
Sophomore Corey Leasure was 28th overall and fourth for St. John, while senior Cory Foster rounded out the scorers for St. John with a 52nd place finish overall.
"We certainly didn't have our best race," Midei said. "We wanted to go out and do what we do and we weren't able to do that today. I wish I knew what it was. It wasn't just one guy, so it's obviously something we did cumulatively as a team that didn't work."
The aforementioned Shamrocks turned in a brilliant performance. Their dymnaic senior duo of Wesley Lewis and Brennan Delaney paved the way.
Lewis was second overall and first in the small-school division in 16:23, which is a personal best. Delaney, meanwhile, finished a second and place behind his teammate.
Sophomore Brandon Stephens turned in a sharp run as well. He finished 10th overall in 17:00.
Cameron's Austin Chambers was seventh in the small-school race. He ran 3.1 miles in 17:12.
THE SHADYSIDE Lady Tigers came into the wide-open small-school race as one of the teams to watch.
Coach Laura Gouldsberry's squad didn't disappoint, finishing with 214 points, which was fifth overall.
"I really think our girls ran the best they could today," Gouldsberry said. "We had some cramps during the race, but they pulled through in the end and we're coming home with the title."
The title is the school's first under anyone other than Donna Joseph's watch.
"The girls really wanted today," Gouldsberry said. "We're a fairly young team, but I think we're more known because we're out there racing and scoring points. This is big for us going into the postseason and hopefully we can build on it."
Leading the charge for the Lady Tigers was sophomore Tara Tollett who was 25th overall in 21:00. Junior Brooke Meintel was 29th overall and second for the Lady Tigers.
Shadyside's scoring was rounded out by sophomore Hayley Holenka (51st), junior Jillian Laslo (63rd) and senior Karlie Amato (78th).
Barnesville's Lina Partridge was 21st overall and third in the small-school division. St. John's junior Lindy Stauffer was 24th overall and fourth in 1-A/2-A.
Wheeling Central's Jesse John led the Knights. She was seventh in small-school. Cameron's Sarah Smith was eighth.
River, which finished second in the team race, was led by Laken Ramsay who was ninth in the small school division.
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