SHADYSIDE - For the Bellaire Lady Big Reds, the return to the winner's circle was a long time coming.
According to veteran head coach Chris Arno, it's been some seven years since the Lady Reds brought home a trophy from a cross country meet.
That all changed Saturday morning at sun-splashed Fleming Field at the inaugural Shadyside Cross Country Invitational, which included a demanding course that ran through Hillview Park.
BELLAIRE FROSH Taylor Stoner crosses the finish line as the champion at the inaugural Shadyside Cross Country Invitational held Saturday. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
Photo by SETH STASKEY
The Lady Big Reds flexed their youthful muscle by packing all five of their scoring runners into the top 12 overall en route to a total of 23 points, which was nine fewer than runner-up Shadyside.
"It's early in the season, but we put in a good summer (of training) and I am really proud of their efforts today," Arno said. "This is a good group of girls. We worked hard up front and our entire top seven ran well."
Leading the way for the Lady Big Reds was talented freshman Taylor Stoner, who was running in just her second varsity meet.
Stoner toured the grounds around Fleming Field in a solid 22:02, which was 42 seconds ahead of teammate and runner-up Shaye Beckett.
"It was a pretty rough race," Stoner said. "I've been having some problems with my knees, and they were hurting, but you just have to fight through it."
Stoner assumed control just a mile into the race. She took the lead and basically never looked back.
"The course was tough," Stoner admitted. "The hills were very steep and it's long because it repeats itself. I feel really good about winning. I'm just going to keep trying to get better."
Along with Stoner and Beckett, the balance of the Lady Big Reds' scoring came from junior Danielle Stoner (fourth, 22:56), Rilie Purtiman (sixth, 23:56) and Dallas Messenger (12th, 26:34).
"It's a long, grueling season, but we're hoping to remain consistent and keep improving," Arno said. "We hope to stay injury free. We use these meets as building steps for the meets down the road, which we really key on. There are a lot of good teams and programs in the OVAC, so it's going to be an enjoyable season."
The Lady Tigers, who are also extremely young, put forth a solid effort en route to the runner-up trophy.
Madison Miller led the Orange attack with a bronze-medal finish in a time of 22:49. McKayla Kinemond was fifth overall in 23:17. Frosh Alexa Coggins was seventh in 24:07, while Ashley Visnic finished ninth in 25:47 and Logen Johnson rounded out the top 10 with a time of 26:09.
"I thought the meet went really well," said Shadyside head coach and meet director Stu Rynkievich. "We couldn't have asked for a better day weather-wise and we heard a lot of positive comments. We knew the course was going to be challenging, but everyone just fought through it and kept their heads up. We're definitely going to make this (meet) an annual event."
On the boys' side, Indian Creek ran away with the team title, posting a low score of 19 points. Harrison Central finished a distant second with 63 tallies.
Redskins' sophomore Allen Kaster won the championship with a time of 19:08, while teammate Kyle Weaver was second in 19:34 and Tyler Gaydosh was third in 19:34.
Barnesville's Mason Moore was fourth overall in 19:36, while Shadyside's Josh Kahl was fifth in 19:46.
Bellaire's Luc Messenger was seventh (20:43), Harrison Central's Rod Cowans was ninth (21:18) and Buckeye Local's Ryan Lewton was 10th (21:26).