CONNORVILLE - The final Buckeye 8 Cross Country Championship - as it's currently known - went off under ideal conditions Saturday morning at Buckeye Local High School.
The Bellaire girls and St. Clairsville boys turned in the top efforts and were crowned league champions.
The Lady Big Reds made their last Buckeye 8 meet one to remember. The Big Reds are completing their final school year in the league this year.
BELLAIRE’S Danielle Stoner (left), Taylor Stoner (center) and Martins Ferry’s Jamie Truchan (right) lead the pack at the start of the Buckeye 8 girls’ race Saturday morning at Buckeye Local High School. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
T-L Photo/SETH STASKEY
The Lady Big Reds' youthful squad, which features nary a senior in its top five, put together an impressive race amidst the fog to post the school's first cross country league title.
Bellaire finished with an impressive score of 28 points, which was 18 fewer than runner-up Martins Ferry, which was led by overall champion Jamie Truchan.
"This is really nice for our girls," said Bellaire head coach Chris Arno. "The girls put together a nice effort. Danielle (Stoner) ran a great race for us and really pulled her teammates along with her, which is important. This has been a goal for us since the season started, so this is special. These kids have high goals and high expectations for themselves and we, as coaches, have those for them, too."
Bellaire won a team title earlier this season at the Shadyside Invitational and will now set its sights on the Belmont County meet this Wednesday at Union Local.
"I like the progress we're making, but I'm cautious," Arno said. "It's a little too early to get excited. There's a lot of potential on this team, so we're excited to see what the next few weeks bring for us."
The Lady Reds were led by junior standout Danielle Stoner. She turned in a solid 20:56 to capture the silver medal overall and top spot for her squad.
She actually started a string of four consecutive Lady Reds. The next three - all of whom are frosh - consisted of Taylor Stoner (21:02), Shaye Beckett (21:08) and Rylie Purtiman (21:12).
The Lady Reds' scoring was capped by junior Dallas Messenger, who was 15th overall in 23:16.
"It's kind of weird that we were really good (in cross country) before the league started and then, since the league started, we've been fighting to get back to where we are now, so winning this is really bittersweet," Arno said. "This is a good meet and there's a lot of good coaches and athletes here. I've said time and time again there are a lot of good teams in this area, county and league."
Martins Ferry, which didn't field a full team last season, ran a very solid race en route to the runner-up finish.
Truchan used a strong third mile and charge in the homestretch to post the victory and claim her first league title.
"I felt good out there today," Truchan said. "After the second mile, I had put myself in a good position and I was able to keep it. The season is going well right now and hopefully it continues to get better."
Senior Lindsay Cunningham was eighth overall and second for Ferry in a time of 22:05.
St. Clairsville, which had won six straight league titles, finished overall. The Lady Devils were led by Joanna Vincenzo, who was 10th overall in 22:09.
Union Local had two runners break into the top 10. Megan Bateman was seventh in 22:03 and Anna Frazier was ninth in 22:07.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE'S boys saw their string of six consecutive championships snapped last year by Indian Creek.
The Red Devils turned the table on the Redskins this year, however, edging them by six points, 43-49.
"We had a full team this year and they ran very well," said St. C. head coach Tony Ciroli. "I was very impressed with them. Indian Creek's program have really come along and we knew they'd be our top competition."
The Red Devils were led by senior Alex Timko who repeated as league champion, posting a time of 17:09.
Timko found himself in a serious battle for the gold. The top four finishers, which included Indian Creek's Allen Keister, St. C. frosh Kevin Simpson and Ferry frosh Jacob Bishop, were all within less than three seconds of one another.
"Isn't that exciting when you see four kids coming down the homestretch, so close, that they're actually battling for the top spots?" Ciroli said. "A lot of people think cross country is boring, but those moments, like today, are exciting. That was just an awesome finish."
Timko's time was six tenths of a second ahead of Creek's Keister.
"This is one of the first races where I've had to battle at the end," Timko said. "I just had to give it my all out on the course and it worked out for me. After the second mile marker, we were all racing and I knew it would be tight all the way down to the finish. I think the thought of being able to repeat (as champion) is what pushed me over the edge."
Simpson was third overall in 17:10. St. C. sophomore Logan McCort was fifth overall in 17:28. Junior Chandler Kilburn was 16th overall in 19:11 and Alexander Trouten was 20th in 19:25.
Indian Creek, which was without two runners who were playing soccer, received solid runs from Tyler Gaydosh (sixth place, 17:41) and Kyle Weaver (seventh place, 18:04).
Martins Ferry was led by talented frosh Jacob Bishop, who was fourth in 17:11.
Two other solid ninth graders - Jeffery Lucas and Terrell Tuttle - were eighth and ninth, respectively.
Union Local's Caleb Hayes rounded out the top 10 with a time of 18:30.