MARTINS FERRY - It wasn't that many years ago when the Martins Ferry boys were one of the area's premier programs.
Unfortunately, just two years ago, however, the Purple Riders' cross country team had just two runners on the team.
Participation numbers have risen, talented runners are toeing the line for Coach Chrissy Lewis' team and the Purple Riders are reaping the benefits.
MARTINS FERRY’S Jacob Bishop heads to the finish line with the victory in the Martins Ferry Cross Country Invite held Saturday. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
Such was the case Saturday morning at the second annual Martins Ferry Cross Country Invitational held on the Martins Ferry school campus.
Scoring just 25 points, the Riders ran away with the team championship, outdistancing runner-up Oak Glen by 27 points.
"I am very proud of how our kids are running," Lewis said. "We've had some kids, who I really didn't expect, step up into our top five."
The Purple Riders were led once again by sophomore standout Jacob Bishop. After a brilliant track season in which he reached the state meet in the 1600 meter run, Bishop hasn't slowed down a bit.
He ran basically unchallenged throughout the 3.1 mile jaunt high atop the Purple City for a solid 17:15 clocking and the gold medal.
"I felt strong, but I have been going through some rough training," Bishop said. "I've been putting in a lot of miles to help prepare for the OVAC and then into the postseason. I am strong, but my legs are sore and tired. I know the training is working."
Lewis is really happy with how Bishop has responded to the training and his progress thus far.
"Jacob's been very strong and running very smart," Lewis said. "He's been sitting back and running really well."
The second Rider across the line was sophomore Terrell Tuttle. He broke the finish tape at 18:25.
Senior Theo Zoumpoulidis posted a fifth-place finish overall. He checked in with a 18:45.
Freshman Marcus Clark rounded the top 10 overall and was the fourth Ferrian to finish. He posted a 19:40. Ben Wharton rounded out the scoring for the Riders. He finished 14th overall in 20:20.
"We're running tired right now, but we're trying to keep ourselves from injury," Lewis continued. "We're just trying to find a balance of running hard and tired rather than injured. We have a great group of sophomore boys."
Harrison Central's Zack Henry finished eighth overall in a time of 19:29.
The Purple Rider girls finished second in the meet. While the hosts finished with a solid 41 points, it was still four more than Oak Glen, which placed two runners in the top three.
Martins Ferry did produce the meet's overall winners, however, in senior ace Jamie Truchan.
Truchan successfully defended the title she captured a season ago by racing out to the front of the pack at the outset and never looking back en route to a 21:24.
"I felt good out there today," Truchan said. "I wasn't sure about all of the teams (at this meet), so I was a little bit undecided on how things would go for me. My time was pretty good for this course, so I am happy with that."
Madison Lyle and Jamie Fogle were the second and third runners for Ferry. They finished back-to-back overall as well. Lyle was sixth in 23:48, while Fogle crossed 11 seconds later.
Sophomore Alyssa Kalinski was eighth overall and fourth for Ferry. She posted a 24:07.
Union Local's Megan Bateman was the only other local competitor to crack the top 10. She posted a 24:37.