Buckeye 8 CC: Bellaire girls, Ferry boys win
CONNORVILLE — No matter how you look at it, it was more of the same Wednesday afternoon at Buckeye Local High School.
Whether you’re talking about the individual races or the team competitions, familiar names and faces found their way to the top of the results at the annual Buckeye 8 Cross Country Championship held under ideal running conditions on a weekday for the first in the history of the event.
Bellaire’s girls recorded their fifth straight league title, fighting off Beaver Local, 55-63. The Martins Ferry boys notched their third consecutive league title thanks to 43 points. The Riders were 11 better than St. Clairsville and 24 ahead of Harrison Central.
The Bellaire girls’ have established themselves as one of the area’s top programs and they proved that the tradition didn’t graduate. Coach Chris Arno’s squad lost three runners from its 2016 championship squad, but showed no ill effects.
“The girls we lost helped to develop a tradition and these girls are working hard to maintain it,” Arno said. “Thankfully the race is 3.1 miles long because Beaver Local ran one heck of a race and had us. But, we closed well and that’s something we’ve really focused on.”
The Big Reds had all five of their runners inside the top 25. Beaver Local actually had six runners across the line before Bellaire had five, but the differences lied near the top.
Sophomore standout Katrina Davis finished fourth overall in 21:32 and junior Sydney Purtiman was eighth in 22:14.
Senior Tiffany Hoffman (12th), sophomore Keira Bumgardner (15th) and sophomore Tyah Frazier (25th) rounded out the scoring.
“Tiffany’s been a constant for us and Keira and Tyah work hard and it shows up on race days,” Arno said. “I’d like us to be a little bit better than where we are, but we ran at least a minute faster than we did here (at Buckeye Local) two weeks ago. We have some tough races coming up, so we’ll see.”
Beaver Local placed two runners on the all-Buckeye 8 squad, which consists of finishers inside the top 10. Senior Caitlin Lerussi (6th) and sophomore Corin Tonkovich (10th) earned the distinction.
Martins Ferry finished third in the team standings with 80 points. Junior Olivia Walton was the Purple Riders’ top finisher, placing third in 21:11.
St. Clairsville, which placed fourth, received an all-league effort from Tiffany Burghy. She was seventh in 22:12.
East Liverpool was led by junior Darshay Foster. The defending individual champion settled for second, turning in a 21:09 en route to the silver.
Indian Creek senior Leia Hunt paced the Redskins by placing fifth in 21:41.
Harrison Central, which didn’t have a complete team, is home to the individual champion. Freshman Jasmine Arnold continued her fine early season, touring the Panthers’ course in 19:58.
“I remember being (at this meet) last year for junior high and I never could have imagined being able to win this as a freshman,” Arnold said. “I ran a minute faster here than I did a few weeks ago.”
Arnold pulled away from Foster during the middle portion of the race, which includes a steep hill behind of the high school.
“Coach has me doing a lot of hill workouts and it really helps out,” Arnold said.
Union Local, which was short a few runners because of their commitments to the Belmont County Fair, was led by freshman Maddie Sell. She was ninth in 22:20.
As it pertains to graduation losses, Martins Ferry head coach Chrissy Lewis could almost write a book. She watched four of her top five collect their diplomas in May. The Riders haven’t missed many beats since.
“We were hoping our season would start off a little bit better than it did,” Lewis said. “We knew we had some strengths coming back, but we also knew we’d need some young kids to step up. Thankfully, they’ve been able to do their part and help out with those top three guys and give them a push.”
The Purple Riders were led by their only returning member of their top five in senior Marcus Clark. He finished second overall with an impressive 16:52 clocking.
Junior Justin Geery was fourth overall with a 17:28, while senior Ozy Gil was sixth in 17:46.
Rounding out the scoring were freshman Elijah Smith (13th) and freshman Michael Lyle (20th).
“Hopefully this (victory) is something the kids continue to use and it drives them toward the OVAC and the postseason,” Lewis said. “I like where this team is. We have a couple more guys who are injured and hopefully as they continue to get healthy we become even more of a formidable unit.”
St. Clairsville finished with 54 points and also had a trio of individual all-Buckeye 8 performers.
Fueling the Devils’ effort was junior Zachary Orzolek, who won yet another title. He posted an impressive 16:35. It was the second time he prevailed at Buckeye Local in two weeks.
“I treat every meet and race the same,” Orzolek said. “Whether there are 10 kids in the meet or it’s a league championship, I always have the same mentality.”
Orzolek, the aforementioned Clark and Harrison Central’s Keishi Arnold, who finished third in 17:16, were in quite the battle during the first half of the race. However, that hill on the backside of the course that leads to the second mile marker proved to be the pivotal point where Orzolek created separation.
“I have really quick recovery time and my quads are really strong from (playing) soccer, so I know I can run up that hill and I recover well,” Orzolek said. “I am happy with the time. I had a calf injury late last week and it kind of hurt today, so I was worried. So, to run 16:35, I’m happy.”
Zachary Banks and Matthew Marling were on the all league team, placing fifth and seventh, respectively. They turned in times of 17:39 and 17:52.
The Huskies, who finished third in the team standings, had two runners on the all-league listing. Joining Keishi Arnold was junior Sam McClelland, who finished eighth in 17:53.
Bellaire’s top finisher was freshman Jacob Defibaugh. He was ninth overall in 18:01. East Liverpool’s top finisher was Marcus Calhoun. He was 10th in 18:02.