The Magnolia Boys' Cross Country Team finished in fifth place out of 23 schools at Rio Grande University Sept. 22. Coming home with a trophy - and winning overall third place - was senior James Haught, who ran the challenging, windy course in 18 minutes flat to grab his fourth top-10 placement of the season.
The girls' team proved even more competitive as senior Christa Harshberger kept her award-winning streak going with a 17th place finish in 23 minutes flat. That led her team to a solid fourth place, barely missing a top three trophy by two points.
Among the boys, sophomore Jacob Pancake also brought home some hardware, placing 25th in a large field of athletes with a time of 19:14 to retain his spot as the Blue Eagle number two runner.
Sophomore David McIlvain and senior Kenny Headley pushed each other to 39th and 40th place in times of 20:04 and 20:06, respectively. The last scoring position was senior Mikal Raber in 21:37, good for 77th place.
Next were non-scoring runners, freshman Kenneth Lafferty in 21:48 (81st place), senior Kyle Lancaster in 21:53 (84th place) and sophomore Oscar Celedon in 22:10 for 88th place.
The top ten team scores were: champion Belpre (51), West Branch (71), Fairfield Union (82), Bethel Tate (130), Magnolia (160), West Union (164), Minford (197), Sard. Eastern (219), Gallia Academy (228), and Waverly (240).
According to long time Coach John Holliday, "We ran very competitively and I thought we had a shot at a top three finish and a trophy. The brightest spot for me was the competition we had on our own team for that fifth scoring spot among Mikal, Kenneth, Kyle and Oscar. Mikal is our more experienced runner and he battled his way into the scoring position, but we need more help.
"Kenneth is a freshman and his training is way behind the others due to several factors, but he sort of came into his own this weekend. The bottom line is we need everyone to get faster before the OVAC competitions if we want a shot at defending our championship title in two weeks."
Lady Blue Eagles competing were some "super freshmen" that included Rachel Arbogast, who placed 28th place in 24:36; Ariel Hostuttler in the 31st slot in 24:50; and Sofia Herrick, with 25:17 to claim the 33rd position. Completing the scoring was junior Shelby Sands in 38th place in 26:06.
Pushing hard and still improving was sophomore Katie Ensinger in 51st place with a time of 28:03. Freshman Emily McIlvain followed in 65th place in 31 minutes, while senior Julianne McIlvain was in 79th place in 35:14.
The top eight girls' scoring teams in the 19-team field were: Reed Eastern (37 points), Caldwell (58), Manchester (82), Magnolia (84), Waverly (112), Southeastern (119), River Valley (164) and Valley High School (192),
Holliday continued, "I think our fourth place finish was indicative of our improvement this season. We ran very strongly as a team, but to miss a trophy by two points is frustrating. The freshmen girls are coming along for us and it would have been nice to bring home a team award from here.
"In two weeks we travel to Meadowbrook High School for the OVAC championships and for the first time in a long time our girls' team is a definite contender. If we miss out by a couple of points there, it would be devastating to know we had a shot at a championship and let it slip away. So, we are taking a bye week next week to train for the OVAC and see what we can do. I have a lot of confidence in these girls, but all of the pieces of the puzzle have to come together at the same time. We will be ready!"
The Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Cross Country championships are at Meadowbrook High School in Byesville, Ohio, on Saturday, Oct. 6. The boys race at 10 a.m., followed by the girls at 10:45 a.m.