Standing on the podium at the state cross country championships is the goal for the Bellbrook Golden Eagles girls team. They got in some practice Saturday.
Bellbrook won its third straight Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division title with a 21-point victory over Oakwood, 26-47. The Eagles hope the SWBL victory at West Milton’s Lowry Field is the catalyst to their state aspirations.
“We want top three. That’s the goal,” Bellbrook coach Jeanne Johnson said. “They’re hungry. It’s like every workout we throw at them they look at us like, OK, let’s get it done. And they get it done.”
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Bellbrook continued that trend Saturday. The team’s top seven runners finished among the top 13 in the Southwestern Division.
Avarie Faulkner finished second in 19:25.8 to lead Bellbrook. Elise Kemper (19:27.3) was fourth, Minami Ford (19:45.5) fifth, Emily Pelfrey (19:53.3) seventh, Amira Faulkner (20:00.5) eighth, Kayla Paul (20:40.9) 12th and Addie Hahn (20:43.8) 13th. Ally Jiovani (20:47.6) was 14th.
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“We’re about nine deep so we have three girls vying for that No. 7 spot,” Johnson said of the top seven runners who will compete at this week’s Division II district at Cedarville, then hopefully regional and state. “This is by far – I’ve been coaching about 10 years – my best cross country team as far as talent and depth. Their work ethic surpasses any team I’ve coached.”
Oakwood’s Grace Hartman (18:03) won the SWBL Southwestern Division. Teammate Elizabeth Vaughn was third (19:26.1).
In the Buckeye Division, Waynesville edged Milton-Union by two points for the girls title. Eaton’s boys won the Southwestern title, 57-65 over Bellbrook. Waynesville won the Buckeye boys title by 28 points over runner-up Milton-Union.
Bellbrook’s girls have qualified for state the past two seasons and four times overall since 2009. The Eagles finished 12th last year and sixth in 2016.
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Six of the seven runners from last season’s state team are back. That depth and experience should help Bellbrook, ranked No. 5 in the D-II state coaches poll, compete with top-ranked Lexington and No. 10 Tippecanoe as the postseason continues.
To better prepare, Bellbrook ran at bigger meets like the Saturday Night Lights in Centerville and the Midwest Meet of Champions in Hilliard.
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“We really ran a rough schedule this year. I took my varsity to a couple of meets I didn’t take the rest of the team to just to give them that kind of competition,” Johnson said. “They’ve been beat up a little bit because they’re used to running up front and they’re running in the middle of the pack. When they came into this race they were so excited. They said, ‘Mrs. Johnson, we run cross country because it’s a non-contact sport.’ They were so excited to run (at the SWBL) and not be in a big pack.”
• The Beavercreek girls and Centerville boys were the overall winners in the Greater Western Ohio Conference championship at Northmont on Saturday. Beavercreek edged runner-up Centerville 40-46 for the girls title and Centerville bested runner-up Beavercreek 69-82 in the boys race.
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Beavercreek’s Taylor Ewert (16:57.9) was the overall girls winner and Ben Burkett of Centerville (15:38.9) and boys champ.
Girls divisional champs were Troy (North), Xenia (South), Beavercreek (East) and Springboro (West). Boys divisional winners were Tippecanoe (North), Xenia (South), Centerville (East) and Miamisburg (West).
• Jonathan Alder won the girls title and Springfield Shawnee the boys in the Central Buckeye Conference championship at Indian Lake on Saturday. Shawnee’s Audrey DeSantis (18:26.1) was the girls winner and Alder’s Gavin Frick (16:22.0) the boys.
• West Liberty-Salem swept the Ohio Heritage Conference girls and boys titles at Cedarville on Saturday. The Tigers’ Megan Adams (18:41.9) was the overall girls winner and Ethan Wallis of Cedarville (16:22.9) won the boys race.
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• Most area boys and girls teams will run in the Divisions I, II and III district meets at Cedarville University on Saturday. Voice of America Park in West Chester is the site for all other Southwest District teams.