Much like the other 1,007 high school runners at the Bob Schul Invitational on Saturday, Oakwood High School freshman Grace Hartman was looking for a fast start to the cross country season.
She got it. And then some.
Hartman broke from the pack in the first mile – perhaps a little too early she realized – but kept a steady pace to win her varsity debut over a Division I-II big school field of 227 runners.
“I was kind of worried at the beginning because I’d been told by my coach not to go out too fast. I went out too fast,” Hartman said. “I was kind of feeling it a mile and a half in.”
She was feeling it that final mile, too, but in a good way. Hartman won in 18 minutes, 46.9 seconds for a 41-second victory over Bellbrook sophomore Avarie Faulkner at Milton-Union High School.
Bellbrook placed its first five runners in the top 11 (and all seven runners inside the top 17) to win the girls D I-II big school meet. Bellbrook scored 35 points to top runner-up Oakwood’s 102.
Oakwood junior Elizabeth Vaughn finished third. Bellbrook’s pack of senior Elise Kemper (fifth), senior Minami Ford (eighth), senior Amira Faulkner (ninth), sophomore Emily Pelfrey (11th) and junior Kayla Paul (12th) soon followed. Senior Rachel Kahler (17th) capped the Eagles’ scoring.
As for Hartman, she wasn’t sure what to expect for her first varsity race. The Jills’ scouting report said Hartman and Vaughn should be among the top runners, but her goal was to simply “run the best race that I could.”
“(Winning) was a surprise for sure. I wasn’t expecting this,” Hartman said. “I was told don’t worry about other people, just run your own race.”
In the boys D I-II race, Oakwood junior Kyle Lethander (16:32) and senior Dolan Johnson (16:49.4) finished second and third to pace the Lumberjacks’ runner-up finish. Springfield Shawnee scored 68 points to Oakwood’s 84.
Middletown senior Conant Smith, who set the meet record last season in 15:10, won in 15:38.7.
Arcanum senior Tanner Delk won the D II-III boys small school meet in 16:46.9 for a seven-second victory. Waynesville won the team title with 134 points to top Greenon’s 156.
Minster’s girls placed its top five runners in the top 10 overall to win the D II-III championship with 34 points, good for a 17-point victory over runner-up West Liberty Salem. Springfield Catholic Central junior Addy Engel won the girls race in 18:45.1.
The event featured 1,743 athletes from high school and junior high events. The Schul Invitational is named for the West Milton native who won the 5,000-meters at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the only American to win that event. Schul, 80, attends the event and signs autographs during the meet but a prior commitment prevented him from attending Saturday.