Last season was the one that got away from the Centerville High School girls cross country team.
The Elks were second as a team at state in 2012. Ranked No. 1 for much of last season and a district and regional champion, Centerville faded to fourth at state.
Worse, placing ahead of the Elks were the three teams they beat at the regional — state champ Mason, runner-up Beavercreek and Ursuline.
Guess what the Elks are chasing this season?
“We’re going to be as smart as we can to right that ship and at least have an opportunity to compete for a state championship this year,” said veteran Elks head coach Dave Dobson.
The Elks took another step in the right direction by winning the Tiffin Cross Country Carnival last weekend, 92-104 over runner-up Perrysburg in the Division I portion. Miamisburg was fourth (268).
The event annually draws 2,000-plus runners, featuring a course that’s built for speed.
All five Centerville placers were timed in less than 20 minutes for the 5K (3.1 miles) run. Junior Lainey Studebaker was first overall (18:11.08) and emerging freshman Kelli Walsh ninth (18:36.48). She’s the daughter of Centerville boys coach Kevin Walsh.
Also scoring for the Elks were junior Taylor Malchow (19:12.51), senior Grace Butkus (19:31.44) and senior Abby Hecht (19:32.74).
Studebaker was third individually at state last season. Tiffin marked the first time Malchow and Butkus cracked the 20-minute barrier.
Those fast times are legit: Dobson took a measure wheel to the course and found it was slightly long. Strategically saving for the slight down hills and attacking the sharp inclines was key, said Dobson.
So is a training schedule that has Centerville’s top runners racing every other week. That light regular season keeps the Elks fresh for the final important month: conference, district, regional and state meets. Depending on age and experience, the Elks average about 35-40 miles training per week.
The Elks also won their own Saturday Night Lights three weeks ago. Those are the only two meets in which Centerville’s top runners have competed.
“We just feel that for our kids, the season goes on beyond the conference meet,” Dobson said. “When we add those extra weeks, it adds a toll to the body that we feel we should be aware of and make some adjustments to.”
Coldwater senior Sarah Kanney won the Tiffin D-III girls race (17:57.87). Minster won the D-III team title.
In D-II boys, Springfield Shawnee was third and Carroll seventh. Valley View senior Kyle Bussard was sixth overall (16:07.32).
In the D-III boys race, Coldwater senior Jon Wenning was third (16:07.42) and junior teammate Dan Seas sixth (16:11.43).