Lebanon freshman golden at Bob Schul Invitational

Faith Duncan’s victory in 17 minutes, 51.6 seconds won the girls Division I-II big school division at Saturday’s Bob Schul Invitational and helped Lebanon win the team title. GREG BILLING / CONTRIBUTED

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Faith Duncan’s victory in 17 minutes, 51.6 seconds won the girls Division I-II big school division at Saturday’s Bob Schul Invitational and helped Lebanon win the team title. GREG BILLING / CONTRIBUTED

Consider it her signature win in high school varsity cross-country.

Lebanon High School freshman Faith Duncan — sporting the autograph of an Olympic gold medalist on her arm — distanced herself from the Division I-II big school field at the Bob Schul Invitational on Saturday, winning her inaugural race as a varsity runner.

Duncan asked Schul, the 5,000-meter gold medalist at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, to sign her arm. She got his signature on his arm last season, too, before winning the junior high race at Milton-Union’s Lowry Field.

“Last year I asked him to sign my arm and (Schul) said the same thing, ‘Are you sure your mom is okay with this?’ ” Duncan said, smiling.

With Schul’s autograph becoming her good luck charm, expect Duncan to be first in line next year.

Duncan’s victory in 17 minutes, 51.6 seconds won the girls Division I-II big school division and helped the Warriors win the team title. Oakwood sophomore Elizabeth Vaughn finished second in 19:00.4.

Duncan planned on pacing herself with a certain runner for the first mile. But once she got to the starting line and looked around, pre-race jitters got the best of her.

“I got a little freaked out at the start. I might have gone out a little too fast. I’m really little and there’s lots of big people out there,” said Duncan, who stands about 5-2.

Instead of getting lost in the crowd Duncan separated herself from it. Running at the same meet last year helped Duncan know what to expect in the Lowry Field woods with rocks and roots providing tripping hazards. She was on solid ground emerging from the woods and onto the school’s track for the final 200 meters or so.

“When I came into the stadium I heard everyone yelling so I tried to kick it in as hard as possible,” Duncan said. “I try to remember I do this sport because it’s fun. I know that God put me here for a reason and if that reason is to run I better do it to the best of my ability.”

In the boys Division I-II big school race, Middletown junior Conant Smith set the Schul meet record in 15:10. The previous record was 15:16.3 by Fairborn’s Jordan Redd in 2010. Smith’s time was also nearly a minute faster than Carroll senior Karl Grossman’s 16:09.9.

Carroll won the boys big school title as the Patriots placed all five runners inside the top 11 with Grossman, sophomore Grant Arnold (5th), freshman Kevin Agnew (7th), senior Sam Janson (8th) and senior Jason Dong (11th). Carroll beat runner-up Bellbrook by 36 points.

“I think we can get a top-four finish against this year (at state),” Grossman said of the Patriots, who moved into D-I for the next two seasons. “It’s not a crazy goal and I’m pretty sure we can do it.”

Versailles senior Joe Spitzer won the Division II-III boys small school race in 15:58.5 after pulling away from Bethel senior Korry Hamlin (16:46.7). Houston edged Minster 121 to 124 to win the team title.

In the Division II-III girls small school race, Minster — the defending state champions and No. 1 team in the state poll, had five of the top seven finishers to win the title with 21 points. West Liberty-Salem was second with 86. Minster sophomore Emma Watcke won the race in 19:09.4 for a 43-second victory over junior teammate Kaitlynn Albers.

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