Oakwood senior Butler wins state cross country title

Anna junior, Minster sweep Division III girls titles

OBETZ – Oakwood’s Bella Butler knew the feeling of being on the podium at the state cross country meet. On Saturday, she got to see the view from the top step.

Butler was fifth as a sophomore and second as a junior, while teammate Grace Hartman stood on the top step. Hartman moved on to North Carolina State this year and Butler took her place, pulling away for a 15-second Division II state championship over Waynesville junior Samantha Erbach. Butler’s winning time was 18 minutes, 09.8 seconds on a windy Saturday at Fortress Obetz.

“It feels amazing,” she said. “I’m so grateful to be here and get the chance to race with all my team. I felt like I’ve improved a lot since last year. My goal was to get first.”

Butler pushed hard down the stretch and collapsed after the finish line. She said lactic acid built up in her legs and they felt heavy late in the race.

“I kind of ran out of energy but I just wanted to get through and finish,” she said.

Butler was thinking about Hartman after the race.

“She was just an inspiration to me,” Butler said. “I always looked up to her from the time I was in junior high. I’m really grateful I got the chance to run with her and learn from her.”

Carroll senior Jack Agnew finished second in the Division II boys race in his quest for a second straight state title. But he was happy that his team finished second behind super-team Alliance Marlington, which placed three runners in the top five.

“I always want to win, but I’m still happy,” Agnew said. “Winning last year was really good, and I’m really happy with that. But just to be back here with my team I’m pretty happy.”

Northmont senior Abby Drosdak surprised herself with a third-place finish in the Division I girls race. She hoped to sneak into the top 10 and earn first-team all-state after finishing 11th last year on second team. But she was running so well that she passed three runners in the final stretch.

“I’m happy with how I did because usually I don’t kick at the end of a race,” she said. “Honestly it shocks me every time because I’ve only kicked a real kick like twice in my life.”

Miamisburg senior Innocent Ntwali was thrilled to place fifth in the Division I boys meet and tie the school record for the best finish. Last year he expected a similar finish but stomach problems hit him on race day. He almost dropped out before finishing 152nd.

“With what happened last year at the state meet, I was like, ‘I don’t care,’” Ntwali said about Saturday’s high winds. “I was just happy to race. I was in a good mood, and so whatever happened, happened, I was just happy.”

Anna junior Page Steinke won the Division III girls race after finishing 49th last year.

“I just put in a lot more miles and really increased the pace of my runs,” she said. “This just feels unbelievable to me because I just didn’t think I could do it.”

Minster won its second straight Division III girls race, sixth in seven years and increased its state record to 15 titles, girls or boys.

“I know they ran tough, they fought and I know the end result, but other than that you don’t really get to see anything,” coach Jessie Magoto said. “So we’re just right now caught up in the excitement of winning.”

Minster was led by second-team all-state junior Margaret Hemmelgarn and senior Taylor Roth, who finished 17th and 18th, respectively. Hemmelgarn suffered a stress fracture right after the state track meet in the spring and wasn’t able to race until late in the season.

“There’s no training plan for how things went toward the end, and we had no idea what would happen week to week,” Magoto said. “She is tough as nails.”

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