Initially after crossing the finish line, sophomore Ann Heuerman of the Upper Arlington High School girls cross country team wasn't sure of her place in the Division I state meet Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway.
"I wasn't really counting people in front of me," she said. "I heard other people, especially my coaches and family, yelling to other people and me where I was and saying there was a pack of (runners in) 10th through 16th (places)."
Steadily improving her standing throughout the race, Heuerman finished 10th in 18 minutes, 51.98 seconds of 154 runners to earn all-state honors and a spot on the awards podium. She paced the Golden Bears, who finished 15th (334 points) in the 16-team field, behind champion Mason (76).
The top 16 finishers earned a place on the podium and the top 25 earned all-state honors. Heuerman is UA's first all-state runner since Olivia Menden in 2010 and her finish is the program's best since Kaitlyn Peale placed sixth in 2006.
"I think she is just having a good time. It's fun to watch her race," coach Latisha Wilder said of Heuerman, who finished 45th at state in 2012. "I talked to each of them about having a race to remember this season. The girls have their own personal goals, so it's all about living up to that. At this point, there's nothing I can do as a coach. They have to run their own race."
Senior Dorrian Jaffe (116th, 20:17.65) was the next UA runner to cross the finish line, followed by junior Megan Brewer (122nd, 20:22.35), freshman Elisabeth Barbour (126th, 20:25.77), senior Sarah Heuerman (129th, 20:27.88), junior Erin Simko (141st, 20:57.82) and senior Karla Jeggle (146th, 21:06.25).
UA's performance at state capped a season in which it established itself as one of the area's top teams by winning its first five regular-season invitationals and six of seven, including a 28-point performance Aug. 31 in the Granville Invitational that allowed the Bears to defeat runner-up Watkins Memorial by 70 points.
Ann Heuerman won the OCC-Central Division championship Oct. 12 at Hilliard Darby in 18:08.68, which at that point in the season was the area's fastest time, to lead UA to the league title. The Bears scored 39 points in the meet, followed by Thomas Worthington (51), Hilliard Davidson (59), Olentangy Liberty (88), Dublin Coffman (119), Westland (203), Marysville (210) and Central Crossing (228).
UA also won the title for the 17-team Division I, district 3 meet Oct. 26 at Watkins Memorial, scoring 64 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Lancaster (112), as Heuerman placed fourth (19:11.31) and Jaffe finished ninth (19:43.07).
Led by a sixth-place finish by Heuerman (19:03.25), the Bears placed second (104) in the 16-team regional meet Oct. 26 at Pickerington North, behind champion Gahanna (90), to advance to state.
Freshmen made impact on boys team
Sophomore Ian Hamilton led the boys team in all but one race this season, but several freshmen made significant contributions, especially later in the year.
Ninth-graders Andrew Harper, Trent Popovich and Jack Taylor all broke into the Bears' top eight by mid-September, joining Hamilton, juniors Nar Wang and Payton Warner and sophomores Nicholas Gill and Jurgan Wilkes.
"They really stepped up at the end and helped advance us," Wilder said of the freshmen. "Jurgan Wilkes was running cross country for the first time and made a great showing. I am confident our boys team will just continue to improve."
The season ended in the Division I, district 3 meet, as UA finished 13th (372) behind champion Lancaster (36) as 16 teams scored.
Hamilton led the Bears at district, finishing 56th (18:08.59) of 115 runners, as the top six teams and top 24 individuals advanced to regional.
UA finished sixth (167) in the OCC-Central meet, behind Davidson (34), Coffman (58), Liberty (58), Thomas (93) and Marysville (154) and ahead of Central Crossing (214) and Westland (215).
Hamilton paced the Bears, placing 24th (16:33.08).
"We're going to have a strong team on the boys side next year and for another two years. I think we can get (to state)," Wilder said. "I want both of our teams to be here (at state). That's my goal. Then I'll be satisfied."