KIRKERSVILLE — About 800 meters into the Division I state championship race Nov. 4 at National Trail Raceway, Gracie Sprankle of the Olentangy Liberty High School girls cross country team felt a twinge of pain in her right heel as a fellow competitor clipped her, forcing her shoe to come off.
“I really didn’t know what to do,” said Sprankle, a junior with hopes of contending for the title. “It sort of came halfway off and I couldn’t waste the time to stop and put it back on. I just kicked it off and ran with one shoe. It sort of hurt when I ran across rocks, but it distracted me enough from the pain of the race to do OK.”
Sprankle’s valiant fourth-place finish in 17 minutes, 35.5 seconds propelled Liberty to third in the team standings. Teammate Emma Bower took ninth (18:05.7) to aid the effort. Favored Centerville won with 122 points.
Coach Darrell Dewese seemed a tad disappointed that the Patriots couldn’t win a runner-up trophy for their efforts. Hilliard Davidson took sixth and Granville eighth.
“Honestly, we were shooting for second and to come so close (35 points) is frustrating,” he said. “Nobody slipped up, though. The girls ran well.”
Two area teams, however, did take home second-place trophies.
In Division II, Fairfield Union capped a remarkable season with a 10-point defeat to perennial power Lexington.
“When the live results were coming in (on finishtiming.com) during the second mile, we realized we were second and with all the excitement we relayed the news to the girls in hopes of motivating them,” Falcons coach Rob Myers said. “Sometimes, you get lost in a big pack and have no idea.”
This was just the program’s second trip to state. The Falcons finished 12th last year.
“I absolutely couldn’t be prouder of the girls,” said Myers, a former Fairfield Union and Ohio State standout.
Chloe Dawson of Buckeye Valley was the area’s top finisher, placing sixth (18:39.4). Fighting through a stress fracture she suffered Oct. 11, Dawson wore a protective boot until this week. The freshman shaved nearly two minutes off her regional time.
“I’m really happy with my race considering what I’ve been through,” Dawson said.
Mount Gilead claimed runner-up in Division III, finishing behind a record-setting 34-point performance by defending champion Minster, which now has won 10 titles.
“We’ll take that,” veteran Indians coach Denny West said. “On paper, we knew we could run with anybody in the state, except maybe Minster. Our ladies showed up and stepped up today.”
Sophomore Baylee Hack and freshman Allison Johnson led Mount Gilead, placing third and fifth, respectively. Hack, who ran 18:55.1, was regional champ last week.
“I was 43rd here last year and I learned a lot about how to race better and position yourself to be successful,” Hack said. “My nerves also got the better of me last year. I told my teammates to take the mindset that it’s just another race.”