Gahanna Lincoln Roundup: Alyssa Shope overcomes obstacles to place fifth at state meet
As she headed into the final stretch of the Division I state girls cross country race Nov. 7 at Fortress Obetz, Gahanna Lincoln junior Alyssa Shope reminded herself how far she’d come in such a short time.
Shope didn’t compete in her first meet this season until mid-October because of a hip issue, and she also has dealt with a series of other health issues.
But even those roadblocks didn’t keep her from ending her season with a fifth-place finish (18 minutes, 10.1 seconds) at state after she’d won races the three previous weeks.
“I was right in that front pack of girls, and after the 2-mile mark they started to take off," Shope said. "I have a really sensitive stomach and I could really feel it kick in. I kept telling myself a Bible verse (written on my hand) which is Matthew 19:26, and it’s ‘With God all things are possible.’ I love repeating that when I run. It tells me I have enough strength to keep pushing forward.”
Shope ran 18:31.9 on Oct. 24 at Hilliard Darby to win the district 3 meet and then won the regional Oct. 31 at Pickerington North in 18:40.5 as Gahanna earned the fifth and final state-qualifying berth. She also was OCC-Ohio Division champion in 18:55 in just her second meet.
The Lions placed 17th (429) in the 20-team state meet behind champion Centerville (128), which also had the individual champion in sophomore Mia Robillard (17:58.5)
“I’m happy, but I’m not content with where I’m at," Shope said. "I’m just going to keep getting stronger. It gives me so much motivation to get better and get over my injury because my injury still hasn't gone away. I ran (the state) race at about 95 percent and it started to hurt.”
Junior Olivia Perry was Gahanna’s No. 2 runner at state, placing 127th (20:20.9), followed by freshman Addy Galloway (132nd, 20:34.6), senior Elise Wunderlin (152nd, 21:07.9), junior Hannah Reich (159th, 21:35.2), senior Gabriella Sophocleous (164th, 22:03.2) and sophomore Eliza Brofford (165th, 22:07.3).
Others eligible to return for Gahanna — which was runner-up in the OCC-Ohio and third at district — include junior Sophie Gartland and sophomore Ava Tominack.
“Any time you finish at state it’s a good day,” coach Ernie Ziegler said. “They’ve been resilient. I’m very proud of this team. You can see that (Shope) has the potential to be truly elite. I know she missed a big stretch of time with the hip thing but the fact she came back, she finally figured it out. To get fifth as a junior, she’s got a shot next year to win a state title.
“Elise Wunderlin was so consistent for all four years and was a model of what we aspire to be, and Gabriella is really what it’s all about. She went from one of the bottom two or three as a freshman to a varsity contributor as a senior state-meet participant. It speaks volumes to her heart for the sport.”
ready to return
After winning a regional title and finishing fourth at state last season, the boys cross country team rebuilt its lineup with a group of mostly sophomores and freshmen.
The Lions ended up third in the OCC-Ohio and qualified for regional, and all but two of their competitors are eligible to return.
“I felt good about the progress the team was able to make,” coach Ryan Beck said. “To have so many guys who are underclassmen and also who didn’t have varsity experience coming into the year, I felt like they adapted well and were able to grow into the rules and run well over the course of the season and compete well.”
On Oct. 31 at regional, Gahanna finished 12th as senior Donovan Hight led with a 40th-place finish (17:11.9), followed by sophomores Alex Eggleston (58th, 17:28.3) and Charles Slates (62nd, 17:29.5), senior Connor Hughes-Hemsoth (76th, 17:39.8), sophomore Abinur Sileshi (91st, 17:51.2), freshman K’Tyo Hendershott (96th, 17:53.3) and sophomore Owen Huzicka (106th, 18:13).
Freshman Noah Long also competed in the league meet.
Others eligible to return include junior Jordan Anderson, sophomore Gavin Pape and freshmen David Cremean, Eian Washington and Wynn Yamamoto.
“It was fun to see runners like A.J. Eggleston, K’Tyo Hendershott, Charlie Slates and Abi Sileshi who had zero varsity experience mix it up at times with the top kids in varsity races,” Beck said. “I’m excited about the group of guys that are coming back. We have a core of experienced runners now and they won’t be learning the ropes next year.
“The varsity runners who are returning already set the expectation in the bar for work both during the offseason and in season. Now it’s about establishing the competitive level that we want to be at.”
•OCC-Ohio standings: Boys — New Albany (35), Pickerington North (61), Gahanna (63), Westerville Central (64), Grove City (152), Westland (187); Girls — North (49), Gahanna (50), New Albany (55), Westerville Central (58), Grove City (150)
•Seniors lost: Boys — Ryan Amer, Caiden Cannon, Donovan Hight, Ethan Huang, Connor Hughes-Hemsoth, Isaiah Rowe and Benjamin Workman; Girls — Olivia Keener, Jenna Olinger, Gabriella Sophocleous and Elise Wunderlin
•Key returnees: Boys — Alex Eggleston, K’Tyo Hendershott, Owen Huzicka, Abinur Sileshi and Charles Slates; Girls — Eliza Brofford, Addy Galloway, Sophie Gartland, Olivia Perry, Alyssa Shope
•Postseason: Boys — Fourth (109) in district 2 behind champion Hilliard Davidson (27); 12th (273) at regional behind champion Davidson (57); Girls — Third (97) in district 3 behind champion Upper Arlington (70); fifth (181) at regional behind champion Davidson (42); 17th (429) at state behind champion Centerville (128)