Today was another beautiful day for racing in the Northern Kentucky area, sunny clear skies and temperatures in the low 70s. To the line came seven squads, three of which were poised to battle for today’s first place trophy: Dixie Heights, St. Henry, and the host team, Walton-Verona. Individually, St. Henry’s lead man, Josh Hannon’s season best of 16:32 was by far the fastest in the field.
The gun fired, and the runners were off. Two teams could be easily seen surging to the front. Just right of center, the St. Henry Crusaders in red were taking control of the front of the pack. On the left side Dixie Heights, also in red, took a strong beginning position as well. In the fray, two runners Walton-Verona runners, Matthew Harper and Joe Rider, could be seen fighting their way to the front of the pack. The rest of their team was bringing up the rear of the race, and looked to be perfectly okay with it.
By the one mile, the race had really begun to take shape. A four-man pack was leading the way, with Harper (Walton-Verona), Rider (Walton-Verona), Hannon (St. Henry), and AJ Plitzuweit (Dixie Heights). These boys started the race off aggressively, coming through the mile at about 5 minutes even. The rest of the runners had strung out, but they were not far behind the lead pack at all. At the mile, St. Henry was led by Hannon in 4th. Following him, their runners were packed pretty tightly, holding places 5th, 8th, 10th, 11th, and 12th. Dixie Heights lead runner, Plitzuweit, was in 2nd place. Following him, most his teammates were in a pack holding places 13th – 16th. Dixie Heights’s 6th and 7th men were in 23rd and 32nd. Meanwhile, Walton-Verona had two boys up in the front pack, Harper in 1st and Rider in 3rd. However, the rest of their team was a bit behind in the pack. The boys from Walton-Verona were in 1st and 3rd, the next two runners came across the mile together in 19th and 20th places. The 5th, 6th, and 7th runners all came through in a group, in places 25, 26, and 27.
The boys race aggressively through the first mile, and in the second mile it showed. The lead pack had broken apart. Harper and Rider (Walton-Verona) had started to put some distance between themselves and Hannon of St. Henry. Plitzuweit had fallen back even farther from the lead group. The boys from St. Henry’s boys had fallen slightly from their positions at the mile. Now they were in places 3, 6, 7, 11, 12, and 14. Dixie Heights was fighting to maintain their position, and quite successfully. Plitzuweit fell from 2nd to 4th during the 2nd mile. Following him, the team was now in places 10, 13, 16, 24, 28, and 29. Walton-Verona’s boys were starting to really race this second mile, and it was showing. With the exception of their 1st and 7th men, every single runner had moved up within the second mile. With that, Walton-Verona’s boys now held 1st and 2nd (Harper and Rider side by side), 15th, 18th, 22nd, 23rd, and 2th.
In the last 1.1 miles, Harper (Walton-Verona) pushed himself and pulled away from his teammate. Meanwhile, Hannon (St. Henry) caught and passed Rider within the last ¼ mile. The 3rd and 4th from Walton-Verona, who had started the race slow, continued to move up. In the end, this squad’s top 5 held places 1, 3, 13, 17, and 24. Their progress was enough to push them up above Dixie Heights, who finished in 3rd place as a team, taking 5th, 10th, 11th, 18th and 25th places with their top 5 runners. However, the Crusaders from St. Henry managed to hold on till the bitter end to take 1st place. Their entire squad of 6 men finished in the top 15 (2nd, 4th, 8th, 12th, 14th, and 15th places to be precise).
The skies were sunny and clear, with temperatures in the mid-high 60’s when the Girls Varsity Race of the Walton-Verona invitational. Five teams in today’s field had squads capable of taking one of the two team trophies: the ladies from Beechwood, Dixie Heights, Lloyd Memorial, Ludlow, and Walton-Verona.
Within the first mile, Sarah Duncan (Lloyd Memorial) had taken a strong position, leading the race and pulling away from the second place girl. Her next four teammates were a ways behind, holding places 14, 16, 20, and 22. Following Duncan, Byni Dugan and Chessi Dugan (both from Ludlow) were leading their team. Their next three teammates were in 7th, 17th, and 23rd. Ally Johnson from Beechwood was looking comfortable in 4th place, her teammates behind her were in 6th, 11th, 12th, and 27th. Dixie Heights’s top 5 girls were in 5th, 10th, 19th, 21st, and 24th places. Walton-Verona’s top 5 girls held places 8, 9, 13, 26, and 31.
In the second mile, Duncan had widened her lead, while the girls behind her were racing for every single spot. The 2nd through 5th girls for Dixie Height’s had moved forward slightly; the team now held places 7, 9, 18, 19, and 23. For Lloyd Memorial, their second place runner, Candice Meredith, had moved forward slightly, while the 3rd and 4th place runners were battling to hold their positions. The team now held places 1, 11, 20, 21, and 22. Beechwood’s lead runner, Ally Johnson, had moved up to 2nd place. The next three still looked to be in solid placement, but had fallen back slightly to places 8, 10, and 17. Walton-Verona’s top two runners were moving up, and now were in 4th and 5th places, while their third runner was holding her place in 13th. Ludlow’s girls were slowly falling back, the top 3 girls now in places 3, 6, and 14. The 4th and 5th girls were not to be seen in the top 25.
By the end of the race, Sarah Duncan (Lloyd Memorial) was crushing her competition. She crossed the finish line in 20:06, while the second place runner, Ally Johnson (Beechwood) finished in 20:56.
The team race was a lesson in the importance of the 4th and 5th runners on a team. Ludlow had the best top three girls (3rd, 4th, and 14th), but they did not have the depth to beat out the top 4 teams: Ludlow took 5th with 89 points. Beechwood edged out Walton-Verona for 3rd place by 1 point. These ladies, led by Johnson, scored a team score of 77 points by taking 2nd, 10th, 11th, 21st, and 23rd places. Meanwhile just behind them the ladies from Walton Verona scored 78 points with 5th, 6th, 13th, 25th and 29th place runners for their top 5.
While Dixie Heights and Lloyd Memorial had the worst score from just their top three runners (compared to the top 5 teams), their 4th and 5th runners set them apart. The difference between the 1st and 2nd place teams was 1 point. Lloyd Memorial had the top runner, and their ladies had moved up significantly from the 2-mile. However, the Dixie Heights’s girls were able to squeak out a victory. The ladies from Lloyd Memorial scored 68 points, and were led by Duncan in 1st. Following her, the ladies took 9th, 16th, 20th, and 22nd. Dixie Heights scored 67 points and was led by Jessica Riddle in 7th place. Following her the girls were in places 8, 15, 18, and 19.
MS GIRLS RACE RECAP-
In the Girl’s Middle School race, two girls took the lead from the very beginning. Walton-Verona’s Ashley Akins* and Twenhofel Middle School’s Sophia Delisio*. At approximately the half mile, they were starting to pull away from the third place runner. Shortly past the mile, these two were still neck and neck, but now they had a solid 40 second lead over the next set of runners.
These two runners raced down to the bitter end; however the lady from Walton-Verona was able to outkick her competition to take first place. The only other 3k race Akins has run this season was the Ryle Co. Invitational, where the girls had, unknowingly, taken a wrong turn and added approximately a half mile to the course. These lead two girls suffered from similar race management issues, but this time they cut off a significant chunk at the end. Due to this, they were both disqualified from the race, and Akins has yet to run an accurate 3k race this year.
Following those two, Katherine Skeen of Beechwood ran a 14:07 to take 1st place in her first 3k race ever. She managed to outkick Maggie Jones of Twenhofel Middle School, who finished in 14:08.
*I have no way to know for sure that these are actually the two middle school girls involved. I am inferring that these are the runner from past meet data this year.
MS Boys Race Recap-
In the Boy’s Middle School Race, one boy took the lead from the very beginning. Brendan Hansen took off at the start striding out with a purpose. Just before going into the back field, there was only one runner near him, and that was his teammate, Ethan Snyder. Coming up the last large hill, shortly past the 1 mile, he was by himself. Snyder had fallen back about 20 seconds behind him, and Hansen was just racing the clock. And as far as racing the clock goes, Hansen won. He managed to set a new PR by crossing the line in a time of 11:07.4. Snyder was his closest competition, coming across the line in 11:37.5.