The West Liberty-Salem girls cross country team capped off an undefeated season, with its first state title in school history Saturday at the OHSAA DIII State Championships at the Fortress Obetz. The Big Orange held off the 4 time defending state champion Minster and state powerhouses Liberty Center and Fort Loramie for the convincing win.
1st WLS 55, 2nd Minster 83, 3rd Liberty Center 115, 4th Fort Loramie 126, 5th Gilmour Academy 163, 6th Mount Gilead 185, 7th Maplewood 224, 8th Mineral Ridge 275, 9th Colonel Crawford 283, 10th Versailles 291, 11th Woodmore 302, 12th Anna 322, 13th Ft. Recovery 323, 14th Ottawa Hills 349, 15th Liberty Union 381, 16th St. Henry 392, 17th Smithville 421, 18th Grandview Heights 432, 19th Cardington-Lincoln 459, 20th Caldwell 479.
Four Big Orange runners earned First Team All-Ohio status with Megan Adams leading the way in 5th place in 18:43. Freshmen Ashley Yoder and Addison McAuley placed 8th and 10th respectively in 18:49 and 18:56, and Katelyn Stapleton placed 18th in 19:20. Madison Bahan earned Second Team All-Ohio placing 31st in 19:30. Rounding out the WLS placers were Taylor Kennedy in 89th place 20:49, and Claire Longshore 127th in 21:51.
Adams and Stapleton have become the first Big Orange athletes to earn All-Ohio in three consecutive years.
The team caps off the season being ranked #3 in all divisions in Ohio and #58 in the nation.
“The girls showed so much composure today,” said longtime head coach Ann Vogel. “We were in fifth after the first 800, but they just kept working their way through the pack. They are a veteran team and they knew what to expect. I couldn’t be more proud of them. That last 800 was phenomenal. Everyone gave it their all.”
Minster and Ft. Loramie jumped out strong, but the Big Orange turned it up over the final half of the race to jump in the thick of the championship chase.
WL-S trailed Ft. Loramie by 44 points and Minster by 16 after the first mile. At the two-mile mark, the Big Orange were 26 points behind Minster and 13 from Ft. Loramie.
The Big Orange remained in third at the 2 1/2-mile mark, sitting 21 points away from Minster and five from the Redskins.
“The race played out very well for us,” said Megan Adams. “We just kept working hard to move up as the race went on.”
Megan Adams was one of three Big Orange runners to earn all-Ohio honors with top-30 finishes.
Also for the Big Orange, Madison Bahan was 52nd (20:08.6), Lydia Moell finished 68th (20:26.9), Mandilyn Weaver placed 124th (21:48.9) and Maggie Davis finished 128th (21:54.9).
The Big Orange girls are very familiar with competing with the cream of the crop in the state. Five of the seven runners that ran Saturday were instrumental in the track and field team’s state championship last spring.
“These girls expect to win,” said Vogel. “I didn’t think we would be state champs in track last spring, but these girls have very high expectations. They wanted to win today and that’s all they talked about. They gave it their all and I couldn’t ask for anything more out of them.”
Saturday’s race offered a lot of individual pride for the Big Orange runners as many of them overcame adversity to turn in stellar outings.
For Megan Adams, as of a few weeks ago, she wasn’t even sure if she would be able to run anymore this season. She suffered a broken foot early on this fall and was sidelined for most of the regular season.
“To be able to finish third is an amazing feeling,” she said. “I had a broken foot, but God blessed me with a quick recovery and gave me the ability to get back to my teammates.”
“Megan is pure guts,” said Vogel. “I remember her riding a bike in a boot while we practiced at Ohio Caverns. She just wanted to be there with her teammates. Her resilience has been amazing. She is one of those special kids that only come around every once in a while.”
Stapleton enjoyed a feeling of redemption after not being able to finish in the state meet as a freshman two years ago.
“I am so happy with how I finished,” she said. “I didn’t finish this race as a freshman, so it feels really good to be able to accomplish this.”
“Katelyn’s maturity and growth has been tremendous,” said Vogel. “She knew what she had to do and went out and did it. She passed 10 people in the last 800.”
Grace Adams, one of two seniors on the team along with Moell, also left a lasting legacy on the program with her all-Ohio performance.
“Grace has improved so much,” said Vogel. “She really took on the role of a leader and was a great example for the rest of the girls.”
Grace Adams and Moell became the 9th and 10th runners in program history to qualify for four consecutive state meets.
Rounding out the top 10 teams in the Division III standings Saturday were Liberty Center (161), Mt. Gilead (165), Centerburg (224), McDonald (252), Gilmour Academy (264), Columbus Grove (286) and Maplewood (289).
Springfield Catholic Central’s Addie Engel ran a blistering time of 17:46.9 to win the Division III race. Her time was a new course record. Her twin sister Bridget was fourth (18:44.5).
Waynesfield-Goshen’s Taylor Spencer also put on a standout showing with a sixth-place finish (18:52.2).
Please come out and support the 1977 Big Orange state championship cross country team at its induction into the West Liberty-Salem Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday night (Feb. 9th) before the start of the varsity boys basketball game. Let’s fill the gym wearing our Big Orange gear. There will be a dessert reception following the game in the auxiliary gym.
For more information visit www.wlstigers.org
All of us at Born and Raced in West Liberty would like to thank our community, businesses, volunteers, friends and family for the love and support they've shared with our West Liberty runners in 2017.
From road races, track and cross country meets, All-Ohioans, to our Big Orange youth running program, West Liberty is truly a running community. Here are some of 2017's best photos of our runners. May 2018 bring you health, happiness, and miles and miles of good running!
The Big Orange girls cross country team is STATE BOUND again! WL-S won the DIII Southwest Regional Championships Saturday at Troy Memorial Stadium. The Big Orange was led by senior Reghan Bieleski who finished 2nd overall. This will be Reghan's 4th state meet appearance. She joins Big Orange alumni Amy Wallace McDaniel, Shawnda Henault, Savanna Shipp, Jasmine Smith, Jordan Smith, Alyssa Strickland and Meghan Vogel as the only Big Orange female athletes to do so in the program's history.
This year's state meet berth is the 7th in the Big Orange girls program's history (2000, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2016). It's the most state appearances of any girls athletic program at West Liberty-Salem.
The Big Orange will race at 11:00 a.m. this Saturday at National Trail Speedway in Hebron, Ohio. Please come out and support these hard-working student athletes!
Complete results of the DIII Troy Regional are posted on www.finishtiming.com. Info on the State Cross Country Championships is below and HERE.