Victories don’t always come from being the first to cross the finish line.
For the Hiland Hawks cross country program, the victories at the Div II East District meet at Cambridge High School came in the times their runners were posting.
To a runner, they all set career PRs, and many of them had carved off massive chunks of time form where they began the season.
Although Hiland didn’t have enough runners to qualify as a team, they were represented by some solid efforts.
First and foremost was Melissa Hostetler, who came in at 22:17 and wound up 26th, not quite good enough to crack the top 16 runners who advance to Regionals, but still a very good showing for the sophomore.
“Melissa came a long way in a short time this season,” said head coach Mark Fowler. “She didn’t even begin running until Aug. 27, so to get where she was is a real testament to her athletic ability. She could be pretty amazing once she really begins to figure things out.”
Fowler said that all of his runners should keep their first time of the season somewhere that they can find it down the road, and they ill laugh at it when they get to be seniors.
He said Hostetler was running over 30 minutes in her first efforts, and noted that it didn’t even take her until her senior season to chuckle at her time.
Hostetler’s teammate, Julee Zink, traversed the hilly, wind Cambridge track in 24:09, good for 41st place. Michaela Kandel ended up 58th in time of 28:10.
“Julee actually took a whole minute off her PR, and came into the race really focused and determined,” said Fowler. “This is her first full year in cross country too, so these kids can get a lot better in a hurry.”
For the guys, sophomore Matt Troyer came in 45th in a time of 20:34, while junior Lorin Herhsberger was close behind, finishing in 52nd, in a time of 2:50. Alijah Chupp wound up in 60th place in 22:39. The Hawks were without their top runner, Hunter Yoder, who had to sit this one out due to concussion symptoms he suffered during the soccer season.
“I think all of our kids ran their best times of the year, which was very encouraging,” said Fowler. “Loren topped his best by about 11 seconds, and Alijah, he was running around 29 early his season, so for him to come in under 23 was a huge improvement. Plus, he is another kid who showed up for his first run on the first day of practice, so he was pretty excited with his finish.”
Fowler said that he ran the program with first-year runners, many of them two-sport athletes, and athletes he found at school who were willing to participate.
That may well change next year, when a trio of middle school talents will bolster the roster.
According to Fowler, four middle school runners performed admirably this season. Eighth-graders Brooke Miller, Emily Troyer and Alex Ventura, along with seventh-grader Tyler Kuhn, all medaled at the Inter-Valley Conference meet earlier this year. He expects all four to have a make an impact on the program.
“My girls stood at the starting line and were talking about how next year with the addition of Brooke and Emily, we will have enough to compete as a team,” said Fowler. “I like the fact that they are already talking about the positives for next year.”