So often times area high school cross country athletes have to travel to faraway places around Ohio like Vermilion, Columbus and assorted faraway cities to compete, and fans don’t get a chance to see what kind of terrific talent the area boasts.
However, for one weekend every year, all of the local teams unite for what is one of those fun, bragging rights races, the Wayne-Holmes Invite.
This annual event at Orrville High School is one that showcases the best of the area’s runners from throughout the two counties, and this year was no different.
The girls’ race featured a great challenge of individuals at the front of the pack, which provided plenty of excitement.
For the girls, it all boiled down to West Holmes’ sensational senior Michelle Hostettler and Wooster junior Maddie Nacci. The two are a picture of contrast, Hostettler having run her whole life, Nacci having played soccer up until this season, when she made the switch to cross country.
But it didn’t matter how they got there, all that mattered was that they ran away from the pack and ran together the entire race, Nacci leading for more than two miles while Hostettler lurked on her back shoulder.
Finally as the last mile arose, Hostettler made her move, flying past Nacci, who simply didn’t give in. While Hostettler cruised across the line in first place in 19:09, Nacci crossed the line in second at 19:16, in the process setting a new school record for Wooster.
“I wanted to run with her, and I knew she was going to go fast,” Nacci said. “I tried to stick with her as much as possible and it really paid off. She is phenomenal. I stayed ahead of her about the first mile-and-a-half, but then she just decided to go. It helped because I was striving to stay the same distance behind her and even catch up to her.”
For Hostettler, it was a good day to use as a warm-up for the coming tournament season, including the Ohio Cardinal Conference and then district, regionals and hopefully state, where the All-Ohioan hopes to improve on last year’s third-place finish. “It’s been a bit of a tough year, with some wrong turns and poor runs, but it is coming together now late in the year,” Hostettler said. “Coach (Kevin Beachy) wanted me to run an easy race, so I stayed on Maddie’s shoulder until I finally made a move at about two miles.”
Last year Hostettler won the race with ease, getting way out in front and obliterating the field.
“Her only goal today was to win,” said West Holmes coach Kevin Beachy of his star pupil. “The rest of our girls ran well. We had a lot of PRs or season lows, so it was a very encouraging day for us.”
While the first and second place runners dominated, perhaps nobody was more pleased with the race than Orrville freshman Maya Hamsher. The diminutive Hamsher had a Grand Canyon-sized grin as she strode across the finish line in third place.
Hamsher was third in 20:04, and her time and placement gave her plenty of reason to rejoice in the day’s effort.
“I was thrilled to get third and make first-team,” Hamsher said. “I came in hoping to get in the 19s, and I just missed it.
But it was still a great race for me.”
While the individual race was tight up front, team-wise, it was a no-doubter. Wooster used its depth to destroy all challengers, winning with a massively low total of 26. Led by Hamsher and Alyssa Plumley, who placed sixth in 20:23, Orrville garnered a runner-up spot with 73, while Dalton was third with 75. Smithville placed fourth with 95, while West Holmes was fifth with 110.
Wooster placed seven runners in the top 17 finishers. In addition to Nacci, Isabelle Cannon was fourth, Tracy Morgan was fifth, Maureen McKeown was seventh, Melina Mera was eighth, Mimi Wiles was 14th and Haley Miller was 17th.
“We ran really well, and I am proud of the girls. They have lots of family here, and teachers and local support, so it is always good for them to come out and race their hardest to prove to their community all of the hard work they have been putting in,” said Wooster coach McKenzie Doup. “As a team they did really well. Lots of girls has personal best or season bests, so as a team it was really encouraging.”
For Hiland senior Melissa Hostetler, the desire to earn a second-team honor was a minor disappointment. She placed 21st, just missing the top 20 who are honored.
“That might not be a bad thing for Melissa, because she runs with fire, and something like this is only going to spur her on and get her even more focused,” Hiland coach Mark Fowler said. “It gives her a little more fire for the upcoming weeks.”
Earning First Team All-County were:
1st Michelle Hostetler West Holmes 19:09
2nd Maddie Nacci Wooster 19:16
3rd Maya Hamsher Orrville 20:04
4th Isabelle Cannon Wooster 20:14
5th Tracy Morgan Wooster 20:17
6th Alyssa Plumley Orrville 20:23
7th Maureen Mc Keown Wooster 20:36
8th Melina Mera Wooster 20:51
9th Weslea Arthur Northwestern 21:10
10th Ashleigh Clabaugh Smithville 21:11
Earning Second Team All- County were:
11th Latrice Schlabach Dalton 21:13
12th Kate Lorson Smithville 21:22
13th Madee Kutz Dalton 21:32
14th Mimi Wiles Wooster 21:50
15th Lily Baechle Dalton 21:51
16th Erin Norman West Holmes 21:55
17th Haley Miller Wooster 21:59
18th Seheca Doty Dalton 22:01
19th Kirsten Wilson Norwayne 22:08
20th Mikayla Deiotte Norwayne 22:17