Maybe Michelle Hostettler was simply sending a message to the rest of the runners in the Ashland Cross Country Invitational Saturday, Sept. 3.
Yes, it may be early, but when a runner goes out and simply disappears from the rest of the field, that is a pretty telltale sign that you are there to dominate.
Hostettler ran an 18:57 in the girls Div. II/III race, and won the event by a whopping one minute and four seconds over runner-up Makenna Heimlich of Shelby.
“She was pretty dominant,” said Beachy of Hostettler’s effort. Then in pure coaching fashion, he said there was still plenty of room for improvement.
“You could tell we haven’t done any speed work yet this season, because her legs looked a little slow, but she really looked great for this time of the season. The goal is having all of these kids running their best times at the end of the year, so this is part of the process.”
Hostettler’s performance highlighted a strong day for West Holmes in which they ran together as a pack for much of the race in both the boys and girls flights.
“For the girls especially, if you look at our three through nine runners, they were all within a minute or two, and they ran pretty hard and did a good job of pacing each other and helping each other run better,” said Beachy. “When we can run together and push each other, that is only going to help us. That pack mentality can only make us better in the long run.”
Erin Norman ended up in 45th place in the field of 139 runners, finishing in 23:24. Junior Kaylor Perone (24:28) placed 61st, freshman Morgan Allen (24:42) was 65th, Megan Morrison (25:09) was 72nd, Alexis Hunter (25:16) was 74th and newcomer Daybria Yerian (25:18) finished 76th. Becca Kashuba (25:45) rounded out the bunched-together Lady Knights finishers with an 83rd.
Beachy said newcomers like Daybria and Allen have the talent to run with the pack of more seasoned runners who know what it takes.
“Our experienced runners know how to pace, and our younger girls are working right off of that in learning how to attack a course,” said Beachy. “It’s fun to see them all working together like that.”
Vinny DeFelice led the Knights to their strong finish, running a 16:36.6 to end up in fourth place. He was chasing Smithville’s Joey Courdriet (16:24) and Lucas Clark (16:31), who went second and third.
DeFelice was strong all day, runners with the leaders and eventually strolling home in fourth place, but Beachy was thrilled with the rest of the Knights’ efforts, a team concept that earned them a fourth-place finish overall in the 12-team field.
Just like the girls, the Knights stayed together and moved as a pack. While the five-member group of Jonathan Clark, Ethan Raber, Brayden Bender, Jackson Iamarino and Zedrick Clark eventually spread out over the final homestretch, they did a nice job of bringing each other along and keeping each other strong.
Eventually near the end of the race, two runners pulled away form the pack, and Kandel (18:52) ended up in 31st place, while Raber (19:04) was 36th.
Newcomers Jackson Iamarino (19:44), Brayden Bender (20:07) and Zedrick Clark 20:09) ended up in 55th, 64th and 65th place, respectively.
Not far back from them were Jonathan Schonauer (20:46.5) and Jeremy Schonauer (20:46.7) who were nearly tied at 77th and 78th place.
“Johnnie Kandel ran his best race ever, by far,” said Beachy of the sophomore. “And Ethan is only a freshman, and he was just 10 seconds back, so I felt he ran a really good race, too.”
Beachy also had high praise for newcomer Iamarino, who is very raw but boasts what Beachy said is a very good instinct for cross country.
But much like the girls, he said the pack of guys behind DeFelice ran together for much of the race before going their separate ways late. He said that factored into the loweing of times across the board from the week prior.
“I don’t know whether it was the course or just the fact that the guys really have been working hard, but pretty much everyone improved from the week before by between one minute and two minutes,” said Beachy. “Vinny probably wishes he was a little bit faster, but he really looked good running. He put himself in a good spot.”
As for surprises, Beachy said seeing his guys improve across the board was the most impressive thing he came away with from the meet.
“These guys have a lot of potential,” said Beachy. “To see them already taking steps to fulfill that is pretty cool. We may have a ways to go before we are super-competitive, but the fact that we got fourth in a quality field of 12 teams is very promising.”