“It’s another nice accomplishment for this team,” said head coach Kevin Beachy of the finish.
The OCC race was won by Lexington’s Nick Molnar, who traversed the winding course in 16:34. West Holmes’ top place was once again Cully Gordon, who finished fourth in 16:52. Sam Boyd cruised in to sixth place in 17:02, both of those finishes good enough to earn First Team All-OCC honors.
“It feels good,” said Boyd of the accomplishment. “I guess looking back at last year’s times for us here in this meet, we should all feel good about where we are because I think we all improved our times.”
Boyd’s 17:02 was nearly a full minute off of his time last year at the meet (18.00), and he closed over the last half mile, passing several runners to gain first team honors.
As for Gordon, who won the OCC meet last year just holding off Molnar at the wire, the race was a different style considering the course they ran last year was at Lexington. The winding, fairly flat track at Ashland made for plenty of hairpin turns, which brings new strategy into play.
“This wasn’t one of my best runs,” admitted Gordon. “It was an average time, but this is a tougher course because of all the tight turns.”
Gordon said he actually felt a lot stronger than he has the majority of the year, and was pleased with his finish. He also said he was thrilled for the team, knowing that they had done better than any team before them at West Holmes.
Much of that finish can be attributed to Gordon and Boyd, but the trio of Knights runners who strode home in a mini-pack at the tail end of the first wave of runners had just as much to do with the fine finish.
Tim Young earned 16th place (17:56), the 17th spot went to Nate Ewing (17:59) and 18th went to J.R. Yoder (18:00). Those three finished strong, and propelled the Knights to their best finish ever.
In fact, it may have been Young who set the field, as he charged off the starting line and roared to the front of the pack, setting a blistering pace.
“That was a lot different than what I normally do,” said Young of his early burst to the front of the pack. “I felt good today and I decided I’d try it.”
Ashland took home the top spot with 49 points, as a large contingent of Arrows missed out in the top six spots but came in between seventh and 14th. Lexington was next, just one point back, while the Knights rolled in with 61 points, 12 points behind.
Young said that with West Holmes projected to lose by around 25 points to Ashland based on times, the 12 point deficit showed marked improvement, and he hopes that the team’s times continue to drop as the run for the State tournament draws near.
Ewing said that the trio of Knights runners who bolstered the finish know their job is to hang tough behind the lead pack, and to finish strong, earning valuable positions for the team. They keep up their will to succeed by running together, something Ewing said helps them all as the race progresses.
“I love it,” said Ewing of running as a pack. “It’s nice running with teammates. It makes you run harder and inspires you to keep pushing. You kind of carry each other.”
Having never finished above fourth, and never closing with fewer than 84 points, the third place finish and 71 points set the new standards for the Knights in the OCC meet.
Coach Beachy said that the secondary pack was key to the achievement.
“We were hoping they would stay with the Ashland pack, and even though Ashland eventually broke away from them they ran a great race,” said Beachy of Young, Ewing and Yoder. “They were each able to hold off a runner at the end too, which was great.”
As for Gordon and Boyd, the first team honors were well deserved, according to Beachy.
“I thought the pace actually suited Cully greatly,” said Beachy. “They didn’t go out like they did at Wayne-Holmes and massacre the pack. They went out smart and a little cautious and that favored Cully.
“Sam was actually fighting a little bit of sickness today, so it was nice to see him close like he did and earn first team honors.
“We’ve done a nice job of getting better and better, and lately we have really started to put it all together. Hopefully it is coming just at the right time for us to peak going into Regionals.”