West Holmes

Michelle Hostettler caps off record year in style with third at state XC

One dream came true Saturday, Nov. 7 for Michelle Hostettler at the girls Div. II state cross country meet at National Trails Raceway in Hebron, one remains firmly embedded on the bucket list.

For the first time ever in her illustrious career, Hostettler, West Holmes’ junior running sensation, was able to knock off Lexington superstar, race favorite and defending state champion Dominique Clairmonte.

That monumental achievement was still not quite good enough to get her a state championship title, however, a dream that will have to wait until next season to be fulfilled. Hostettler would eventually place third, by far the highest placing for a West Holmes cross country runner. It would also secure a spot as an All-Ohioan, while at the same time stoking the fires even hotter for her to reach the top of the podium next season.

Hostettler ran a great race, tagging along about five seconds behind the top trio of runners, a group that included Clairmonte, Mary Kate Vaughn of Oakwood and eventual champion Abby Nichols of Archbishop Alter.

“Early in the race we wondered what in the heck Michelle was doing so far back in the pack,” said West Holmes coach Kevin Beachy with a chuckle. “But she was not too far off the pace of the top three runners, which was where we wanted her.”

“At first I was kind of nervous because I heard them both yelling,” said Hostettler. “But as I kept running, I was gaining on girls and it gave me motivation and confidence.”

Eventually Hostettler settled into fourth place, and just before the midpoint of the 3.1 mile race, she was about 40 meters back, trailing the trio of leaders by about five seconds.

It wasn’t until later that Clairmonte, trying to defend her state title in this her senior season, lagged behind Vaughn and Nichols.

It was almost as though Hostettler was like a wolf who had picked up the blood scent of its prey.

The West Holmes junior attacked the hill leading to the final stretch. West Holmes coach Michael Ewing was there to witness the burst that sent her careening past her Ohio Conference.

“They were about 1200 meters from the finish, and it goes uphill for a ways, and it goes up and turns and goes down at the top,” said Ewing. “The closest Michelle has ever been to Dom was 32 seconds at conference. She gained on her all the way up the hill. Michelle was really attacking. Once she passed her, she put down the hammer and really pulled away. Dom is one of the best runners in the state and maybe the country, and to give yourself the opportunity to do what Michelle did today, that was important, and she took advantage of it.”

Blowing by Clairmonte sent a new surge of adrenaline down Hostettler’s spine, and sent her into overdrive. The chase was on to catch the leaders, as she tore down the hill that led to the final push.

“When I passed Dom, I wondered what my time was going to be, because that was awesome,” said Hostettler of the big move. “I knew I had a chance at beating her, but when I actually passed her, that was a really good feeling. I have never been that close to her before.”

As Vaughn and Nichols battled to the frenzied finale, Hostettler continued to close, but the gap was too great.

The finish for first was incredible, as the two leaders were neck-and-neck as they approached the finish line. As they leaned to the wire, Vaughn, the 2012 champion as a freshman, stumbled, tumbling to the ground, allowing Nichols to take the title in 18:05.4, just 0.3 seconds ahead of Vaughn. Hostettler stormed across the finish line in third at 18:19.5, a time that would have nearly won last year’s event.

Clairmonte would come home fourth, 10 seconds behind Hostettler.

“Michelle finished so strong,” said Beachy. “She was really closing fast. If that race would have been a little linger, who knows what might have happened. She was really coming, and she finished in a dead sprint.”

The top three finish completes the erasure of the bitterness of last season, when as a sophomore Hostettler led the Pickerington regional by seven seconds, only to pass out with 800 meters to go.

This finish was more than enough to complete Hostettler’s record-breaking campaign.

Not only did she continually smash her own school record meet after meet, her third place finish was also by far the best individual finish in school history, besting Sam Boyd’s 15th place finish two years ago.

“That’s awesome,” said Hostettler of the school-record finish. “It’s a great feeling, and when you work hard it definitely pays off. This makes me want to work a lot harder. I would love to be a state champion, and it is in line for me to have that opportunity to try to go get it.”

In the end, Clairmonte would have her day, the disappointment of the fourth-place finish getting swallowed up by her team’s impressive first-place finish that saw the Lady Lex place four runners on the podium, including Clairmonte (4th), Whitney Wendling 9th), Mackenna Curtis-Collins (11th) and Abby Miller (13th).

But on this day, at least for West Holmes, it wasn’t about the team game, but more about what one individual could accomplish, as Hostettler dotted the “I” on a season that made her the greatest runner in school history.

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