A teammate's graduation and her own talent propelled Abrie Smith into the presumed No. 1 slot for Columbian's girls this fall. Saturday the sophomore solidified that position.
Smith ran 14th (21:33.06) and three other teammates turned in top-50 efforts as the Tornadoes captured fourth in the Division II-B race at the Tiffin Carnival.
"I'm really happy with my race. I'm also really proud of my teammates," Smith said. "It's kind of strange to be the No. 1 runner at most races as a sophomore. And I've been really missing my old teammate Kali [Fittro] from last year, because I was so used to looking up to her every single race. But I'm just really proud of my team and I'm very happy with our performance.
"I'm just really proud of us," she said. "This is really the first time we've met up with some of the teams from the NOL and I'm ready to show them what we got."
They got a good look Saturday.
Hanna Musil claimed 34th (22:07.95), Chandler Carley came in 36th (22:09.27), Alexis Desjardins ended 50th (22:30.61) and Marisa Stephens finished 53rd (22:32.75).
From No. 1 to 5, the Tornadoes crossed the line no more than a minute apart as they held off West Holmes 187-192 for fourth in the 31-team field.
"It's been awesome. It was by far the best race we ran on the year. Our pack was great," TC coach Nikki Hintze said.
"Abrie has been running like a front-runner all year, she's running awesome. Hanna has struggled at the beginning of the year, but she came back and was our second or third runner today. Just everyone kind of came through, pulled up our pack," she said. "Definitely starting to come around finally. All at the same time."
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary beat Minster 62-120 for the title, with Tinora taking third (124).
Carey moved up from Division III, capping a challenging week by claiming 14th (340).
"I was very happy with the way the girls went. We had some very hard practices this week; they raced on Tuesday at Wynford. Hard on Wednesday, hard on Thursday. I thought we did very well," Carey coach Dean Kessler said. "We had a lot of personal records today, some lifetime PR's today. I think our whole key is figuring out at this point to make sure at the end of the season we all have our best race on the same day. That seems to be what's not happening right now.
"I got certain kids racing really well on a day and then somebody else down," he said. "So if we could get it figured out where everyone races their best on the same day at the end of the season, we'll be good."
Alivia Stephan's 23rd (21:49.59) paced the Blue Devils, and Jaclyn Troiano added a 45th (22:24.77).
Fostoria finished 19th (551) and Upper Sandusky came in 23rd (645).
Raven Rodgers ran 54th (22:33.03) for Fostoria and Taylor Keeley took 63rd (22:45.02).
Upper Sandusky got a 104th from Zoe Garber (23:27.79) and a 107th from Kirsten Gardner (23:30.64).
Movin' on up
While the Tornadoes turned in a step-up performance, Hopewell-Loudon did them two steps better.
Senior Erin Reinhart-Anez and juniors Morgan Brant and Allison Arnold originally weren't going to run Saturday so they could take the ACT in the morning. However, teammates decided to move from the Division III ranks to the Division I-B race, which took place in the afternoon.
"Everyone pretty much just said we'd move up. It was automatic," Reinhart-Anez said.
"Our team, we're really supportive of each other and I think that helps us a lot," she said.
The senior responded by taking 26th in a season-best 21:34.45 to help the Chieftains end 11th out of 27 teams with 282 points, three points shy of 10th.
"It's great. They did not hesitate,"H-L girls coach Paul Jones said. "I thought originally about putting Morgan and Erin and Allison in just the just the D-I open so that they could run because they expressed some interest in running. But the others were 'we want to do it as a team.' They did not hesitate, and to step up to that challenge with Division I schools is very commendable.
"Very proud of their effort today, very proud of them accepting the challenge that they did," he said.
Shelby Raudebaugh (22:13.6) and Kailey Coleman (22:13.81) finished 53rd and 54th for the Chieftains, Leah Reinhart added a 75th (22:38.62) and Brant came in 88th (22:46.67).
D-III buzz saw
While Hopewell-Loudon moved its varsity up two divisions, several area schools remained in the Division III ranks, competing what ended a 50-team, 334-runner mass of humanity.
Mohawk's Julia Daniel fared the best individually, crossing the line 25th in 20:27.15 after battling the runners and a slick, muddy course in the day's third race.
"It was a little bit intimidating running in such a big race, but I feel like I did pretty good especially considering the mud," she said. "It was really muddy on that downhill back in the woods. There's some spots where you thought you were going to slip but I think the times were pretty good today. There's a lot of good competition. I'm happy with how I did."
A handful of other local runners turned in top-100 finishes, with Calvert using Olivia Smith's 50th (20:55.91) as the springboard to an area-best 16th overall with 509 points.
"I would've liked to end up a few spots ahead of where I did, but it is what it is," said Smith, who is nursing a foot injury.
"It's a work in progress, but I think overall it's a pretty good day, I guess," she said.
Morgan Smith added a 71st (21:40.98) for the Senecas, Sydney Berlekamp came in 109th (22:19.74), Marisa Horn ran 141st (22:51.43) and Corinne Harris finished 146th (22:59.33).
"I think one of the things we still need to work with, we need to get our pack time a little bit tighter," Calvert coach Stewart Behm said. "Our 2-5 need to be a little bit tighter pack time. Olivia's foot was hurting today and she just didn't have the day she could've had, and that's going to make a difference once she gets back up in front of the pack."
St. Wendelin took 21st (665), Old Fort ended 25th (794), Mohawk upended New Riegel 875-905 for 32nd, Seneca East wound up 41st (975) and Lakota took 43rd (1,034).
Jocelyn Reinhart's 62nd (21:13.69) led St. Wendelin, Kayla Garza gave Old Fort a 66th (21:33.71), Seneca East's Anna Willman claimed 79th (21:46.48) and New Riegel got a 103rd from Abby Cassidy (22:09.59).
Four squads also took part in the Division II/III open race, with Columbian's 12th (391) lead the local charge.
Hopewell-Loudon came in 16th (444), Carey ended 23rd (609) and Lakota wound up 25th (652). Calvert also competed, but did not field a full team.
Columbian's Lydia Vallery ran 67th (25:05.16), Calvert's Katie Tiell came in 84th (25:22.3), Katelyn Brickner of H-L finished 90th (25:29.92), Carey got a 152nd from Taylor Cunningham (26:44.32) and Lakota's Breese Reidling ran 159th (26:58.84).