By John Montgomery
FREMONT - The worrier can relax a little bit, at least for a little while. Having a little hardware will see to that.
Hopewell-Loudon turned back St. Wendelin 71-81 Saturday to earn its second Midland Athletic League Championships title in as many years, allowing coach Paul Jones' nerves a bit of respite.
"I expected it to be relatively close," Jones said. "I don't get overconfident, I'm never very confident at all. I'm more of a worrier.
"St. Wendelin's just got some outstanding runners out front, there. They're a team to contend with now, they'd be even more so with a little more depth," he said. "And Calvert's got a nice team, too, and Carey's always tough, so you definitely don't take anything for granted with this race. It's always competitive."
Senior Erin Reinhart-Anez led the title run by taking fifth (21:03.18) for H-L, but Jones said the effort by Shelby Raudebaugh was just as impressive.
Raudebaugh captured eighth (21:13.1) to gain first-team honors, highlighting a season of vast improvement by the senior.
"She came over here last year as a junior, didn't even get honorable mention, and she went from that to first-team MAL this year," Jones said. "I just think that that's an outstanding accomplishment. She's just been stepping up for us all year long and did it again today."
For Raudebaugh, it all came down to focusing on getting the most out of herself for her team in her final season.
"It's my senior year, I just want to give it my all," she said.
"It's awesome. We were so excited," she said of the Chieftains repeating as champions. "We all started crying because it's our last year and it's so important to us."
Kailey Coleman added a 12th (21:23.19) to gain second-team honors (the meet's top eight runners gained first-team honors, with the second eight getting second-team and those finishing 17th through 24th landing on the honorable mention list) for H-L.
Sophomore Leah Reinhart took 25th (22:22.46) and junior Morgan Brant came in 28th (22:46.28). Haley Schreiner (33rd, 23:11.55) and Katelyn Brickner (43rd, 24:11.48) rounded out H-L's varsity contingent.
Jocelyn Reinhart fueled St. Wendelin's best finish in decades by claiming fourth (20:54.98), while Victoria Volpe ran seventh (21:07.63).
Sara Goddard crossed the line 10th (21:19.99), Karin Goddard came in 15th (21:47.43) and Sammie Digby finished 54th (24:46.02).
"I was projecting us at 2. I was hoping, of course, that everybody could have a stellar race and we could get that top spot, but Hopewell did a nice job with their pack," St. Wendelin coach Cindra Baker said.
"I thought [second] was very tangible. I knew it was going to be real close with Hopewell. Very proud of the girls. They did a nice job; happy with the second place for them," she said. "I'm very thankful. Our fifth runner did an outstanding job today and she really helped the team. She had a nice PR."
While the Chieftains pulled away from St. Wendelin in the team chase, Lakota's Cariss Reese did the same to Mohawk's Julia Daniel in the individual race.
Reese broke from Daniel in the last mile and kept widening the gap to capture her first career high school victory in 20:16.02. Daniel finished in 20:37.1.
"I thought for sure she'd go with me. I was kind of nervous, I was scared if she'd go with me and then out-kick me," Reese said.
"I like getting into kicks because it's a lot of fun, but it's really tough, especially since I don't know how her kick is," she said.
Carey came in third by a 91-101 margin over Calvert, followed by Fremont St. Joe (153), Mohawk (154), New Riegel (154), Lakota (158), Seneca East (164) and North Baltimore (261).
Jaclyn Troiano's sixth (21:04.77) led Carey, with Alivia Stephan running 13th (21:25.27), Amber Spurlock taking 22nd (22:12.69) and Sarah Walter ending 24th (22:20.58).
Calvert got a 14th from Morgan Smith (21:41.33), an 18th from Sydney Berlkekamp (21:51.42) and a 21st from Marisa Horn (22:12.12).
Jessie Babcock backed Daniel by finishing 29th (22:51.61) for Mohawk.
New Riegel's Abby Cassidy captured 17th (21:50.38) and Ashley Mathias took 20th (22:06.53).
Morgan Mowry added a 30th (22:58.19) for Lakota to go with Reese's victory.
Seneca East's Anna Willman crossed the line third (20:40.94) and Alyssa England finished 26th (22:29.37).
Old Fort and Bettsville did not field full teams.
Kayla Garza claimed ninth (21:16.42) for Old Fort, Alexis Rhodes came in 19th (22:02.96) and Jackie Becker wound up 23rd (22:20.1). Alexis Davis finished 88th (31:26.14) for Bettsville.