ATTICA - Championships aren't always the result of a drawn-out, multi-step plan. Sometimes, the simple approach is best.
At least for Mohawk.
Already the favorite for the final Midland Athletic League title, the Warriors executed a straight-forward plan in earning their first crown in seven years Saturday.
"They just packed it up well. We wanted to get five girls in the second team or better and we were able to accomplish that," Mohawk coach Brock Cleveland said after his team scored 48 points for the championship. "That was their goal coming into it, that's what they wanted to do, and I'm really happy for them."
Freshman Shauna Leeth led the way by running fourth (20:54.53) and freshman McKenzie Richardson took eighth (21:39.79), with each gaining first-team league honors.
Freshman Beth Dundore (21:53.16) and junior Kayla Risner (21:59.21) finished 12th and 13th, and junio Haley Leeth claimed 15th (22:04.48), with that trio earning second-team honors.
Freshman Brooke Theis (29th, 23:33.3), sophomore Kaela Kozel (52nd, 25:56.77), junior McKensie Binau (58th, 26:32.05) and junior Marissa Leeth (61st, 27:04.61) also ran for the Warriors, who Cleveland said look primed for more success this year and next with lots of talented youth among the team's top seven.
"Obviously, we had this goal from the beginning. We knew we had a good group of freshmen coming in, we knew we had some talent left coming back, and they ended up mixing together well," said Cleveland, who also picked up the MAL coach of the year honor.
"Obviously at this point, we want to continue on in the postseason. Our goals aren't accomplished yet. I think the girls are hungry right now. Last week was a big mental boost for us, and hopefully that continues," he said. "A lot of them were upset, they didn't run as fast as they wanted to, and that's good. When you win and you're still disappointed when you're done, that's a good thing. You have to go back to work and improve on the things you didn't do as well and come back the following week and do better."
The top eight gained first-team honors, with spots ninth through 16th earning second-team awards, and honorable mention awards going to those who took 17th through 24th.
Meanwhile, Hopewell-Loudon held off Calvert 85-88 for second on the strength of what coach Paul Jones called an ever-improving squad.
"Coming in, I thought that Mohawk, something was really going to have to happen for them not to win it, and two, three, four and five were going to be really close. For us to come in and get second, I'm happy with it," Jones said.
"We've just gotten a lot better over the last few weeks ... . The top seven, five of them were freshmen. They needed a little time to get acclimated to that 5K distance and get some experience, and they're just really coming on strong," he said. "It's exciting to have them getting better at the right time of the year."
Leah Reinhart, the lone junior in H-L's varsity group, ran seventh (21:33.74) to lead the Chieftains.
Freshmen Keely Hoover finished ninth (21:46.69) and classmate Lizzie Erlanger claimed 17th (22:14.94).
Senior Morgan Brant's 28th (23:32.53) and freshman Lauren Shaver's 31st (23:38.42) rounded out H-L's scorers.
Calvert's run to third in the team standings came on the strength of senior Olivia Smith, who captured the final MAL individual championship, crossing the line in 20:14.16.
The league disbands after this year, leaving Smith as the perpetual reigning MAL champion.
"It's weird. It was fun. I've been running in the MAL meet for the past six years and not being able to run last year was kind of sad, but this year I just wanted to make it count; my last one forever," said Smith, who sat out last year's race with an injury.
"It's such a friendly group, everybody helping each other out, pushing each other," she said. "There's a lot of friendly competition and it's really great."
Smith's win came after she pulled away with a mile to go from friendly rival Cariss Reese of Lakota, who wound up second (20:44.08).
"I knew it was probably going to come down to between her and Cariss," Calvert coach Stewart Behm said. "We stuck to our gameplan. She came through the mile mark a little bit down; Reese was out in front and there was a pack in second place basically. Olivia ran the exact race she needed to run today to win, and that was our gameplan - not go out hard, go out a little conservative and have a strong last half of the race, and she did."
Morgan Smith added a 10th (21:47.5) for Calvert and Sydney Berlekamp came in 19th (22:39.61).
St. Wendelin finished fourth (96), Lakota edged Carey 138-140 for sixth and New Riegel took eighth (181).
Victoria Volpe's 11th (21:52.87) paced St. Wendelin, Sara Goddard claimed 14th (21:59.53), Jocelyn Reinhart ended 20th (22:46) and Karin Goddard crossed the line 24th (23:10.67).
Morgan Mowry backed Reese by finishing 22nd (23:07.17), while Carey got a sixth from Jaclyn Troiano (21:12.98) and a 16th from Amber Spurlock (22:14.07).
Gidge Elchert claimed 30th (23:36.25) for New Riegel and Olivia Borer ran 36th (24:00.11).
Old Fort did not field a full team, but had a first-team runner in Kayla Garza, who captured fifth (20:56.99).
Bettsville also did not field a full team, getting a 74th from Kaitlyn Dymond (31:19.02).