CONNORVILLE — The annual Ohio Valley Cross Country League Championship Saturday turned into a day of sweeps.
Martins Ferry’s duo of Josie Hancock (girls) and Francis Toohey (boys) sloshed their way to individual crowns on the soggy course on the campus of Buckeye Local, while Linsly claimed both team titles.
Hancock toured the course in 19-minutes, 40.34 seconds, finishing a full second ahead of Haley Heitz of Linsly.
“I was pleased with my time. Very much,” the Purple Riders junior said. “The course wasn’t that bad. There were a couple of muddy spots at the top of the hill, but other than that it wasn’t that bad.”
She ran the same course two seconds faster in 2020, but ended up second.
“It was a snowy day,” she recalled. “My time was a very good one for me.”
Linsly used its balance to easily out-distance runner-up Barnesville. The Cadets finished with 39 points as all five of its runners were in the top 13. Leading the way was the senior tandem of Heitz and Ally Hicks. Heitz checked in at 20:40.64 for second overall, while Hicks was right on her heels in 20:51.78.
“We have two seniors that have really been our leaders this year,” Linsly girls coach Chrissy D’Aquila said of Heitz and Hicks. “We’ve also had three freshmen that have really stepped up and they were our next three (finishers). Those three freshmen have finished in a different order every time, but they have certainly stepped up.”
She was referring to Olivia Rosenthal 12th, 22:07.54); Ilayna Murray (15th, 22:39.27) and Ava Bartlett (16th, 23:00.42).
“I think this was kind of expected,” D’Aquila said. “We’ve been a strong team all season.”
The Shamrocks totaled 58 points as junior Aubrey Johnson (21:06.43) and sophomore Marah Bethel (21:08.51) were fifth and sixth, respectively. Sophomore Kaylee Graham (17th), senior Jordyn Strous (18th) and sophomore Kylee Moore (19th) rounded out the scorers.
Shadyside junior Kenzie Beckett was fourth overall in 20:56.59 and St. Clairsville senior Allyson Evonek was right behind in 21:03.59.
River sophomore finished eighth, with Steubenville senior Anastasia Crisante was ninth and Bellaire junior Bethany McElfresh 10th.
Team-wise, St. Clairsville was third with 111 while Indian Creek (143) was fourth and Shadyside (148) fifth.
Toohey took the lead shortly after the start and was never threatened. His time of 16:59.37 was more than 18 seconds ahead of Indian Creek senior Robert McDonald, who ran a 17:17.64.
“My goal was to go sub-17 (minutes). I went sub-17 last year so I wanted to beat that time, but I actually ended up tying it,” Toohey said. “I placed fourth here last year.”
He was driven by a poor showing earlier this fall.
“I had a bad OVCCL pre-season, so I wanted to come out strong, and I did,” the Purple Riders senior said. “I knew I could get ahead of everyone else and if I could hold it (the lead), that would be good.”
Toohey said the conditions were perfect for running.
“It was great weather. It wasn’t really cold. You did get a nice breeze on the back stretch,” he said. “The course was a little muddy in the turns, but you’re going to have that after a few races on it. Other than that, it was great.”
On the strength of all five runners in the top 17, the Cadets claimed their first OVCCL championship in school history with 47 points.
“That’s cool. It’s unexpected I think,” Linsly head coach Nate Cumberworth said. “After last week at the OVACs, I knew the guys had it in them. They showed a lot of determination the last few weeks. This was the seniors’ last meet and they really wanted to go out with something. We had an emotional practice yesterday (Friday). There were a lot of tears, but they were good tears because they knew they had a really good season this year.
“I’m said proud of them,” he added. “They are an amazing group. I brag about them all the time.”
Freshman Micah Kramer led the way with an eighth-place finish in 18:20.90. Classmate Jon-Michael Falbo was 11th in 18:23.12, while senior Jeb Bertram (14th), sophomore Andrew Heath (16th) and Darrian Bertram (17th).
Barnesville ran without pre-race favorite Tyler Jenkins who was held out as a precaution with a back injury, saw freshman Conner Starr finish third overall in 17:34.55. St. Clairsville’s Sawyer Bonnette was fourth in 17:54. Catholic Central freshman Andrew Rohde rounded out the top 5.
Bridgeport senior John Tully was sixth, Union Local senior Derick Garrison (seventh), Martins Ferry senior Trent Lewis (eighth), Buckeye Local junior Cai McKeever (10th).
St. Clairsville finished second as Ben Shields was 13th, Caleb Bryniarski (23rd), Matt Ponzani (24th) and Gannon Kazmirski (25th).