Gilmour sophomore Amy Weybrecht (107) and junior Claire Valenza finished in 16th andf 17th place respectively to propel the Lancers to a fourth place finish at the OHSAA Division II state meet last Saturday morning in Columbus.

The Gilmour Lancers’ running program continues to make history.

Two runners, Gilmour sophomore Amy Weybrecht and junior Claire Valenza finished in 16th and 17th place respectively to become all-Ohioans to lead Gilmour to place fourth at the Division III girls’ cross-country state meet last Saturday morning at Fortress Obetz.

The Lancers front-five compiled a 16-17-66-99-110 finish to record a team total of 167 points.

Senior Mary Lombardo ended her cross-country career at Gilmour by placing 66th with a time of 20:12.3. Sophomore Giovanna Rosko logged a time of 20:43.7 to finish in 99th place and senior Mia Polisena closed out her cross-country career with the Lancers by placing 110th with a 20:59.3 finish.

Returning for her second consecutive state meet, Weybrecht said it felt like a different atmosphere this season as she was running in front of an actual crowd.

Having captured third place at the state meet last year, Weybrecht aimed for a better finish but needed to get past Maplewood rival sophomore and defending Division III champion Caleigh Richards.

“Caleigh’s so good,” said Weybrecht. “I’ll have her for my four years of running and she’s always someone I’m looking out for and looking up to in a sense and I try to keep her in my sights. She’s a great runner.”

By becoming the first Gilmour freshman to win the 800 meter state track title last spring, Weybrecht admitted she put added pressure on herself to open her second season of cross-country.

That led to some poor results early this season but she turned it around and hit her stride right in time for the postseason and led the Lancers to the Division III district and sectional title.

Richards continued to hold the lead position at the second mile with a time of 11:39.6 but Weybrecht lost some ground by falling seven spots to 11th place.

“I tried to run as fast as I could for as long as I could,” she said. “I tried to keep up the same pace but some girls were really strong in that sense where they could keep going. I think they just have some more endurance than I do.”

Richards continued to lead the pack en route to defending her state title by logging a finish of 18:16.2, shaving 30 seconds off her finish from last year while Weybrecht fell back by five more spots, crossing the finish line in 16th place with a time of 19:00.2 for her second straight finish as an all-Ohioan.

Despite missing out on the state crown again, Weybrecht plans to return to Fortress Obetz next season.

“This second year has definitely had a little bit more challenges,” she said. “But it’s only made me stronger and I’ll be extra ready next year.”

While Weybrecht finished her second season, Valenza put the finishing touches on a dominant first year of running.

The Lancers’ junior got off to quick start as she sat in 14th place at the first mile by clocking a time of 5:50.6.

“I think I went out pretty hard,” she said. “I didn’t want to get stuck in the back. I think it was good I went out hard since I was able to keep that quick pace.”

Valenza remained in 14th place around the two-mile mark but faded down the stretch by dropping three spots leading to a 17th place finish with a time of 19:00.3, right alongside Weybrecht.

Being a strength runner, Valenza planned to make up some time by passing runners on the hill. She lost some more ground in the final mile but still finished strong to cap off her cross-country debut.

Having played basketball last year, the Lancers’ junior said she did not envision herself becoming a competitive runner but she became a reliable running mate alongside Weybrecht to lead the pack.

“Amy’s made me such a better runner this season,” said Valenza. “I would not where I was without her. She pushes me so much every day in practice and in all of the races. It was such an incredible feeling to cross the finish line with her on Saturday.”

After a successful season, Valenza is hanging up her basketball shoes and plans to focus her time on running during her last year-and-a-half at Gilmour.

“It’s been some of the best couple of months of my life,” she said smiling. “My teammates are so supportive. Our coaches are awesome, they’ve been by my side the whole time and encouraged me so much and I never would have imagined I’d be where I am now.”

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