The girls Division III regional cross-country title didn’t come down to a sixth-runner tiebreaker like it did a year ago – the Gilmour Academy harriers made sure of that on Saturday at Boardman.
Behind a dominating two-three-eight-13-21 finish that included a trio of freshman in their front five, the Lady Lancers scored 47 points to defeat runner-up Maplewood, 83 points, and retake their throne in the 14-team field.
In 2019, the Gilmour girls and Maplewood were tied after their five scorers crossed the finish line, but Maplewood prevented the Lady Lancers from a repeat by way of its six runner.
“It was a really tough race, and it was a really tough loss last year,” Gilmour senior Caitrina Barton said. “It was definitely hard on the girls because we were working so hard. So, this year, I think we just went in with a really positive mindset to have a fun team race and just work together, so that was really cool.
“And it was really exciting that we were able to pull it off this year. All the girls have been working so hard. So, it was really nice to see them all excited about it.”
Entering regional competition, the Gilmour girls were ranked fifth in the Division III state coaches poll, while Maplewood was ranked sixth. But when Gilmour’s front four runners all crossed the finish line ahead of Maplewood’s two runner, the Lady Lancers’ title was more or less decided.
Leading that effort for Gilmour, freshman Amy Weybrecht finished runner-up in 20:03.03 on the 5-kilometer course, Barton took third in 20:40.5, freshman Gia Rosko was eighth in 21:10.5 and junior Mary Lombardo finished 13th in 21:17.3. All four Lady Lancers secured automatic state berths as individuals with top-16 performances.
“It was really exciting,” Weybrecht said. “It’s my first year with this team, and they’re just all such amazing girls. They’re all super-fast, but the best part about them is that they’re so nice and fun to hang out with, and they’re so supportive.”
Weybrecht was bested only by Maplewood freshman Caleigh Richards’ title run in 19:33.6 in the 109-runner field.
“I knew I just had to keep the girl from Maplewood in my sight and I would be in a good spot,” Weybrecht said. “She’s super-fast and I always seem to lose her on the middle mile, which I really want to work on more so I can stick with her longer. But she helps me so much with pushing myself with a target to chase.”
While Weybrecht is new to varsity cross-country and the competitiveness that comes along with it, she’s not new to the sport, which has allowed her to adapt and develop into the Lady Lancers’ one runner as a freshman this season.
Last year, Weybrecht ran CYO cross-country at St. Pascal’s in Highland Heights, where she was a teammate with Barton four years ago.
“I’ve been running since third grade,” Weybrecht said. “And I try not to get too nervous because I’m just a freshman and I know that nerves will only slow me down. So, I keep positive and just go from there.”
Also scoring for the Lady Lancers at regionals, freshman Anna Lisac finished 21st in 22:12.3, while sophomore Kaitlin Rulison was 29th in 22:40.3, and junior Mia Polisena, 24:20.9, rounded out the varsity lineup.
Behind their championship performance, the Lady Lancers secured their 11th consecutive team tip to the big dance. They’ll compete at 10 a.m. Saturday at Fortress Obetz, on the south side of Columbus.
“We’re just focused on sticking with our teammates, because we have a lot of new runners this year, which has been super fun for the team because our freshmen are such a powerhouse,” lone senior Barton said. “We had three freshmen finish in our top five, which is crazy and so good for them and so exciting.
“So, I think us just pushing to stick with the girls our team that we’ve been training with has been our main point of success.”