TROY – It was history in the making for the Bradford girls cross country team on Saturday.
The Railroaders are headed to the state meet for the first time as a team after totaling 120 points to place third as a team in the Division III regional meet outside of Troy’s Hobart Arena.
The top 4 teams and top 16 individuals from the race qualified for the state championships, which will be held this Saturday at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
“This is Bradford history right here,” Bradford cross country coach Rob Grillot said moments after the Division III girls race concluded. “It’s our first time going to state as a team and it just sounds awesome. It sounds great and we are very excited.
“The girls have worked hard all season and this last week they have really come together,” he continued. “It is great to see it all pay off right now in this moment that we have been waiting a long time for.”
Bradford had three runners place in the top 20 led by sophomore Skipp Miller, who crossed the finish line in sixth place with a time of 20 minutes, 1.9 seconds. Karmen Knepp (20:07.0) was ninth and Austy Miller (20:21.8) came in 17th place.
“The race started off kind of rough for me, but I’m more of a hill runner so all these little hills near the end helped push me to move faster. I used them to my advantage,” Skipp Miller said. “I just wanted to stick with my team. Our top 3 runners usually tend to stick together and I push myself based off them and how they are doing. We motivate each other to move up further.
“Our goal was to be in one of those top 4 team spots,” she continued. “It’s everyone’s goal to make it to state and it is an awesome feeling to know I’m going to state. Last year I didn’t get to do this because I chose softball over cross, so it is just really awesome.”
Also competing in the race for Bradford were Olivia Daugherty (21:52.9) in 44th place, Mercedes Smith (22:48.9) in 67th place, Jenna Shellabarger (24:00.1) in 79th place and Alexis Barhorst (24:30.5) in 84th place.
“Everyone knew their job,” Grillot said. “They all were in the race of their life and went out and executed, so they did what they set out to do and what we asked them to do and it paid off. We knew at the beginning of the season if we had everybody healthy we stood a good chance at making it to state, but that was the question mark if everybody was going to be healthy. Fortunately, by the end of the season we are all back and they are all running great. It was a little shaky at the beginning of the season, but they all came together and they made it.”
The Versailles’ girls also qualified for state as a team. The Tigers totaled 135 points to gran the fourth and final team-qualifying spot led by Maria Mangen, who crossed the finish line in 18th place with a time of 20:23.5. Versailles had a good group with four runners placing between 18th and 33rd place to help its team score. After Mangen, Madelyn Holzapfel (20:52.3) placed 25th, Kara Spitzer (21:11.6) was 31st and Liz Watren (21:20.0) was 33rd.
“It sounds awesome to be going to state especially with this being my senior year and everything,” Watren said holding back tears of joy. “This team means so much to me.”
Also for Versailles, Delaney Barga (22:05.9) came in 50th place followed by Lauren Menke (22:20.9) in 58th place and Emma Peters (23:17.4) in 74th place.
Arcanum freshman Lydia Shannon also competed in the Division III girls race finishing in 51st place with a time of 22:06.7.
The Bradford and Versailles girls will not be alone in Hebron this weekend, however. Greenville sophomore Isabelle Rammel also qualified for the state meet after running a time of 19:58.6 to finish 15th overall in the Division II girls race.
“I’m really excited,” Rammel said. “I’ve been working all week on getting the right mentality and my coach has been helping me out a lot with that. I have a lot of support from my friends that really got me ready for this race today and even though that was really hard it just went really well because I had a lot of support behind me.”
Greenville coach Stephanie Lind was proud of her state qualifier.
“She did a great job today,” Lind said. “That was a brave race and it was fun to watch. She got up to ninth or 10th place at one point and did that just to make me a little nervous I think.
“It’s exciting to have a runner going to state,” she continued. “This was her goal and what she worked for all season, so I am just happy to be here with her and to be on this journey with her. It’s been a good while since we had a runner at state which makes this even more exciting.”
The times for the girls state meet races will be the same as they were at the regional meet. The Division III girls race will start at 1:30 p.m. followed by Division II at 2:15 and Division I at 3 p.m.
The Daily Advocate sports editor Skip Weaver can be reached at (937) 569-4316 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter at @skipweaver65.