MHS boys claim Scenic Hills cross country invite

VINCENT – Run like the wind and soar like an eagle.

It’s a mantra many young athletes aspire to, but seldom reach.

In the sweltering August sun on the cross country trails in Vincent Saturday morning, Laura Pullins and the Eastern Lady Eagles lived up to it.

Behind Pullins first place finish – which was more than a half minute ahead of the rest of the field – the Lady Eagles dominated to claim a 36 point victory in the girls field of the Scenic Hills Lions Club invitational while the Marietta Tigers edged the host Warren Warriors by eight in boys’ standings.

At the Broughton invite in Marietta, the MHS boys were also first.

Pullins’ time of 20:30 was 34 seconds better than her teammate Asia Michael as Eastern placed three of the top four runners, four of the top seven and all five of their scorers in the top 12. The first four runners for the Lady Eagles amassed a meager 14 points as Eastern had just 26 as a team.

“Eastern clearly was going to dominate this race. We were racing everybody else,” said Marietta cross country coach Dale Leeper.

Pullins’ time of 20:30.3 was actually the fastest time turned in by a female runner at the meet since 2008. On average, Pullins was 36 seconds faster than the winning times turned in during that span.

While no one was taking flight like the Lady Eagles, the Lady Tigers and Warren Lady Warriors each finished with 62 points. Marietta took second in the standings on a tiebreaker.

Well behind the two Washington County schools, Magnolia placed fourth with 102 points and River Valley recorded 113. Belpre, Southern and Meadowbrook had individual runners but could not field a team in the girls’ race.

Though they were chasing Pullins and Eastern, Marietta’s Lady Tigers were able to edge out Warren thanks to a tight pack of runners. Overall, Marietta had seven runners within 10 places of each other, which carried them to a strong finish despite only having Olivia Wesel finish in the top 10.

“We had seven girls on the track, essentially at the same time finishing,” Leeper explained.

That pack was enough to get the tiebreak on Warren, who had exemplary performances from seniors Hannah Dugan and Sydney Brague.

Dugan was the only runner to split up the Eastern girls at the top of the pack as she finished third in a time of 21:38. Brague, daughter of cross country coach Neil Brague, finished sixth in 22:43 while Kaylee Pate was ninth.

Getting three runners in the top 10 wasn’t sufficient in the team standings, however, as Warren’s final pair of scorers came in at 25th and 28th.

“I’m really proud of the boys and the girls,” Neil Brague said. “Everybody – for the most part – improved.”

Improving on where they were a week ago is key to the Warren runners this fall, and so far both the boys and girls are living up to expectations.

“If we continue doing better and better like this…it is going to be a domino effect and the middle of October will be really good,” Brague said.

As well as the Lady Eagles ran in the girls’ race, Warren senior Sam Goodman was nearly as dominating in the boys’ field despite battling an injury that kept him out of last week’s Broughton Invitational and an illness that had him down the past few days prior to Saturday.

Goodman turned in a time of 16:53, nearly 20 seconds better than the runnerup in the field as Belpre’s Cray Sistrunk finished in 17:12. Right behind Sistrunk was another Golden Eagle in Kyle Windland.

The strong performance by Goodman marked the third time in four years that a Warrior has claimed the boys’ individual title.

“It went overall well,” Goodman said of his race. “I’ve been sick the past few days, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to do.”

Much like the Lady Warriors, the Warren boys had several runners in the top of the pack, but despite the first place finish from Goodman and a fourth place finish from Brent Ash they couldn’t overcome the tight pack put together by Marietta.

“We ran well as a team. We’re right where we want to be. We have plenty of time to improve,” Goodman said.

Warren had three runners in the top 11 and all five scorers in the top 25 but were narrowly edged out of defending their team title by eight points as Marietta had five runners in the top 15, led by Jake Haught in sixth and Scott Morris in seventh.

Marietta’s pack of runners were enough to give the Tigers a 38-46 victory over Warren. Behind the Warriors, the River Valley Raiders were third with 66 points. Meadowbrook High School was fourth with 106 points and Southern rounded out the team standings with 118.

While they didn’t have enough runners to count in the team standings, the Belpre Golden Eagles proved they’re a force to be reckoned with as all three of the Belpre boys running were in the top 13. Battling injuries in the early season, the Eagles are hopeful of fielding a full team by season’s end.

“They work really well together,” said Belpre cross country coach Hannah Hoffman. “They work really hard in practice and I think that pays off in the meets.”

Waterford has just a single runner competing on the high school level as Andrew Klintworth finished 43rd in a time of 22:49 for the Wildcats.

Along with the Golden Eagles and Wildcats, Magnolia also did not have the runners to score in the team standings in the boys’ race.

Wrapping up with the junior high races – the girls’ race not surprisingly was won by an Eastern Lady Eagle – the meet ended shortly after noon as the athletes concluded their morning run just as the brutal heat settled in with virtually every runner finishing the race strong.

“Everything’s gone pretty well without a hitch,” Brague said. “The effort of the kids, you couldn’t ask for more.”