Fort Frye’s MaryKate McElroy repeats as girls winner of the Broughton Invitational

MaryKate McElroy had to rally in the woods.

The Fort Frye senior cross country standout never trailed again after passing Lancaster’s Elise Johnson in repeating as the Elizabeth S. Broughton Memorial Invitational high school girls winner at the Broughton Nature and Wildlife Area on Saturday morning.

McElroy’s first-place time was 20 minutes and 36 seconds. Johnson finished as runner-up in 20:54, while Eastern’s Jessica Cook placed third in 21:12 and Caldwell’s Lindsey Furr was fourth in 22:16.

“I made my move at the mile,” McElroy said. “I started surging then. I faltered going up the double hills and the Gales girl Elise (Johnson) caught me. She was very good.

“Through the woods, I put on a surge to try to catch her again and I got her before I got out of the woods – and I just went from there. The third mile is just my strongest mile. I ran the race I needed to put me where I need to be.”

In the boys 5K run, Woodrow Wilson sophomore Chris Barbera won in a clocking of 16:52. Fort Frye sophomore Justin Anderson was second in 17:14.20 and Caldwell’s Sean Whetstone and Levi Pemberton were third and fourth respectively in 17:46.30 and 17:47.30. Warren’s Jake Harriott and Trent Sayre placed fifth and sixth respectively in 17:48.30 and 18:01.40.

Hamilton eighth-grader Keegan Barnette was first in the middle school boys 3200-meter run in 11:39.10, while Williamstown eighth-grader Ella Hesson captured the girls race in 13:03.60.

The Ritchie County boys won the middle school team title, while the Yellowjacket girls did the same.

Team-wise, the Dale Leeper-coached Marietta High boys finished runners-up to Woodrow Wilson, 54-86, while Dugan Hill-led Caldwell edged out Neil Brague-coached Warren for third place, 102-103, in the 14-school field.

“We did real well staying together as a pack,” said MHS junior Collin Doughty. “Our time was 40 seconds or something like that as a team altogether. From Max Garrison to Nathan (Matthews), it was like 10 seconds or something like that. It really places us well as a team.”

Marietta’s first five runners were Doughty, Garrison, Wyatt Miracle, Tyler Beckett and Matthews.

Doughty covered the 5,000-meter distance in 18:27.

“I’m happy with my time,” he said. “I finished better than I did last year. It’s one of our toughest courses of the year, and it was a really hot day out.”

On the girls side, Lancaster was first, Eastern second and Woodrow Wilson third in the 11-school field.

A year ago, McElroy claimed the Brouoghton individual girls crown in 20:08.

“It was a mental experience as much as a physical race this time,” McElroy said. “It was definitely hot.

“The heat was bad. I think it made my time a little slower, but I think I ran the race that I needed to run, and I’m really excited about that. I’m so thankful for everyone who came to watch me today. It was an amazing experience to hear people cheering for you the whole time. I just love everyone.”

FFHS coach Jason Lipot said that McElroy is “in phenomenal shape.”

“When you get into some of these hills around the two-mile marker, that can make or break a runner,” he said. “I think that’s where she excelled in this race. We work on a lot of hills here, and that’s to her advantage.”

In the boys run, Barbera said that “it’s the first high school race I’ve ever won.”

“It was good to win the race,” Barbera said. “It was on that last 1,000 that I started to believe in my training.

“Me and my teammate (Ryan Vaught) were kind of coordinating who we were going to take on, and what pace we were setting,” Barbera said. “Unfortunately, he dropped off, and I don’t know what happened to him. He’s a real good runner.

“I took the lead about halfway into the first mile, and I just tried to hold it. I kept looking back, and I kept pushing it. I know that guy (Anderson) is a good runner, and I was kind of scared.”

Barbera still won the race convincingly. Even so … .

“Justin had an outstanding race,” Lipot said. “He did exceptionally well today and I’m proud of him. It’s a confidence boost for him.”

Anderson said that he “felt great.”

“I love the course and the hills,” he added. “It was good competition and it was really fun. It was hot, but there’s a lot of shade in the woods.”

Anderson paused.

“I was just trying to stick with Jake Herriott (of Warren) for the first mile,” the Fort Frye runner continued. “We’re kind of like rivals.

“The kid from Beckley (Barbera) was strong out there. He went up the hills really fast.”