By Josh Brown
TROY — Morgan Gigandet has been a fixture at the state cross country meet her entire career.
And though the Troy senior is aiming to get back for a fourth time, she doesn’t necessarily want to talk specifics about what she wants to accomplish there. She’d rather do.
“I have big goals — but I kind of don’t like saying my goals,” Gigandet said. “I’m just going to go and try to run to my potential at state. That’s a big one.”
Gigandet coasted to an individual victory at the season-opening Lost Creek Invitational Monday night in Troy, winning the girls race in 11:23 as the Trojans hosted a two-mile Senior Night competition. The Tippecanoe girls team, however, was able to claim the team championship with 30 points to Troy’s 35.
And though Gigandet’s time in high school has flown by — to her and her team, but maybe not to her competition — she’s ready to enjoy her final season and is hoping for big things.
“Not really. I’ve kind of been looking forward to it since I was a freshman,” Gigandet said. “I mean, it came by fast. But I’m really excited for senior year.”
The Trojans — who were runners-up at the Division I state meet last season and won the overall Greater Western Ohio Conference title in addition to the American North Division crown — appear to have competition in the league this year.
Troy finished second as a team to division rival Tippecanoe, with the Trojans and Red Devils sweeping the top nine spots. After Gigandet, Olivia Tyre was third (12:14), Emma Shigley was fifth (12:47), Megan Myers was sixth (13:14) and Hannah Markeson was 21st (14:26).
“We ran well,” Alexander said. “Today is just nice to finally, after months of just training, let the kids get out there and race. It usually takes three to five races before you really get comfortable racing again. Today is just the first step in a long process that we’ll have this year.
“Morgan ran well. Tyre came out and did great. Shigley and Myers, two seniors, had solid races. Like I said, though, this is just a first step.”
Tippecanoe’s Katie Taylor had a big race, finishing second individually in 12:06 to lead the Red Devils to the team win.
“She’s (Gigandet) always a great runner. It’s always fun to run with her,” Taylor said. “I’ve been so excited for cross country season this year, because I feel like junior year is where people start improving a lot. That’s exciting.
And after an All-Ohio finish at the D-II state meet last season, Taylor and the Devils have big goals for the season’s end, too.
“For the team, state champion,” Taylor said. “That’s the biggest goal you can get. And for me, to break 18:30 and get back on the podium at state again.”
After Taylor, Kaili Titley finished fourth (12:26), Makenzie Dietz finished seventh (13:20), Jillian Brown finished eighth (13:27) and Mackenzie Dix finished ninth (13:29).
“We didn’t have three of our varsity girls race today, so for where we are, I was really pleased,” Tippecanoe coach Byron Kimmel said. “We raced hard. We’re not racing again until Greenville — we’re taking this weekend off — so I wanted to put in a good effort. This is one of the deeper teams we’ve had over the last three or four years.
“It was good to see Katie Taylor kind of emerge. I think this was the first time she’s beaten some of those Troy girls except Morgan.”
The Milton-Union girls finished fourth with 117 points. Rachel Thompson was 15th (14:06), Brianna Collins was 18th (14:24), Ally Lyons was 23rd (14:30), Kiley Jacobe was 35th (15:07) and Mackenzie Beam was 38th (15:10).
Miami East’s Lindsey Yingst was 11th (13:45). Troy Christian’s Rachel Plummer was 72nd (16:40).
Tippecanoe’s boys also had a strong showing at the meet, finishing second overall with 60 points to Beavercreek’s 30.
Sophomore Bryce Conley was second individually in 10:24. Ethan Sinning was seventh (11:06), Austin Rogers was 14th (11:19), Ethan Heitkamp was 17th (11:24) and Noah Ballard was 20th (11:31).
“Our guys looked good, too,” Kimmel said. “Beavercreek ran their varsity, so that kind of helped us see where we’re at. Conley should be one of the better Division II guys in the area, and senior Ethan Sinning has really stepped up this year.”
Milton-Union’s boys were fourth with 100 points. Shannon Milnickel was fifth (10:40), Will Brock was 12th (11:16), Tristen Persinger was 13th (11:17), Chris Miller was 42nd (12:01) and Cayden Galentine was 57th (12:16).
Troy’s boys were fifth with 134 points, led by senior Andy Smith’s 10th-place finish (11:14). Austin Zonner was 26th (11:45), Josh Lovitt was 34th (11:55), Seth Plantz was 38th (11:59) and Logan Huth was 53rd (12:11).
“I feel like this was a good start to the season,” Troy coach Phil Matthews said. “This is always a good test to see where their fitness is at, and this was one of the first times we’ve ran in hot weather. Andy Smith finished in the top 10, we had two freshmen that were right up there. This was a good place to start, and we’ll just build from there.”
Troy Christian was sixth with 150 points. Nick Pratt was ninth (11:12), Isaac Flora was 28th (11:51), Aiden Tkach was 46th (12:03), Zach Davidson was 51st (12:09) and Nate Hunnicut was 59th (12:16).
Miami East was eighth with 179 points. Taton Bertsch was 18th (11:29), Gavin Horne was 22nd (11:34), Garrett LeMaster was 60th (12:17), Keagan Carsey was 61st (12:17) and Alex Hayes was 91st (12:53).
Troy’s boys and girls teams also honored their seniors — the Trojans typically host Senior Night at the Troy Invitational later in the season, but the ACT test keeps the seniors from competing. The girls’ seniors are: Gigandet, Shigley, Myers, Madi Rougier, Jaclyn Smith, Alyse Holter, Meredith Covault and Brooke Klopfenstein. The boys’ seniors are: Smith, Adam Falknor, Jacob Sweeney, Greg Smith, Travis Fisher and Adam Bilitzke.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.