By David Fong
TROY — Morgan Gigandet had just run the race of her life — a brutal 3.1-mile affair in chilly weather that saw her: blister the field, set a Division I meet record, defeat the defending state champion by more than 20 seconds and establish herself as one of the favorites to win a state championship next week.
And how did the Troy High School sophomore feel after accomplishing all of that?
“It was fun,” she said, an impish grin curling up the corners of her lips.
“You thought that was fun?” said one of her teammates, who was bent over at a 90 degree angle, trying desperately to catch her breath while looking at Gigandet with a mix of admiration and disbelief in her eyes.
“Yeah, it was fun,” Gigandet said. “I’d go out and do it again right now.”
It’s that sort of attitude — and endurance — that likely will put Gigandet in the mix for a state championship next week.
Not only did Gigandet capture a regional title (17:38.54), she also helped lead the Trojans to a third-place team finish, good enough to earn the entire Trojan team a trip to the state meet. It will be the first time a Troy girls cross country team has ever competed at state in school history.
“When we sat down in July as a team and set our goal of getting to state as a team, Morgan said, ‘I’m going to need to put up a one spot at regionals,’” Troy girls cross country coach Kevin Alexander said. “She went out and accomplished what she wanted to do for herself and for her team.”
Centerville won the team title with 40 points, while Mason was second with 70, Troy was third with 93 and Beavercreek was fourth with 126.
Gigandet will be joined at state by teammates Megan Myers (18th in 19:01.20), Emma Shigley (22nd in 19:12.61), Kate Pence (25th in 19:23.72), Rachel Davidson (32nd in 19:36.97), Olivia Tyre (66th in 20:13.29) and Megan Studebaker (106th in 21:08.46).
“With all the things the kids have been going through this week — for all the highs and lows — for them to do this is amazing,” Alexander said, referring to the tragic death of a Troy cross country runner last weekend. “You can’t ask adults to go through what happened this past week, let alone teenagers. For them to pull off what they did this afternoon is a fitting tribute.”
Tippecanoe cross country coach Byron Kimmel knew his girls team had potential going into this season.
Exactly how much potential, however, he didn’t realize until the Red Devils captured a Division II regional title Saturday at Troy.
“We knew at the beginning of the season we had a chance to be in the top five at regionals,” Kimmel said. “We knew with some of the young kids we had, we had a chance to have a pretty good program. But we also know Alter has been a very, very strong program for a long time.”
Tippecanoe took first place — and earned a trip to state — with 58 points. Alter was second with 66, Oakwood was third with 102 and Springfield Shawnee was fourth with 113.
Leading the way for the Red Devils was Kaili Titley, who was eighth in 19:20.68. Abbi Halsey was 10th (19:24.74), Laura Fink was 12th (19:31.10), Katie Taylor was 14th (19:33.39), Stephanie Fink was 19th (19:43.75), MaKenzie Dietz was 33rd (20:23.35) and Emily Wolfe was 37th (20:28.68).
“To win a regional title is pretty awesome for these girls, especially because they’ve kind of been in the shadow of the boys team,” Kimmel said. “It’s great.”
It was history-making day for a pair of Miami County teams in the Division III girls regional race, as Covington earned a trip to state for the first time since 1999 and Miami East earned a trip to state for the first time in school history.
Russia won the Division III race with 84 points, while Covington was second (90), Xenia Christian was third (97) and Miami East was fourth (137).
“I thought all the girls ran great today,” Covington coach Josh Long said. “This has been a goal all year, but really we haven’t talked about it that much. We told the girls they just needed to go out and run their normal race today. They didn’t have to do anything special.”
Leading the way for Covington was Carly Shell, who placed second in 19:26.14. Joining her at state will be: Anna Dunn (17th in 20:15.13), Ashley Plessinger (18th in 20:17.82), Paige Boehringer (27th in 20:33.69), Kelsey Dysinger (49th in 21:30.27), Julianna Yingst (71st in 22:09.10) and Danielle Alexander (22:23.16).
Miami East was paced by Lorenza Savini (fifth in 19:39.61). She’ll be joined at state by Lindsey Yingst (30th in 20:43.93), Marie Ewing (33rd in 20:48.72), Emma DeWeese (48th in 21:23.71), Kaitlyn Mack (60th in 21:49.42), Sami Sands (74th in 22:12.38) and Emily Hawkins (98th in 23:27.38).
“No Miami East cross country team had ever made it to state,” East coach Alan Russell said. “It is pretty exciting right now. I am so proud of all the girls.”
Bradford’s Karmen Knepp (seventh in 19:47.94) and Lehman’s Jenna Zimmerman (12th in 20:02.72) also qualified for state as individuals.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong