By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy’s top five girls finishers at Saturday’s Troy Invitational made the team’s goal for the year absolutely clear.
Megan Myers, Kate Pence, Haley Huelsman, Megan Sweeney and Anya North barely even waited until the question was complete before delivering their answer in unison.
And with three of the team’s regular top five missing the race with various injuries and ailments? That goal seems more like a promise.
Myers and Pence finished second and third individually as the Trojan girls cross country team — running without frontrunner Morgan Gigandet and still missing Emma Shigley and Rachel Davidson — finished second as a team with 64 points.
“The girls that raced today all really stepped up,” Troy girls coach Kevin Alexander said. “Having Myers and Little Pence run great without some of more established frontrunners shows that they can race at a high level, too. And our pack of Haley, Megan and Anya ended up being the difference makers in the battle for second.”
Bellbrook’s Madison Pelfrey nipped Myers at the finish for first place, winning in 20:09 to Myers’ 20:09.3. Pence was third in 20:19.
“Yeah, I did (run out of gas at the finish),” Myers said. “I wanted to beat her so bad, and I just started sprinting too early.”
She won the competition against Pence on the day, though.
“Neither one of us likes it when the other beats us,” Myers said.
“She always pushes me when we race,” Pence said. “We just so competitive. It still feels really good (to finish third at the home meet).”
Bellbrook also managed to sneak its three, four and five runners in in 9th, 10th and 11th to complete the team win with 36 points. Troy, meanwhile, was locked in a battle with McAuley, and Huelsman, Sweeney and North — and, in addition, Troy’s six and seven runners, Katie Castaneda and Megan Studebaker — were able to do what it took to split the competition up. McAuley finished third with 68 points, a mere four behind the Trojans.
Huelsman finished 18th (21:58.4), Sweeney was 20th (22:10.9) and North was 23rd (22:15.9). Castaneda (26th, 22:21.1) and Studebaker (27th, 22:22.4) were right behind McAuley’s final scoring finisher — and just ahead of two more McAuley runners in 28th and 29th.
“A four-point difference for second, the girls really battled,” Alexander said. “Having those seniors (Huelsman, Sweeney and North) mixed in with the McAuley girls, that was big. And even our sixth and seventh runners broke them up. Katie and Megan were difference-makers, too. We were very pleased today.”
Gigandet was out with a minor respiratory infection, and Alexander expected her to bounce back quickly. The Troy sophomore has yet to lose a race this season. Shigley and Davidson are both still working their way back from injuries.
Which gave Troy’s seniors a chance to shine in the final Troy Invitational of their careers.
“All three seniors, running in their final Troy Invitational, they all really ran solid races today,” Alexander said.
“It was pretty rough,” Sweeney said. “It’s kind of weird to think this is the last time we’ll run this race.”
“I’m trying not to think about it,” Huelsman said, drawing laughs from her teammates.
“For the last race, I wish I would’ve done a little better,” North said.
It likely won’t be the last time the girls run on the levee this season, though — they’re looking to be back for the regional meet.
After all, they have a promise to keep.
Miami East’s girls had a solid showing on the day, too, finishing fourth with 112 points.
Lorenza Savini finished fourth (20:24.5), Lindsey Yingst was eighth (21:06.3), Emma DeWeese was 13th (21:37.8), Sami Sands was 55th (23:56.6) and Emily Hawkins was 49th (25:17.9).
Hyla Pitsenbarger was Troy Christian’s top finisher in 119th (29:31.7).
Troy’s boys were running without three seniors, as well, with Stephen Jones — a returning state qualifier — Parker Hench and Carson Clouser all taking the ACT test. Still, the Trojans finished sixth with 199 points.
Andy Smith led the way in 38th (18:39.7), Adam Falknor was 48th (18:58.5), Pete Sheehan was 49th (19:00.7), Conner Oaks was 65th (19:39.2) and Seth Plantz was 67th (19:40.1).
“We were missing four guys because of the ACT, but the rest of the guys ran well,” Troy boys coach Philip Matthews said. “Andy ran in the 18:30s, and that’s a PR for him, and the other guys all ran hard. We ran well as a team. You could tell they’ve been putting the work in in practice.”
And the first-year coach knows the value of that, particularly after taking over for long-time Troy cross country coach Bob Campbell.
“He was here for 33 seasons, took a break in the 80s for a couple years but came back. I ran for him in high school, and then I’ve coached with him the past three years,” Matthews said. “I definitely learned a lot from him. It’s different looking at things as a coach after running for him — you’re like, ‘Oh, so that’s why we had to do that.’ Plus, the guys are all great, and that makes everything really easy.”
Miami East’s boys finished fifth with 146 points.
Gavin Horne was 20th (18:00.7), Noah Shook was 29th (18:17.8), Luke Mengos was 30th (18:18.8), Taton Bertch was 45th (18:55.2) and Justin DeWeese was 54th (19:12.6).
Troy Christian’s boys were eighth with 252 points, led by Nick Pratt in 31st (18:21.6), Isaac Flora in 44th (18:54.6) and Zach Davidson in 69th (19:47.9).
LaSalle won the boys race with 28 points and Oak Hills was second with 34, with only one runner in the top 10 not from those two schools.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.