By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy freshman Emma Kennett has become accustomed to running against tough competition already.
Saturday, in the rain and mud and muck on Troy’s levee, she showed what she can do against regional-level competition.
Kennett was the individual runner-up and the Trojan girls were fourth as a team at Saturday’s Troy Invitational — which over the years has become a preview of the regional meet. And on the boys side, freshman Braden Coate led the Troy boys to an eighth-place finish by cracking the top 20 individually.
As a team, Troy’s girls were fourth with 164 points. Lebanon won with 46, Beavercreek was second with 66 and Talawanda was third with 88.
And Kennett was ready for what she faced on the day.
“I mean, I have really good runners to run with at practice every day,” Kennett said of her teammates. “They always push me. But they couldn’t run today, so I just tried to run my own race.”
Kennett was second in 19:38.2, with Lebanon’s Hope Erbach winning in 19:03.3 and Beavercreek’s Juliann Williams third in 19:53.
In addition to being a regional preview, with hopeful teams coming from all over to get a look at the course, the Troy Invitational also typically takes place during ACT testing, meaning Troy’s seniors are unable to run.
“Emma, Renee, Ella, Katie … it was freshmen and newcomers up front today,” Troy girls coach Kevin Alexander said. “Katie’s a junior but it’s her first year in cross country, so we had a very green crew today. The ACT tests knocked out a couple of our seniors, and we held a couple more girls out just for precautionary reasons. So it was an all newcomers race — and they did well. For the conditions and probably never racing in anything quite like this before, they did well.”
Renee Kovacs was 25th (22:00.6), Ella Kirkpatrick was 52nd (23:19.9), Katie Lord was 60th (23:33.8) and Hannah Falknor was 67th (23:47.4).
“The starting line was a little confusing,” Kennett said. “We had no idea which boxes we were supposed to be in … but we figured it out.
“I actually prefer running in the cold and the rain, but it wasn’t my favorite today,” Kennett said. “It was very muddy and slippery. The finish was fun, though, because there was just a lot of water — it kind of cooled you down.”
It was also important for Kennett to run well on the levee, according to Alexander.
“She took it out today,” he said. “She has not run well on this course before in junior high, and she really wanted to get rid of those demons before the regional. She wanted to slay that dragon and know that she can run well on this course before she gets to what she’s really looking forward to, the regional and making a run at state. And she did that today, in very adverse conditions.”
And since the regional in October will likely be in the cold, if not more adverse conditions,
“It will be cold and wet (at the regional) — it’s a guarantee almost,” Alexander said. “She got a good preview today.”
Miami East’s girls was 11th with 313 points. Kiley Davie was 23rd (21:57.5), Marisa Savini was 35th (22:29.6), Paige Blauvelt was 109th (25:09.7), Elizabeth Bennett was 157th (27:29.4) and Cyrene McAdams was 200th (30:09.9).
Newton was 13th with 346. Kendra Kern was 54th (23:22.5), Baily Chaney was 73rd (23:55.1), Faith Williams was 111th (25:12.8), Kara Chaney was 146th (26:52.9) and Mackenzie Knupp was 171st (27:59.3).
On the boys side, Troy was eighth with 234 points.
Coate led the way in 18th (17:43.3), Josh Lovitt was 28th (18:04.9), Austin Zonner was 39th (18:23.4), Will Schaefer was 65th (18:49.2) and Keegan Potts was 96th (19:22.7).
“Yeah, that was the first race where Braden has really asserted himself,” Troy boys coach Phil Matthews said. “Condition-wise, they ran really well. We were missing some of our seniors who were taking the ACT, too. They did well, to have the times they had in this (the rain).”
The Trojans have a team goal this year, too — to reach the regional as a group. And they were happy with how they performed against that level of competition.
“They’re definitely not afraid. They’re ready for the challenge,” Matthews said. “They show up every day and they’re ready to go. I’m not worried about them. Where the chips fall in the end is where they fall, but I think we’ll be good.”
Miami East was 16th with 459 points. Alex Hayes was 64th (18:49.1), Cam Richter was 68th (18:51.4), Michael Bair was 116th (20:00.7), Garrett LeMaster was 120th (20:12.1) and Adam Bensman was 141st (20:47).
Newton was 17th with 485 points. Curtis Shellenberger was 70th (18:53.8), Owen Via was 90th (19:15.2), Robert Ingle was 106th (19:43.2), Jacob Moore was 127th (20:17.5) and Clint Shellenbarger was 146th (21:09.1).
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.