Riverdale’s Juleigha Collier, Leipsic’s Lola Wensink and Van Buren’s Justine Hunt lead the pack midway through Saturday’s girls BVC championship race at Owens Community College. Wensink won in 20:51.24. (Photo by Jamie Baker.)

By JAMIE BAKER

sPORTS EDITOR

It was one last sweep for Hopewell-Loudon at Saturday’s Blanchard Valley Conference cross country championships at Owens Community College.

Jordan Foster and Carter Ritchey finished 1-2 in the boys race and the Chieftains had more than enough depth to win the girls team title in the school’s last BVC meet before it moves to the Sandusky Bay Conference’s River Division beginning next school year.

In addition, Leipsic freshman Lola Wensink won the Vikings’ first BVC cross country championship as she pulled away from Riverdale’s Juleigha Collier in the final 400 meters to claim the girls crown.

Hopewell-Loudon, which also swept the boys and girls crowns in 2016, edged Liberty-Benton 32-39 for the boys title. North Baltimore (106) was third followed by Van Buren (128), McComb (129), Leipsic (144) and Riverdale (148). Cory-Rawson and Pandora-Gilboa couldn’t field complete teams.

Foster and defending BVC champ Keith Sansalone ran together at the front of the field for the first mile of the race before Foster took control to win in 17:09.86. Ritchey, meanwhile, ran a solid back half of the race to move up to second place with a 17:33.25. Sansalone had to settle for third in 17:35.07.

The top seven runners in the boys and girls races earn first team all-BVC honors, the next seven runners are second team and runners in 15th through 21st place are honorable mention.

“It feels really good to win, but the big thing is I just wanted our team to do well. It’s kind of boring out there without anyone to run with,” Foster said about running in front of the field.

“It was great to hear the crowd yelling for you when you are running in front. I think about the half mile I picked it up a little bit and he (Sansalone) didn’t pick it up as much, I guess.”

Hopewell-Loudon’s Trey Masterson’s fourth-place showing (17:49.81) helped put the Chieftains in position to win. Caden Crawford (10th, 18:08.01) netted second-team honors while Brendan Durbin completed the scoring for Hopewell-Loudon as he was the top honorable mention runner in 15th place (18:48.39).

“We thought it would be close with Liberty-Benton and we were hoping for first or second. We knew it was really going to come down to our fourth and fifth guys and I think they came though,” Foster said.

L-B’s Tyler Knestrick (5th, 17:49.97) and Elliott Veenstra (6th, 17:52.38) joined Sansalone on the first team. Leipsic’s Ethan Chambers was seventh (17:53.27) to net the final all-BVC first team spot.

Hopewell-Loudon, which had one first-team runner in Taylor Leiter (6th, 21:57.89), scored 50 points to edge Riverdale (54) and Liberty-Benton (58) in a tight three-way battle for the girls team crown.

Leipsic, led by Wensink’s title performance, was fourth with 97 points. North Baltimore (104) and McComb (135) followed in the team standings. Van Buren, Pandora-Gilboa and Cory-Rawson couldn’t field complete teams.

Wensink, a freshman, has been steadily climbing the ladder in The Courier’s Top 25 Cross Country Honor Roll.

“I really wasn’t expecting to win, I was more focused on just getting through it because I knew it was going to be pretty cold today. I like it when it’s a little warmer,” said Wensink, who crossed the finish line in 20:51.24.

“I figured the sooner I finished the race, the faster I could bundle back up and get warm,” she added with a smile.

Riverdale’s Juleigha Collier (20:56.95), who earned her third first-team all-BVC award and finished second in the race for the second straight year, ran with Wensink the entire race. Wensink finally broke free and put a little distance between her and Collier over the final 600 meters.

Wensink, who has had a terrific season as a first-year runner, seemed to gain confidence as the race wore on.

“I was using her as a wind block for a lot of the race and that’s when I starting thinking maybe today’s the day I can win this race,” Wensink said.

“About the last 700-800 meters my coach, Miss (Stacy) Campbell, started yelling at me to push with everything I’ve got and that’s when I started sprinting as fast as I could.”

For Hopewell-Loudon, it was the school’s third straight BVC girls crown. Renae Kapelka (10th, 22:38.38), Corrin Hoover (12th, 22:48.58) and Ashley Brickner (13th, 22:49.20) earned spots on the all-BVC second team. The Chieftains’ No. 5 runner, Taylor Joseph, made the honorable mention list by finishing 18th (23:40.41).

In addition to Wensink, Collier and Leiter, other first team girls included Van Buren’s Justine Hunt (4th, 21:07.42), Riverdale’s Kendra Collier (4th, 21:15.86) and Liberty-Benton’s Audrey Murphy (5th, 21:55.58) and Tara Gleason (7th, 22:01.82).

Varsity Races

GIRLS TEAM STANDINGS

1, Hopewell-Loudon 50. 2, Riverdale 54. 3, Liberty-Benton 58. 4, Leipsic 97. 5, North Baltimore 104. 6, McComb 135. 7, Van Buren, Pandora-Gilboa & Cory-Rawson no team score.

FIRST TEAM ALL-BVC

1, Lola Wensink (Leip) 20:51.24. 2, Juleigha Collier (Riv) 20:56.95. 3, Justine Hunt (VB) 21:07.42. 4, Kendra Collier (Riv) 21:15.86. 5, Audrey Murphy (L-B) 21:55.58. 6, Taylor Leiter (H-L) 21:57.89. 7, Tara Gleason (L-B) 22:01.82.

SECOND TEAM ALL-BVC

8, Peyton Henry (Leip) 22:14.07. 9, Megan Pisarsky (VB) 22:15.0. 10, Renae Kapelka (H-L) 22:38.38. 9, Lydia Hartman (NB) 22:38.94. 12, Corrin Hoover (H-L) 22:48.58. 13, Ashley Brickner (H-L) 22:49.20. 14, Evie Stump (L-B) 23:07.71.

HONORABLE MENTION ALL-BVC

15, Lily Kintner (L-B) 23:08.2. 16, Makena Barnes (Riv) 23:09.94. 17, Liviya Benjamin (Riv) 23:11.33. 18, Taylor Joseph (H-L) 23:40.41. 19, Emma Harshe (McC) 24;11.77. 20, Rachel Crouse (NB) 24:11.97. 21, Caitlin Schwartz (NB) 24:30.84.

BOYS TEAM STANDINGS

1, Hopewell-Loudon 32. 2, Liberty-Benton 39. 3, North Baltimore 106. 4, Van Buren 128. 5, McComb 129. 6, Leipsic 144. 7, Riverdale 148. 8, Cory-Rawson & Pandora-Gilboa no team score.

FIRST TEAM ALL-BVC

1, Jordan Foster (H-L) 17:09.86. 2, Carter Ritchey (H-L) 17:33.25. 3, Keith Sansalone (L-B) 17:35.07. 4, Trey Masterson (H-L) 17:49.81. 5, Tyler Knestrick (L-B) 17:49.97. 6, Elliott Veenstra (L-B) 17:52.38. 7, Ethan Chambers (Leip) 17:53.27.

SECOND TEAM ALL-BVC

8, Levi Trout (NB) 17:53.36. 9, Eli Weber (Riv) 18:05.57. 10, Caden Crawford (H-L) 18:08.01. 11, Diego Escalante (McC) 18:10.06. 12, Chase Collert (L-B) 18:13.36. 13, Jonathon Cade (L-B) 18:29.32. 14, Wyatt Mowery (NB) 18:32.29.

HONORABLE MENTION

15, Brendan Durbin (H-L) 18:48.39. 16, Sam Meade (H-L) 18:49.01. 17, Bryce Arbogast (H-L) 18:53.02. 18, Miles Frey (Riv) 18:54.26. 19, Alex Hernandez (Leip) 19:01.74. 20, Jonathan Ricker (L-B) 19:08.33. 21, Connor Roush (H-L) 19:17.52.

Junior High Races

BOYS TEAM STANDINGS

1, Van Buren 26. 2, Liberty-Benton 45. 3, Hopewell-Loudon 56. 4, McComb 95. 5, Leipsic, North Baltimore & Riverdale no team score.

GIRLS TEAM STANDINGS

1, Hopewell-Loudon 26. 2, Liberty-Benton 31. 3, Leipsic, Riverdale & North Baltimore no team score.

Baker, 419-427-8409

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