By JAMIE BAKER
LURAY — It was certainly a day to remember for Carey’s Sarah Reinhart and Columbus Grove’s Alyssa Ellerbrock.
Both runners posted top-10 finishes in the Division III girls race to lead area runners at Saturday’s OHSAA state cross country championships at National Trail Raceway.
Actually, Reinhart and Ellerbrock raced each other right to the finish line.
Reinhart held off a late charge by Ellerbrock over the 5,000-meter race’s final 50 meters to claim seventh place with a time of 18:53.0. Ellerbrock was next across the line in eighth place in 18:53.4.
The top 20 in each race earned medals and spots on the state meet awards stand. The top 30 runners in each race earned all-Ohio honors from the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches.
Reinhart, a 19th-place finisher at state last year, was in 10th place at the mile mark before moving up and settling in at the No. 7 spot.
“I wanted to PR again and I wanted to finish in the top 10. I wasn’t sure I got out fast enough, to be honest,” the soft-spoken Carey sophomore said. “I was able to keep up the pace and get around some people to keep myself in good position.
“I’m just happy to be here. I thought getting in the top 10 might be within reach, but now that I’ve done it, it’s kind of exciting to realize how well I did today.”
Reinhart’s lone focus this season has been on improvement, and getting a little bit stronger and faster in each race.
The sky’s the limit for Reinhart for the rest of her prep cross country career as far as veteran Carey head coach Dean Kessler is concerned.
“She continues to improve each year, she continues to improve during the season. She just keeps getting faster as the season goes on,” Kessler said. “If she continues to work like she has been and do the right things, I don’t know what Sarah’s ceiling is.”
Ellerbrock, meanwhile, has been one of the state’s top Division III runners for the past three years.
In her final state-meet appearance, she saved her best for last.
Ellerbrock, 15th at state as a sophomore and 16th last year, started slower than she would have liked. She was 22nd at the mile mark but passed a dozen runners to move up to 10th place to begin the third mile of the race.
Ellerbrock’s eighth-place showing was the highest placement at state by a Grove girls runner since four-time all-Ohioan Kelley Irwin’s seventh-place effort in the Division II girls race in 1992.
Knowing it was her final cross country race, Ellerbrock wasn’t about to leave National Trail with any regrets.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet, that this was it, but I know it’s going to be sad when it finally does,” said Ellerbrock, a three-time all-Ohioan.
“My goal today was just to leave everything out on the course, to give it my all in my final race. During that last 600 meters, that’s exactly what I did. I’m proud of how I ran today.”
Minster scored 79 points to edge West Liberty Salem (89) and Fort Loramie (90) for the girls team crown. Columbus Grove, which was competing at state for the fourth straight year, placed 11th in the 20-team field with 285 points.
Junior Erin Downing backed Ellerbrock by finishing 88th in 20:52.6.
Seniors Leanndra Price (105th, 21:17.9), Sidney Witteborg (131st, 22:05.6) and Addy Schafer (143rd, 22:21.8) competed in their final race for the Bulldogs.
Freshman Ellie Keehn (116th, 21:34.4) and junior Zoe Stechschulte (150th, 22:44.3) also competed for Columbus Grove.
There’s no debate that it’s been a special four-year run for Ellerbrock and Grove’s girls cross country program.
“It’s so special. We’ve had a lot of good girls and a great coach that’s pushed me along the way,” Ellerbrock said.
“They’ve all helped me reach my full potential. It’s been a special ride.”
Division III Girls
1, Minster 79. 2, West Liberty-Salem 89. 3, Fort Loramie 90. 4, Mount Gilead 160. 5, Liberty Center 161. 6, Centerburg 222. 7, McDonald 258. 8, Gates Mills Gilmour Academy 259. 9, Archbold 259. 10, Cortland Maplewood 282. 11, Columbus Grove 285. 12, Woodmore 312. 13, Milford Center Fairbanks 320. 14, New London 334. 15, Galion Northmor 349. 16, Versailles 358. 17, Cincinnati Madeira 372. 18, Smithville 373. 19, Delphos St. John’s 447. 20, Caldwell 471.
1, Addie Engel (Springfield Catholic Central) 17:47.0.
Division II Girls
1, Lexington 83. 2, Granville 170. 3, Tallmadge 175. 4, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary 184. 5, Dayton Oakwood 211. 6, Poland Seminary 215. 7, Cleveland Heights Beaumont 228. 8, Ontario 231. 9, Peninsula Woodridge 254. 10, Tipp City Tippecanoe 267. 11, Springfield Shawnee 275. 12, Columbus Bexley 285. 13, Chagrin Falls 287. 14, Minerva 293. 15, Delaware Buckeye Valley 323. 16, Plain City Jonathan Alder 337. 17, Lancaster Fairfield Union 386. 18, MacArthur Vinton County 387. 19, Celina 391. 209, Lima Shawnee 417.
1, Ella Gilson (Gates Mills Hawken) 17:45.8.
Division I Girls
1, Beavercreek 51. 2, Liberty Township Lakota East 121. 3, Hilliard Davidson 131. 4, Mason 185. 5, Medina 203. 6, Loveland 212. 7, Springboro 249. 8, Cleveland St. Joseph 252. 9, Massillon Jackson 252. 10, Hudson 254. 11, Shaker Heights 255. 12, Perrysburg 291. 13, Brunswick 322. 14, Warren Howland 341. 15, Anthony Wayne 363. 16, Thomas Worthington 375. 17, Mentor 391. 18, Worthington Kilbourne 392. 19, Powell Olentangy Liberty 439. 20, Olentangy Orange 442.
1,Taylor Ewert (Beavercreek) 17:22.5.