GRANVILLE — “I did not want to lose.”
That’s the usual mentality Licking Valley senior Mackenzie Butler takes to the track or cross country course, but it carried even more meaning on Saturday in the Newark Catholic Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion.
Butler earned her third consecutive win on the unique, scenic course which wraps around the grounds of the historic site, clocking a 20:03.5 for a 30-second victory against Centennial’s Catherine Ryan. In 2011, she claimed the Granville Invitational (19:50) and Mid-State League-Ohio Division (20:12) at Bryn Du. This time, she beat 134 other runners.
Using her experience, Butler allowed Fairfield Union freshman Jessica Swaim to set the pace through almost two miles of the 3.1-mile event. Then, she made her move and pulled away as Swaim slipped to a fourth-place finish.
Butler was only in sixth place after the first mile, but she merely was biding her time.
“I knew some of them would come out and go too fast,” she said. “After I got to second place, I could feel her (Swaim) slowing down. We’ve had a really hard week of training, and the sun got more intense as the race went on. But it’s a fun course and the hills aren’t too bad. We’ve been training on hills a lot.
“We’ve been putting in a lot of miles on hard hills,” Butler said. “It’s been intense. Coach said our times might not be there early on, but they should be later on.”
It’s all part of the plan for a first team All-Ohio finish in cross country, which would come on the heels of a sixth-place finish in the Division II state track meet that put her on the podium.
In 2011, she just missed All-Ohio in the first state cross country meet at National Trail Raceway, finishing 28th in 19:30 despite falling during the race. She wants to go a lot faster.
“Hopefully, by the end of the season, I’ll be under 19 minutes,” Butler said.
Her performance Saturday helped Licking Valley place fifth of 17 teams, the best of the seven local teams in the field. Natalie Hurst was 21st in 22:27.3, Hayley Zigan 32nd in 23:07.5, Cara Dillon 59th in 24:36.5 and Bethany Rutherford 82nd in 26:14.3 for the Panthers.
The next best local finishers were Newark Catholic’s Kat Bowman, 26th in 22:39.4, and Newark’s Megan Roche, 27th in 22:39.9.