LANCASTER — Every place matters.
That mantra held true Saturday as the Liberty Union’s boys team took home first place in the Division III race at the Bob Reall Invitational at Lancaster by just one point.
Despite the absence of two of their usual runners, the Lions edged Mount Gilead 98-99 for the win.
Coach Renee Mangette said she had no expectations for the meet.
“We didn’t even know who was going to be here. We just came and I just let them do the work, and they do it well,” she said. “We always stress that, every place is a point. I’m very proud of them.”
Liberty Union was missing Mikey Cuschleg because of an injury and Jake Motts was attending a wedding. Both will be back next week. Barring any injuries Mangette expects to have all 10 runners for the first time since the team’s first meet.
“These boys are giving me an ulcer, I swear there is always something that comes up,” she joked.
Senior Jeff Hanson and junior Colton Roth picked up the slack, finishing sixth and eighth, respectively. Hanson finished with a 17:26 and Roth ran a 17:32.
Also scoring for the Lions were Brandon Altiers, Matt Maldovan and Gene Smith.
The importance of each runner was not lost on Hansen.
“If any of our guys were just one place back, we would have gone to the sixth guy (tiebreaker), so everyone matters,” he said.
Racine Southern’s Kody Wolfe won the individual race with a time of 16:08, just off his personal best at state in 2011. The senior outpaced the field by 40 seconds to secure the best overall time.
The Division I race was far closer.
Westerville North’s Kent Ford and Jacob Dumford finished first and second. They were seperated by only .04 of a second. They lead the Warriors to a victory in the team race. Lancaster placed second.
Stephen Sparks led the Golden Gales, finishing sixth at 16:44. Adam Wise crossed the line in seventh, more than a second later. All of Lancaster’s runners finished in the top 27.
“We’ve been working on pack running so that at the end we can get our points up there. Then, at the end, it’s everyone for themselves,” Sparks said. “The atmoshphere is great, knowing it’s our only home meet. I think, as a team, we just really want to come out here and represent.”
Westerville North scored a meet-low 45 compared to Lancaster’s 80. Despite the disparity, Sparks is setting the team’s goals high.
“Our goal is definitely to beat (Westerville North) before regionals,” he said. “I think, in the next meet, we will definitely get them.”
Although windy conditions impacted the later races, the course was firm and allowed for relatvely low times, Hansen said, despite a loop that features a more than quarter-mile hill competitors must run twice.
The meet is one of the biggest of the year in Fairfield County, and many area schools came out.
Canal Winchester finished ninth out of 17 teams in Division I, led by Wyatt Gardener’s ninth-place finish.
Seventeen teams also competed in Division II. Fairfield Christian placed seventh, Fisher Catholic ninth and Millersport 15th.
Fisher Catholic’s Cawood Boone finished 16th and Fairfield Christian’s Alex Hoover was 20th.
Amanda Clearcreek finished 21st out of 22 teams in Divison II.