NEWARK — Licking Valley’s Mackenzie Butler was pushed to the limit by a pair of Upper Arlington runners during Saturday’s Newark Invitational.
But when push came to shove, Butler wasn’t about to let anyone pass her down the stretch at Evans Athletic Complex.
Instead of giving up the lead, she pushed harder and sprinted the final 100 meters to win going away in a time of 18:58.
“They were right with me the whole way, and they really pushed me, especially the last 800 meters or so.” Butler said. “I knew I had to stay with them, and after that, it was just a matter of seeing what I had left and I went for it.
“I would much rather let other people lead and stay behind just a little because I’m afraid if I get out too fast, I won’t have anything left. I would rather let someone else push the pace and then do my thing at the end. Whatever I have left, I always put it all out there at the end.”
Butler, who won the Newark Catholic Invitational earlier this season, said she just wants to keep building on her success in hopes of returning to the state meet, where she finished 28th in 2011.
“I feel like I’m getting stronger and stronger with each meet,” Butler said. “My training is paying off, and anytime you win, you always gain more confidence. Anytime you face good competition, it’s going to push you, and it also helps me learn from any mistakes I make.”
Granville Christian sophomore Lauren Keiser continues to improve, and she had another solid finish, placing fifth in 20:01.
“I feel like I’m getting better and better with each meet,” she said. “My times continue to keep going down, and that’s the goal. I’ve trained really hard, and it helps having a year of experience because I know what to expect. I just seem to have a lot more energy this year.”
Lions coach Terry Wagner said he sees a lot of potential in Keiser, who finished 25th in the regional in 2011.
Keiser has had three top-10 finishes this season.
“She has made huge improvements over last year,” Wagner said. “She is getting stronger, and she has great work ethic. If she keeps progressing, I really think she can make a run at qualifying for the state meet this year.”
Valley finished second out of nine teams with 84 points to Upper Arlington’s 20.
The area’s other top finishers were Valley’s Hayley Zigan in 10th in 21:01 and Utica’s Makayla McComb in 14th in 21:24.