Newark picked a perfect time for a breakthrough.
On their home course and nearing the halfway point, the Wildcats had a string of impressive performances Saturday in the Newark Invitational at the Evans Athletic Complex. Newark finished a strong second behind champion Canal Winchester.
“Our team is really big on unity and working together,” freshman Lauren Fischer said. “We like to push each other because it helps us progress.”
Fischer led the way, placing third in a time of 20:02. Fischer was unable to get under 20 minutes or hold onto second place, but she was not sweating either. She was excited about her progress, dropping her personal best by a full minute.
“I wasn’t planning on getting that high up,” Fischer said. “I am proud of myself, and the girls ahead of me did really well, too.”
Newark scored 70 points, 28 behind the Indians. Michaela Trawick (11th, 20:57); Meghan Roche (17th, 21:15); Brigit Luecke (18th, 21:16) and Stacia Kyler (21st, 21:33) provided the pack that carried the Wildcats.
Trawick, Roche and Kyler were a part of Newark’s regional-qualifying 3,200 relay in the spring. That provided a springboard for the Wildcats’ summer training, and added confidence is showing.
“This is our halfway point in the season, and I think I am ready to start getting into gear,” said Trawick, who broke 21 minutes for the first time. “We are starting to get into the sprints in practice this part of the season.”
Granville Christian’s Lauren Keiser (4th, 20:17) and Licking Valley’s Haylee Zigan (8th, 20:38) were the area’s additional top-10 placers. Valley was fourth in the team standings with 137 points, three behind Big Walnut.
Toby Hardwick’s race at Watkins Memorial’s McGowan Invitational a week ago was about proving he is one of the best runners in central Ohio.
This week’s boys race was about tightening Newark’s pack. Hardwick won his third meet in four weeks, but the Wildcats followed with personal bests throughout the varsity lineup, securing the team title.
“The main goal was to get everybody to have a feeling of how to run fast and how to run smooth,” Hardwick said. “Everybody PR’d today I think besides me. Everybody ran hard. My teammates work so hard in practice. They run so hard at practice. You have no idea.”
The Wildcats scored 65 points, 12 ahead of runner-up Canal Winchester, thanks to three top-10 finishers. Hardwick ran away to victory in 15:50, and Isaac Wheeler (3rd, 16:47) and Patrick Williams (10th, 17:35) followed.
Sophomore Zane Romine (22nd, 18:37) and freshman Owen Keith (29th, 19:01) continue to close the gap. That duo was needed to offset the Indians’ herd.
“I have been trying to run with Patrick during practice to get faster,” Romine said. “Between our third and fourth guys, there is a big gap. I am just trying to close that gap.”
Licking Valley’s Griffin Butler (5th, 17:12) and Lakewood’s Chris Briggs (7th, 17:20) were other top placers. Butler built off the success he had on a challenging course in West Virginia a week ago. This week, he had the opportunity to measure himself against some Division I competition.
“I felt stronger than normal, so I felt good,” Butler said. “Obviously not (Hardwick) because he is just amazing, but the second and third guys for Newark push me and give me a lot of confidence.”