CINCINNATI – Annie Heffernan often wants to go fast in practice and in meets.
But sometimes, St. Ursula coach Dan Bird just has to tell his standout runner to slow down a bit. For her own sake.
Heffernan, the St. Ursula senior, has already accomplished so much in her high school career. The reigning Gatorade Ohio Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year from the 2013 season, Heffernan won the Division I state title as a junior.
She is also a standout distance runner in the track and field season in the spring where she won the 1,600-meter state title as a junior. She set a state record and girls’ interscholastic record in the 3,200 run as a sophomore.
She won the 2014 Moeller Primetime Invitational for the third straight year with a time of 18:01.74; the second-place finisher had a time of 19:16.96.
“My goal is to just go out there and not PR or anything, but have a good steady race and a solid finish so I think I did that and I am happy with it,” Heffernan said.
Heffernan, who is considering schools that include Duke, Notre Dame and Stanford among her options, sat back for the first mile and a half at Moeller in order to conserve energy, but knew when to push and kick in the extra gear. Bird said a strategy of preserving energy and keeping Heffernan well in the process is of utmost importance.
“Sometimes when you are on a pretty easy course like this it gets you a little too excited to go right away,” Heffernan said. “You just kind of have to be patient and wait for the right moment.”
With the rare night race, Heffernan said she had to be cognizant of what to eat and not walk around too much before the race. She had breakfast for dinner around 4:30 p.m. after school.
“She has confidence,” Bird said. “Last year she thought she could do it; this year she knows she can. I just want her to be healthy at her best when we finish up.”
The girls cross country team at Clark Montessori was second in the Miami Valley Conference a year ago and is led by junior Lily Marrero. A year ago, Marrero was first team MVC. Also back is junior Caroline Lehman and sophomore Mary Claire Fibbe, both second team selections.
“The girls team has a good chance for two individuals to make it to the regionals; Lily Marrero and Ellie Jose,” Clark coach Carl Wiers said.
Jose is only a freshman. Rounding out the girls squad is sophomore Jillian Stetter and freshman Sydney Woodring.
The boys runners at Clark are led by seniors Craig Kaiser and Jakob Watson and freshman Ryan Estes. The Cougars were third in the MVC in 2013 with Kaiser making second team and Watson honorable mention.
“The boys have a pretty good chance of making it to the regionals as a team,” Wiers said.
The remainder of the Cougars are seniors Jamien Johnson, Michael Rowe and Preston Parrish; sophomores Jason Jarrold-Grapes, Frank Metzmeier, Haden Wright and Harry Murphy; and freshman Chris Canty.
Clark next runs at Milford on Sept. 13.
Mariemont head coaches Jeff Timmers and Terri Thomas had a pair of third-place teams in the Cincinnati Hills League last year. Timmers’ boys and Thomas’ girls came in behind Wyoming and Indian Hill.
The Mariemont boys have only two seniors on the roster. One of them – Caleb Keys – serves as co-captain with juniors Charlie Jordan, Jeffrey Timmers and Noah Dill.
Jordan – who was third individually in the CHL last season – has the third-fastest time in the league so far this season, running a 17:16.33 race at the Xavier University high school invitational Aug. 30.
Senior Jennifer Saxton – the individual CHL runner-up as a junior – shares the captaincy with junior Lauren Renner. Senior Mikayla Valentine – a state qualifier in swimming – adds experience for the Warrior girls.
Sophomore Corinne Fanta has the best time for the team – and third best in the league – so far this season with a 21:16 race at the Cincinnati Country Day Invitational.
Steadily approaching 500 wins at Moeller, cross country coach Dave Prenger got his Crusaders off in style with another successful Moeller Primetime Invitational at the Golf Center at Kings Island.
Key runners for Prenger are seniors Mitch Poch and Nicholas Mendel and junior Matt DeWine.
“We have a solid top three, but our success will largely be determined by how well our other guys step up and compete,” Prenger said. “St. Xavier will be top in the league again and they have the ability to make a run for a ‘three-peat’ at state.”
Upcoming meets for Moeller include the Alliance Invitational Sept. 13 at the Miami Valley Career Tech Center and the Midwest Catholic Championships Sept. 20 at Indian Riffle Park.
Purcell Marian coach Dave Roberts would like to get senior and Purcell Marian girls team captain Kansas Greenwell to the state meet after watching her qualify for regionals three years in a row. She is closing in on the school 5K record.
Along with Greenwell, the Lady Cavaliers feature seniors Abby Kiley, Aliyah Toney and Mollie Kearney and junior Julia Nelson.
Purcell Marian’s boys are led by seniors and team captains Chase Berger and Simon Dadosky. Also helping in the Cavaliers scoring will be seniors Iain Applebee, Byron Box and Keaton Joosten, junior Jacob McGee and sophomore Kaleab Gebrehiwot.
“I like the attitude, enthusiasm, team spirit and mix of senior leadership with new runners,” Roberts said.
After an open date on Sept. 13, both Purcell Marian teams will compete in the Fenwick Invitational Sept. 16.
The Seven Hills Stingers took fifth in the Miami Valley Conference boys meet last fall. The girls didn’t have enough runners to field a full team.
On the boys side, sophomore Chase Gardner earned second team all-MVC honors as a freshman.
For the girls, junior Nia Page also earned second team all-MVC last year.
Excuse the pun, but the Summit Country Day Silver Knights have been on a run of late. Both the boys and girls teams qualified for the Division III state meet last season. Both won the Miami Valley Conference championship for the fifth straight year.
Head coach Kurtis Smith looks for more of the same this year.
On the girls side, look for Emily Ray, Natalie Pearl, Margo Dailey and Annie Rose to form the nucleus of the team.
For the boys, defending MVC runner of the year Mason Moore, John Murdock, Grady Stuckman, Will Mackey and Tullus Dean will lead the squad
If all goes according to plan, the Eastern Cincinnati Conference girls cross country league meet trophy will remain on display at Walnut Hills High School as it has since the league’s inception.
The Lady Eagles will shoot for the trifecta with seventh-year coach Bill Valenzano and assistant Paul Malott.
Seniors Kelley Coleman, Hannah Schroeder, Collier Summay and Allison Hatch return for Walnut Hills along with junior Lily Roudebush.
Coleman, Schroeder and Summay were ECC first team a year ago, with Roudebush making second team.
“We have many seniors on both the boys and girls teams this fall, which is good and bad at the same time,” Valenzano said. “I expect both teams to fare very well at the league and district championships. We also have a large number of freshmen entering from our junior high program and several transfer students that can make an impact due to the open enrollment policy the Cincinnati Public Schools have adopted.”
The Walnut Hills boys are looking to climb up from fifth-place in the league last year.
Seniors Ryan Kurz, Max Weiskittel, Max Brockwell and Evan Wooten will lead the way with juniors Luke Dull, Luke Warren, Elijah Catalan and freshman Jack Lowry.
Dull was second team ECC in 2013 with Brockwell making honorable mention.
The Walnut Hills harriers will be at the Milford Invitational Sept. 13 and the Centerville Stampede Sept. 20.
The Withrow Tigers are just beginning cross country in their first season in the Eastern Cincinnati Conference.