GRANVILLE – Near-ideal conditions greeted runners for Saturday’s Newark Catholic Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion. But the Heath boys and Griffin Butler may have one-upped the weather.
“It was a perfect day,” Heath coach Scott Brown said after his Bulldogs surprised themselves, and a 21-team field, to win the championship. “My son just called from (Coast Guard) basic training, right after this happened. I remember when I started, six or seven years ago, we were just trying to not finish last in this. The kids have put in the time this summer, and it’s gotten to the point where it’s good to see them rewarded.”
While Heath was scoring 82 points to out-distance runner-up Columbus Academy’s 118, Licking Valley’s Butler was getting his senior year off to a rousing start. He shaved nearly five seconds off his school record of 15:59.2, clocking a 15:54.5 over a challenging layout which features hills that go around Bryn Du Mansion. Only Fisher Catholic senior Aaron Wood, who clocked a victorious 15:46.3, prevented Butler from taking home a title of his own.
“I can’t believe he had that kind of kick, but it was nice to run against him,” said Butler, a returning Division II All-Ohioan who wants to run in the 15:20s and place in the top five in the state. “I wanted to win and break the school record again, so it was a good way to start the season. It was kind of bittersweet, my last race at Bryn Du. But I’m very excited.”
“Excited” would be an understatement when Heath realized it had won the title. Cross country newcomer, junior Taylor Hopkins, placed seventh in 17:10 to lead the way and the other four scorers were all within a minute of him. Senior Dylan Karr ran 11th out of the 179 finishers in 17:23, sophomore Nick Lee was 14th in 17:38, junior Caleb Large 19th in 17:54 and sophomore Chandler Wilhelm 31st in 18:05.
“We hadn’t done well the last couple of years, but this summer, we’ve worked hard as a team,” said Karr, part of Heath’s first regional team since 1990 as a freshman. “Coming in, we had high hopes of winning the title. The big goal was just to get in the top half at least. But something like this, was just extraordinary to hear about. It’s a precursor of things to come.”
Hopkins is catching the cross country bug. He is running as training for the 800 in track, where he will defend his Licking County League title.
“I didn’t hydrate well,” he said. “It’s hard, and it’s tiring. But all of the team is really pushing each other, and I think we have a chance to win the league.”
Karr said, “We were running together, and I told him to go ahead and take off. It doesn’t matter where I finish, just so I’m in the top five.”
Newark, led by junior Owen Keith’s sixth-place in 16:41, placed fifth with 143 points.
“I wanted to be somewhere near the front,” he said. “My goal was to stay with Butler. I ran 16:41 and it was 18:09 here last year, so I’m very happy with that. Toby (Hardwick) is at the top our book with 15:24, and I want to get up there with him.”
Levi Lupton was 37th in 18:34 and Ben Bemis 38th in 18:36 for Newark Catholic, ninth with 258. Connor Gulick paced Utica with his 20th place in 17:55, while Jeffrey Yohman was 55th for Granville Christian in 19:04. Colin Evans led Northridge with his 56th in 19:08.
The girls event featured a race within the race. Newark Catholic senior Annie Lanfranc celebrated as she finally beat classmate Kat Bowman, finishing 20th in 21:46 while Bowman was 28th in 21:54.
“I passed her going up the hill, and she passed me at the top,” Lanfranc said. “Coming down, we were really pushing each other. Once we got in the back, I kept pushing and was not going to let her beat me.”
“I’m excited for her,” said Bowman, who just started practicing last Tuesday after missing over a month with plantar fasciitis. “I told her she could do it. My time is not far off last year, so I’m pretty happy. It only makes our team better. This year, I want the whole team to go to regionals so I don’t have to run by myself.”
Heath, led by Cheyenne Farris’ 16th-place in 21:26.2, placed eighth out of the 19 teams with 240 points in a meet won by Bishop Watterson’s 90. Newark was ninth with 253 as Micaela Trawick took 13th in 21:20, while NC placed 11th with 270. Haylee Zigan was 38th in 22:28 for Licking Valley, while Beth Cox led Utica with her 76th in 24:41.