When you win Coach of the Year twice in one season, you’re apparently living right.
New Richmond High School cross country coach Rylan Shebesta took such honors in 2014 for the girls and boys programs that finished as league champions.
This season, the Lady Lions return defending Southern Buckeye Conference-American Division Runner of the Year Claire Burns, along with two other first-team selections in Shelbi Simpson and Grace Hauserman. Not surprisingly, the success of the girls team has boosted team numbers.
“We had 12 girls last year and we have 18 this year,” Shebesta said.
Other Lady Lions expected to contribute are Emily Belmont and Caitlin Biehle.
In their opening Early Bird Run at Washington Township Park in Felicity Aug. 26, Simpson recorded the best time and finished third at 21:02.60, followed by Biehle in fifth at 21:19.45 and Burns in seventh at 22:26.52.
The Lady Lions could be challenged in the SBAAC-American by Amelia this fall.
“Last year, we were really far ahead and this year Amelia has a really good team,” Shebesta said. “They have four or five new girls that are very good.”
Upcoming meets for New Richmond are the Mason Invitational Sept. 12 and the Bethel Invitational Sept. 19.
Coach Shane Heikenfeld is all smiles this season as Amelia has picked up some runners that should boost their chances in the SBAAC-American. Last year, the Lady Barons were fourth.
From that team, they return Jessica Sheets who made first team and Trudi Thomas, a second-team pick. However, the big boost has come from Amelia’s young runners.
“By far, this is the best girls team we’ve ever had,” Heikenfield said. “My goal for them is to make regionals.”
Even with a very good girls soccer team, Heikenfeld has been able to attract athletes to the Lady Barons cross country team.
“Word has gotten out and it’s just exploded,” he said of his team’s numbers. “We have a lot of seniors and a lot of ninth and 10th-graders.”
Leading that young pack are freshmen Maddie Walker and Morgan Walsh who recently were one-two at the Early Bird Run in Felicity at Washington Township Park Aug. 26. Walker won by nearly two minutes in 18:55.65 (5K) and Walsh was second. Not far back were veterans Maria Cardarelli in sixth and Jessica Sheets in ninth.
From a team standpoint, Amelia defeated the defending league champion New Richmond. Heikenfeld is happy his competition knows about his squad.
“I’m hoping they’re happy we’re leaving this league in two years,” he said. “I want to win these last two years. We’ve never won league. I would think we’d be the favorite.”
Walker was a runner-up at the state meet in junior high and Heikenfeld hopes to see her on a podium at the state level in high school.
“She’s like Michelle Thomas was from Glen Este a few years ago,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting.”
The 2015 Glen Este girls team consists of only three runners in juniors Amanda Arrasmith and Olivia Reynolds and sophomore Rhianon Staker. The girls and boys are coached by Ray Prueitt.
Arrasmith and Reynolds finished 18th and 19th, respectively, out of 51 runners in the season-opening Clark Montessori Two Mile at Withrow Aug. 25. Arrasmith ran 16:08 and Reynolds 16:23.
The Lady Trojans will compete in the Bethel-Tate Invitational Sept. 19.
With the graduation of Division III regional qualifier Heather McIntosh, Williamsburg’s focus almost entirely shifts to junior Rachel List.
List, along with Laura Cadwallader and Rachel Ralston, will lead Williamsburg this season. Last year, she was a Southern Buckeye Conference National second-team selection.
Batavia has a small crop of runners returning this year.
Hannah Winter and Megan Easterday, both of whom were SBC American second-teamers, are back as is Erin Mackey.
Kristin Wells coaches the Bulldogs.
Unlike the Rockets’ boys team, McNicholas’ girls squad will return its best district finisher in Beth Simmons and its top runner from the regular season in Anna Enders, a second-team All-Greater Catholic League-Coed selection.
Coach Kyle Jepson also returns Meagan Taylor and Claire Daly. Both ran in the district race last season.
Miami Valley Christian Academy recently placed fourth in the Early Bird Run at Washington Township Park in Felicity. MVCA had four runners in the top 30 (out of 85) with Laura Vilardo, Madison Pico, Rachel Makoski and Trinity Shaya. All three teams ahead of the Lady Lions were Division II, with MVCA being DIII.
Vilardo led the pack with a fourth-place finish in 21:15.74.
“As a freshman, she led the team to a berth in the regional meet at Troy,” coach Steve Krebsfanger said. “She was also named All-City be the Enquirer this spring in track. She placed seventh at the regional meet in the 3,200 meter run.”
Vilardo and the Lady Lions next run in the Mason Invitational Sept. 12.