NEW RICHMOND – A fourth New Richmond High School girls cross country championship won’t come easy.
The Lady Lions are a known commodity in running circles, but are being challenged by some fresh faces in Amelia this season.
Thus far, the teams have split their appearances.
“We’re going to have to run well to beat them,” New Richmond coach Rylan Shebesta said. “All of the meets so far have been decided by one or two points. I graduated from Amelia, so on one hand, I’m glad they’re doing well. It’s really pushed us. They have three really good runners.”
Shelbi Simpson has been New Richmond’s top finisher this season, with the whole league chasing Amelia freshman Maddie Walker. Senior Claire Burns has been first-team Southern Buckeye Conference-American Division for three seasons and Runner of the Year the last two, but has battled setbacks this fall.
“Claire has been fighting through injuries, so Shelbi’s been our top runner,” Shebesta said. “Caitlin Biehle’s been running second for us. Emily Belmont is our third. Claire’s doing well; she’s just trying to do what she can.”
Shebesta thinks if Burns were healthy, they would be ahead of Amelia, but injuries are always unpredictable. New Richmond was district champion a year ago, but will have a tough hill to climb to match that performance.
The Lady Lions were fourth at the Oct. 3 St. Xavier Invitational with Simpson taking fifth in 20:44.31 and Beihle finishing eighth out of 129 runners.
“Our district is better this year,” Shebesta said. “Last year, I though there were three really good teams, Wyoming, us and Madeira. This year I think there’s four or five that are all similar. It’ll be a toss-up if everybody’s healthy.
The New Richmond boys are after their third straight SBAAC-American championship. Like the girls, this year is no guarantee as the Lions found out at their recent home meet.
“We’ve done well all year, but got beat at our home meet by Amelia,” Shebesta said. “Hopefully, that’ll be motivation for us to know we can get beat by other teams in our league.”
Ryan Wolf, Luke Glenn, Austin Planck and Emerson White have run 1-2-3-4 for New Richmond this season. Currently the Lions are pounding the pavement hard as Shebesta incorporates a philosophy opposite of mainstream thinking.
“I train hard at the end of the year instead of tapering off, so we peak at the right time,” Shebesta said. “A lot of coaches I talk to do a lot of training in the summer. I just see a lot of kids getting hurt. With us being a small school, I don’t like kids getting hurt. I feel we run good times at the end of the year as if we’ve trained all summer.”
The St. Xavier Invitational is always a barometer for teams to speculate on their postseason positioning. Wolf led the Lions finishing 65th of 180 Oct. 3 in 18:56.40.
The SBAAC meet is Oct. 17 at Goshen.
“The guys need to really improve if we want to get to regionals again,” Shebesta said. “Last year we kind of snuck in. We’ll really have to run well and have a little bit of luck with teams that train too hard.”