Div. II was the fifth race of the day and, by then, mud just added more weight to the competitors' shoes.
By DOUG CHAPIN
BOARDMAN -- The Salem High girls cross country team took another step Saturday in defense of its Division II state title, winning the regional meet by a comfortable margin in miserable weather conditions and on a muddy course at Boardman High School.
The Quakers will be joined at the state meet by McDonald, which advanced with a third-place finish in Div. III.
Four area individuals also advanced by finishing in the top 16. All four -- Kayla Witmer of South Range, Rochelle Rupe of Maplewood, Monica Ciarniello of Springfield and Audrey Maheu of Warren JFK-- are in Div. III.
The top four teams, along with top 16 finishers not on a qualifying team advanced to the state meet scheduled next Saturday at Scioto Downs outside of Columbus.
The Div. II girls race was the fifth race of the day and by then every step through the mud just added more weight to the competitors' shoes. About two-thirds of the way through the race, a brief but intense hailstorm moved through, sending spectators scurrying to their cars and tents flying.
The only people still out on the course were the race officials and volunteers -- who did a great job all day in miserable conditions -- and of course the runners.
"Everything strategy-wise went according to plan, but you can't plan the weather," Salem coach Mary Wilson said. "The girls did a great job. We wanted to go out and have fun and they got the job done."
Five of Salem's six runners return from last year's state meet where all five finished 45th or better. On Saturday, junior Liz Shivers was fifth in 21:32.60, senior Erin Murphy sixth in 21:40.04, sophomore Lauren Shivers ninth in 21:57.85, sophomore Alexis Thorne 16th in 22:35.71, freshman Bethany Huston 21st in 22:54.98 and junior Sarah Yerkey 31st in 23:10.16.
The Quakers finished with 56 points, compared to 114 for runner-up Walsh Jesuit, 116 for Cleveland Heights Beaumont and 151 for Alliance.
"The girls have been on the right track all season, they've done what they have needed to do every day, whether it is in practice or meets," Wilson said. "You can't guarantee an outcome, but the girls have done all they can. Other things, like how others run or the weather, are out of our control."
McDonald had 128 points to earn its third-place finish. Gilmour Academy won with 53, Woodridge had 93 and fourth-place Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy had 136. East Palestine was seventh, Maplewood 10th, South Range 12th and Jackson-Milton 16th.
"Things went better than we thought, our goal was to get in the top four," McDonald coach Michael Richards said. "From our senior leaders down to our freshmen, the girls ran better than expected."
Senior Krysti Sowers was 10th for the Blue Devils in 21:57.88. Sophomore Callie Garland finished 27th in 22:47.20, freshman Aubrey Holland was 28th in 22:50.68, senior Jenn Molinari was 39th in 23:31.61 and freshman Haley McCormick was 41st in 23:34.14. Freshman Alyssa Lobaugh finished 70th and senior Jamie Fynes was 112th.
Among individual qualifiers, Witmer, a senior finished sixth in 21:38.00. Rupe, a senior, was 11th in 22:04.08; Ciarniello, a freshman, 13th,
22:13.57; and Maheu, a junior, 14th, 22:14.88.
Among area runners who did not qualify for state, Cardinal Mooney sophomore Christina Oles came closest with a 19th-place finish in Div. II. Her time was 22:47.93. The 16th-place time was 22:35.71. The Cardinals finished 14th as a team.
In Div. I, Boardman sophomore Lauren Agnew finished 30th in 22:42.61 and Austintown Fitch sophomore Shannon Rech was 60th.