By Rob Kiser
TROY — The Russia girls cross country team kept doing what they do.
Covington girls did something they hadn’t done in 16 years and Miami East girls did something no Viking cross country team had ever done.
All three will run at next week’s state meet as a team, while Bradford’s Karmen Knepp and Lehman’s Jenna Zimmerman advanced as individuals.
Russia, coached by Doug Foster, won its thjird straight regional title.
The Lady Raiders won with 84 points, Covington was second with 90, Xenia Christian took third with 97 and Miami East got the fourth and final spot with 137.
“We just have a lot of fun running together and running as a pack,” Russia senior Molly Keanrs said. “It is great to three-peat and go to state all four years. Espcecially with Lauren (fellow senior Lauren Heaton).”
Heaton led the Raiders, finishing sixth in 19:47.15, while Kearns was ninth in 19:53.86.
“The main goal was to get to state,” Heaton said. “I like running in the cold. You just do what you have to do. I think we are ranked third going in (to the state meet). So, that is the goal. To go out and get third.”
Other Russia runners included Anna Fiessinger, 21, 20:22.43; Megan Frazier, 36, 20:55.29; Claire Meyer, 38, 21:01.02; Shae Goubeaux, 43, 21:14.81; and Beky Pinchot, 54, 21:40.26.
Covington earned its first trip to state as a girls team since 1999.
“I thought all the girls ran great today,” Covington coach Josh Long said. “This has been a goal all year, but really we haven’t talked about it that much. We told the girls they just needed to go out and run their normal race today. They didn’t have to do anything special.”
Carly Shell led Covington with a second-place finish in 19:26.14. Chloe Flora won in 18:50.11.
“The goal was for the team to get to state,” Shell said. “I can’t even tell you the last team we made it to state as a team. It is definitely going to be better having a whole team over there at state. I just wanted to run my hardest today. I want to get on the podium next week, but I know I am going to really have to run well to do it.”
Long was not surprised by Shell’s performance.
“Carly deserces this,” he said. “She went through some stuff (injuries) last year and she has worked really hard to get to where she was. To be honest, she was right where I thought she would be.”
Anna Dunn and Ashlyn Plessinger were 17th and 18th in 20:15.13 and 20.17.82 respectively. The rest of the Covington runners included Paige Boehringer, 27, 20:33.69; Kelsey Dysinger, 49, 21:30.27; Julianna Yingst, 71, 22:09.10; and Danielle Alexander, 77, 22:23.16.
Miami East broke new ground.
“No Miami East cross country team had ever made it to state,” East coach Alan Russell said. “It is pretty exciting right now. I am so proud of all the girls.”
Lorenza Savini, who had not run her typical race at the regional meet the last two years, led the Lady Vikings with a fifth-place finish in 19:39.61.
“Two years ago, I didn’t warm up enough — then last year, I warmed up too much,” Savini said. “I just wanted to run my best race. It is an incredible feeling to be going to state.”
Russell was not surprised by her performance.
“We came down here to the Troy Invitational so the girls could run a race fast all year, Lorenza has been so strong all year. She hasn’t finished worse than fifth in a race all year. She ran a great. All the girls did.”
The rest of the Lady Vikings included Lindsey Yingst, 30, 20:43.93; Marie Ewing, 33, 20:48.72; Emma DeWeese, 48, 21:23.71; Kaitlyn Mack, 60, 21:49.42; Sami Sands, 74, 21:12.38; and Emily Hawkins, 98, 23:27.38.
Knepp is still a little bit in awe of what she has accomplished.
As a freshman, she finished seventh in 19:47.94 to become what could well be Bradford’s first runner at the state meet.
“It is pretty amazing,” she said. “I didn’t run cross country in junior high so I never expected this. My friend talked me into running junior high track last spring. I broke the high school record for the mile (in junior high), so I figured I better run cross country. It feels great to be going to state.”
Zimmerman had a plan from day one this year — return to state.
the junior had made it to state as a freshman, but injuries kept her from making it last year.
“After the tendinitis last year, state was the goal,” Zimmerman said. “I didn’t really think about district or this race. It was about state. Last year, even with the tendinits, I made it to regionals. I just didn’t have anything left. I was smarter with the way I trained this year and made sure I was still fresh for this race.”
She finished 12th in 20:02.19 — and knew exactly where she was the whole race.
“I wanted to know where I was,” she said. “I know some runners don’t run well doing that. But, I wanted to make sure I knew exactly where I was. And our fans did a great job of letting me know.”
The state meet is at National Trail Raceway in Hebron on Saturday.
The D-III girls race kicks things off at 11 a.m.