By Mark Schmetzer, Enquirer contributor
Kinsey McBeath hadn’t run much varsity cross country for Mason before this season, according to Comets coach Chip Dobson.
The senior still had enough experience to know what she had to do down the stretch of Saturday’s Division I state meet.
“I knew I had to keep passing people,” she said. “I passed more than I normally do.”
McBeath’s finish helped Mason, the No. 1 team in the Enquirer’s Division I coaches’ poll and No. 3 team in the statewide coaches’ rankings, clinch its second consecutive state championship. The Comets had a 16-point lead over runnerup Beavercreek, the state’s fourth-ranked team, through each team’s first four finishers before McBeath finished 20 places and 15 points ahead of the Beavers’ fifth-place finisher.
“It was a great team effort,” Dobson said. “We’ve had a lot of girls step up and fill holes this year. This has been a challenging year. One of our girls had anemia and our top two probably ran their worst race last week at regionals. We certainly didn’t go into this meet thinking it was in the bag. The girls were a little excited this week, but we still had a little doubt set in after last week. We spent the week getting rid of some demons.
“We knew it had to be a team effort, and nobody wanted to just along for the ride.”
St. Ursula junior Annie Heffernan won the Division I individual state championship, finished ahead of the defending state champion, Lebanon senior Jacquelyn Crow, by almost 13 seconds.
“I was feeling really, really good,” Heffernan, St. Ursula’s first individual cross-country champion, said about her race. “I started our pacing myself, and at the finish, I just let it go.”
Crow didn’t seem to be too disappointed about not being able to defend her title.
“I’m just so happy about being able to experience what I have,” she said. “It’s been a real blessing competing in something I love and doing it well.”
Sophomore Leah Ford finished 14th and freshman Ellie Brush 15th to set the pace for the Comets, who ended beating the Beavers by 31 points.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” McBeath said. “It’s crazy to think about. We knew it was going to be close.”
Ursuline, No. 2 in both the Enquirer and state, finished third in the state, ahead of state poll-champion Centerville. Senior Christine Frederic finished fourth and junior Catherine Finke seventh to pace Ursuline.
Individually, Mercy senior Emma Hatch finished fifth and Lakota East junior Abbie VanFossen 11th in Division I.
The top two teams in each division earned trophies, and the top 16 individuals in each division earned medals.
Summit Country Day, the Enquirer’s Division II-III poll champion and No. 8 team in the state and runnerup in the Division III regional meet at Troy on October 26, finished 10th in the state Division race.
A total of 435 girls competed in three divisions in the 36th annual girls race, which was run over a 5,000-meter course laid out at National Trail Raceway.
The races were run under mostly cloudy skies with intermittent rain and temperatures around 50 degrees.