TROY — When the cross country season officially began back in August, Eaton coach Randy McKinney wasn’t sure what to expect from his girls team.
Last year’s team had reached the regional level for the first time in several years and the hope was a return trip.
The Eagles returned five of their top seven runners from a year ago, but an influx of talented freshmen made it clear early on they were there to earn their spot.
The level of competition pushed each of them in practice on a daily basis and the team – with five freshmen among the top seven – made a return trip to Troy for the Division II regional on Saturday, Oct. 26.
In cold, rainy, windy conditions, the Eagles finished seventh overall with 157 points. The top three teams and 12 individuals qualified for this week’s state meet.
The field consisted of four teams ranked in the top 20 in the state.
Oakwood won the regional with 71 points. Springfield Shawnee was second with 77 and Tippecanoe was third with 86.
“I had a hope that we could get to the regionals. Because of the overall youth of the group I really didn’t know what they were capable of doing. I’ve been very pleased with what they’ve done. It’s been surprising in a lot of ways to be really honest. More so than we thought it would be. A lot of positive things happened during the year,” McKinney said.
“We got a lot of experience today. We came in sitting seventh and that’s where we finished. We closed the gap on us and Waynesville. That’s was a team we really hadn’t been close to all season long. In our race we had four top 20 state ranked teams and only three got to go. So that made it difficult to begin with. The top three teams come from our district which says a lot about our district.”
Waynesville finished sixth with 152 points.
Freshman Kiera Elliott was 17th overall in 20:03.84. She was followed by junior Cari Metz, who was 35th in 20:53.59 and freshman Kaili Hewitt, who was 36th in 20:55.85.
Freshman Lauren Guiley was 46th in 21:17.21 and freshman Rylie Hayes was 50th in 21:21.73.
Junior Rachel Buckler was 72nd in 22:25.33 and freshman Stephanie Gibson was 74th in 22:30.49.
“We ran like we ran with five freshmen today,” McKinney said. “I know it was important to them, they ran hard and we got a lot of valuable experience and that’s the key. It’s what we do with what happened today from the is point forward that matters. You can’t wait for year and say ‘oh, this is how I felt last year.’ You’ve got to remember how you felt and work through those things.”
McKinney said it was a nice way to finish the season.
“Great finish to a really solid season,” he said. “I told them, sometimes our program makes this look easy because we get here and people don’t understand how difficult it is just to get here. Much less to get to that next level.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or followe on Twitter @emowen_RH