Winning the school’s first girls cross country league championship didn’t come unexpectedly for Clay coach Dave Hess.
The Eagles, runners-up behind Notre Dame Academy last season, claimed the Three Rivers Athletic Conference title on Oct. 12 at Walsh Park in Fremont. They scored just 27 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Notre Dame’s 72 points.
“We were the team to beat (in the TRAC) all year,” said Hess, in his 25th season. “We had beaten them earlier, and that was our goal. They were the defending champs and the team to beat, but we performed like we should have. We ran solid. To score 27 points at the league meet, we’re running pretty good. Hopefully we’re not peaking yet. We should be getting close.”
Hess said finally winning a conference championship was “overdue.”
“We’ve been close a few times,” he said. “It felt good to get it.”
Senior Erin Gyurke was the individual TRAC champion, finishing in a season-best time of 17:57.5. Hess said Gyurke, who placed eighth at last year’s state meet, sets the tone for the entire team.
“We tell her to be out front and get a low number for the team,” Hess said. “She’s done that consistently. Our No. 2 runner feeds off her and it just goes from there. She sets the tone in workouts as well. That’s where the leadership shows more, in practice.”
Sophomore Haley Hess was second overall at the TRAC meet, finishing in 18:42.8.
“That was her best performance of the season,” coach Hess said. “She did a nice job. She was right there, ready to pop a good (time).”
Freshman Sydney Hess was sixth in 19:55.9, followed by sophomore Hannah Hess (seventh, 19:58.0), freshman Caitlyn Kuecher (11th, 20:15.0) and juniors Brooke Gyori (29th, 21:31.2) and Jessy Bohland (42nd, 23:33.2).
Freshman Madison Miller ran in the open race and had “a real good race,” according to coach Hess.
“They’re all doing a really nice job,” he said. “The strength of the team is where our fifth runner is. We want them to be as close to Erin and Haley as possible.”
Clay will compete in the Division I district meet on Saturday at Pearson Park. The top four teams advance to next week’s regional meet at Hedges-Boyer Park in Tiffin. The Eagles were a regional qualifier a year ago.
“We think we have a real good shot of advancing,” Hess said. “Hopefully in the process we can win a district title without having to run all out. That would be nice to accomplish that. It gets tougher from there. We’ll take it one week at a time, and hopefully we peak at regionals and have another good run the following week.”
Clay’s boys team finished sixth at the TRAC meet, scoring 139 points. St. Francis de Sales won with 44 points. Junior Vanya Barron was the Eagles’ top placer, taking 18th in 17:31.7. Junior Matthew Gibbons was 19th in 17:34.0.