Clay sophomore Haley Hess realized she actually had a chance to become the school’s second individual regional cross country meet champion about one mile into last Saturday’s Division I race at Hedges-Boyer Park in Tiffin.
“I was feeling good,” she said.
Hess passed teammate Erin Gyurke, who finished eighth at last year’s state meet, just before the mile marker and went on to win the regional title with a time of 18:31.26, her season best. Her PR up to that point was 18:42, which she ran at the Three Rivers Athletic Conference meet a week earlier, helping the Eagles claim their first conference championship.
“I was very excited,” Hess said of the regional win. “I ran a good time, my fastest time. I train with Erin every day. She’s a little faster than me and she sets the pace. Usually she’s in front of me.”
|Clay cross country runner Erin Gyurke during
the Three Rivers Athletic Conference meet,
which the Eagles won. (Press photo by Scott
The Eagles, who also got a 16th-place finish from freshman Sydney Hess (19:21.5), grabbed the fourth and final qualifying spot to this Saturday’s state meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. The top four teams and top 16 individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state.
Also contributing to Clay’s girls advancing to their first-ever state meet were freshman Caitlyn Kuecher (27th, 19:45.3), sophomore Hannah Hess (64th, 20:33.7), junior Brooke Gyori (87th, 20:53.9) and freshman Madison Miller (97th, 21:09.7).
“We’re excited,” Clay coach Dave Hess said. “We had two team goals this year, to win the league champioinship and to make it to state as a team. We were sixth as a team last year in the regional, so our goal was to definitely get out this year. It wasn’t pretty, but we moved out.”
Gyurke, a two-time state qualifier, did not finish the regional race.
“She’s been dealing with an issue in her hip,” coach Hess said. “We don’t believe it’s related to that. We don’t know. She was just out of it. The pace wasn’t too fast for her. Something just wasn’t clicking for her. She acted like a runner who was completely spent and had nothing left. We knew the pace wasn’t too fast for her; she’s run faster than that. With about 300 meters to go, she just couldn’t go any further.”
Hess said he expects Gyurke to compete at the state meet. He added that he was proud of the other team members for stepping up and getting Clay a top-four finish.
“We thought we had missed out on it,” he said. “It was a rollercoaster of emotions for a little while. We had five girls who ran PR’s or season bests. A lot of people don’t think of cross country as a team sport, but those of us in the sport know how much of a team sport it is. What happened Saturday just reinforced it more. Hopefully, this will give one of the best girls in the state a chance to run another race on Saturday.”
Haley Hess became the Eagles’ second individual regional champion, joining Kati Sekinger. Hess was a state qualifier last fall, finishing 56th in 19:05.0.
“Haley’s shown all season that she’s right there,” coach Hess said. “She trains with Erin every day in practice. She showed what kind of runner she is. She was mentally tough and raced for her teammates. I’m not surprised.”
Haley Hess said getting the entire squad to the state meet is a “good feeling.”
“As a team, we’re all really close,” she said. “We get along really well and I’m really excited we’re all going together as a team. If everyone runs 100 percent, we hope to finish in the top five.”
Hannah Hess also qualified to the state meet as an individual last season and placed 83rd in 19:30.3.
“Hannah’s just looking for a solid performance,” coach Hess said. “Hopefully she can do better than last year. She has a foot injury that has been bothering her, and she was a minute off at the regional this year. We’ll just try to get her back to where she normally is, in the 19:40s, and get Erin to run what she is capable of. We know we can compete as a team down there.”