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HEBRON, Ohio — Liberty Center showed the heart of a Tiger on Saturday on the way to repeating as the Division III girls state cross country champion.
And Northview senior Janelle Noe displayed plenty of heart in leading the Wildcats to their best showing at the Division I state championships.
Noe ripped through the 5,000-meter course at National Trail Raceway in a school-record time of 17 minutes, 40.88 seconds. Lebanon's Jacquelyn Crow outran Noe down the final stretch to cross the finish line first with a winning time of 17:39.31.
"I'm overly excited because this is an amazing experience for me," Noe said, moments after completing the best race of her career. "This is more than I could have ever asked for. It's a great way to end my senior year."
The Wildcats earned their highest finish at the state championships by placing fourth with 158 points. Robin Foster (19th, 18:32.59) and Mallory Small (74th, 19:21.21) also posted personal-record times to help Northview's cause. Abigail Masters (29th, 18:46.43) and Rachel Audet (128th, 20:19.71) certainly did their part in the Wildcats making history for the cross country program.
"Overall, I'm pleased because we had some great performances today," Northview coach Jodie Smith said. "Fourth place is the highest place Northview has ever placed, so these girls are thrilled with that, and I am thrilled with that."
Mason captured the Division I team championship with 42 points. Centerville placed a distant runner-up with 142 points, followed by Beavercreek 147.
Clay junior Erin Gyurke also placed in the top 10, finishing eighth with a time of 18:10.77. Clay freshmen Haley Hess and Hannah Hess, who are twins, placed 56th (19:05.09) and 83rd (19:30.36), respectively.
"Being in the Top 10 is amazing, and my time was all I could ask for," Gyurke said, who placed 16th at the state championships a year ago. "I ran a really good race and I'm really happy."
Notre Dame Academy freshman Stephanie Sherman also made a stellar showing by finishing 40th with a time of 18:56.67. Perrysburg junior Taylor Monheim held her own and finished 65th (19:09.26).
Led by sophomore Brittany Atkinson — who came up shy of repeating as individual state champion — the defending state champions came together to run their best race as a team this season. Atkinson placed second with a time of 18:06.67 to help the Tigers claim the state championship with 101 points.
LC coach Tim Atkinson, who is Brittany's father, praised the performance pulled off by the Tigers.
"The kids turned it up a notch, there's no question," said Atkinson, who is in his 23rd season as the Tigers coach. "They were just really driven."
LC's Kelly Haubert was also a Top 10 finisher, placing ninth (18:44.18), followed by Paige Chamberlain (15th, 19:00.68), Olivia Kundo (55th, 19:50.54), and Rachel Pinson (73rd, 20:10.73) to help the Tigers pull off the state-title repeat.
Coldwater, which was paced by individual state champion Sarah Kanney (17:58.03), placed second behind Liberty Center with 116 points.
"This is what we've all been working all summer for," Atkinson said. "We've worked hard, and it makes all the sweat and tears worth it because this is the best day of our lives.
"This [state title] feels a lot better."
Tim Atkinson said the team was on a mission and wanted to win for two LC faculty members, one who has been diagnosed with cancer and another who died in an automobile accident during the summer.
"I just wanted to give it my all, and I can honestly say I couldn't have pushed myself any harder," Brittany Atkinson said. "I'm just so happy that I can't even describe it.
"Sarah Kanney just ran a better race than me, and she's on a different level than I am, and that's something I can work toward."
Toledo Christian's Delainey Phelps altered her normal approach to running in a race and placed third overall behind Kanney and Atkinson with a time of 18:16.06.
"I normally lay back on the first mile and then just catch up on the second two miles, but this race I pretty much went all out on all three miles," said Phelps, a senior.
Liberty-Benton's Madi Greiner led her team to a 10th place team finish by crossing the finish line 40th (19:36.11). Mackenzie Briggs (71st, 20:07.06), Kate Baumlein (85th, 20:32.59), Taylor Thomas (93rd, 20:47.72) and Michaela Butler (103rd, 21:12.43) did their part for Liberty-Benton.
Genoa freshman Carly Gose finished 83rd (20:30.38).
In Division II, Wauseon sophomore Taylor Vernot took fourth place with a time of 18:24.88, and Eastwood junior Maddie Jackson came in at 38th with a time of 19:36.66.
"It was a good experience, and I hope to come back next year," Jackson said.
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary repeated as Division II champion by scoring 53 points.
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.