By John Bombatch
FAIRBORN — She had never won a race before.
Xenia junior Sarah Hites jumped out to a sizable lead and ‘never looked back’ to win the high school girls cross country meet during Wednesday’s Fairborn Invitational, held at Fairborn Community Park.
“It was hard, but I was feeling good,” Hites said, moments after crossing the finish line with a personal-best time of 21:14. “I go into the race and I just hope to do the best I can. When I saw the finish line, I just knew that I needed to get done.
“This feels great. I’m extremely happy right now.”
Hites finished 44 seconds ahead of runner-up Emily Belovich from Springfield Catholic Central. New Carlisle Tecumseh’s Maria Gilles was third, with Cincinnati Princeton’s Sara Marshall and Vanessa Capel rounding out the top-5.
Princeton placed three Viking runners in the top-10, but Tecumseh finished with five runners in the top-21 to earn the girls team title.
Hites had never won a cross country event before. Her previous best finish came last weekend at the Miamisburg Invitational where she finished 11th out of 245 runners with a time of 21:16. She said she started feeling that she had a chance to win the race after the two-mile mark.”But I never look behind me when I run, so I wasn’t sure,” she said. Her goal is to get her finish times into the 20-minute range.A trio of Yellow Springs runners — Charlotte Walkey (14th), Olivia Bintlinger-Con (20th) and Maya Creighton (22nd) — finished among the top-25 in the girls race.
Hites’ Buccaneer teammate Rachel Claus was 24th, with Cedarville runners Kayla Helmick and Ryanne Rinaldi placing 25th and 26th respectively.
In the boys high school race, Princeton’s Brandon Mullins won by 19 seconds over Tecumseh’s Andy Gemmaka with a time of 16:50. Sidney’s Jared Tangeman finished third, with Xenia’s Brendan Orchard fourth and Sidney’s Chris Musser fifth.
Orchard said he’d improved since last week’s Miamisburg event.
“It’s an after-school meet, so that’s obviously going to affect your performance. I felt a little bit tired going into it, but I think I ran a lot better than the (Miamisburg) meet, where I kind of mentally died in the second or third mile,” Orchard said. “In this meet, I just kept moving up, passed as many runners as possible, and I was able to finish strong.”
Sidney earned the boys team title, with Kettering Fairmont finishing second. Wayne, Cedarville and Xenia rounded out the boys top-5 teams.
Cedarville runners Timothy Stevenson (12th), Wesley Williams (16th) and Nick Christman (18th) all earned solid finishes among the top-20 boys runners, and Yellow Springs’ Levi Brown finished 21st.
Daniel Kehoe (72nd) turned in the top running performance for the Fairborn boys. Noelle Townsend and Madeline Calhoun finished 46th and 47th respectively to lead the Skyhawk girls contingent.
“I’m pretty impressed with most of our times,” said Fairborn assistant coach Kate Canepa. “I’m happy overall with how they performed. They finished hard, and that was nice to see. It’s nice to see those photo finishes where they give it their all and don’t let someone edge them out at the finish. They were pushing it to the end, and that’s always exciting to see.”
In the middle school races, Beavercreek’s Jacob Coy Middle School had Taylor Ewert win the shorter event in a time of 12:29, with teammate Jodie Pierce finishing second (13:13) and Molly Bernhard fifth. Yellow Springs’ Bella Edwards also finished in the top-10 with a seventh place finish.
Tecumseh had Garrett Gemmaka win the event in 11:46, with Arrow teammate Drew Sarihan second in 11:55. Bellbrook’s Tyler Dreischarf led area runners in the boys middle school race with a fourth place finish, and Coy’s Thomas Gill finished seventh.