Ansonia Tigers' Matthew Lee. (Gaylen Blosser photo)

Ansonia XC shines at Troy Twilight Invitational

Ansonia Cross Country team posts season's best performance

TROY – The Ansonia Cross Country team posted their season’s best performance this past Saturday night at the Troy Twilight Invitational hosted at Troy Memorial Stadium. Nearly forty schools and hundreds of runners from across southwest Ohio came to throw their hat in the ring to see which teams and runners would come out on top in a unique race that’s run under the lights on the banks of the Great Miami River. A cool night, great competition, and a fast course all set the stage for the runners of the Tiger team to post some record setting efforts.

The junior high girls were first out of the gate. Ansonia was led by London Reichert [29th place] who crossed the line in 13:45, setting a new career personal record for herself and narrowly missing medal position in a race that featured over 180 girls from the area. Charlotte Barga [15:34] and Elise Hahn [15:43] were not far behind. Both girls also set new PR’s on the season. Mackenzie Billenstein [19:26] finished with a gutsy drive to bring home the junior high ladies’ best outing so far this season.

Next up were the junior high boys. Bennet Lehman broke out of the pack with a stunning 10:53.3 finish, posting the fastest time any Ansonia junior high boy has ever ran in school history. Bennett finished in 6th place overall in a race that had over 230 boys! Brady Wright [15:02] was next across for Ansonia, setting a new PR for himself of over a minute from his previous mark. Kevin Johnson was able to better his PR by over 2 minutes, finishing in a time of 15:57.

“I really think that the future is bright for these junior high kids,” said Ansonia coach, Jason Wright. “Nearly every one of our runners posted a new personal record on the season, and Bennett yet again came out and blew the doors off of his previous school record.”

“Bennett was a little banged up tonight and yet he was still able to come out and perform at this level,” Wright continued. “He splits time between our cross country team and our junior high football team, which is no easy feat. The time that he posted tonight is a true testament that he has a God-given ability most would dream of, but he also follows that up with an insatiable work ethic. He puts in a lot of hard work, and with the support of his family, continues to re-write the record books for our school.”

As the sun was setting, the high school girls took charge. Olivia Creager exploded through the pack and finished in a time of 22:31, giving her a 29th place finish among 267 girls! Emily Kelly had her best career finish in a time of 25:08 giving the Tiger senior a new PR.

“Olivia and Emily are really starting to come into their own this season,” Coach Wright noted. “They have been quietly moving up the pack and tonight, they did so a little more aggressively. Those girls work as hard as anyone in practice and it continues to show in their finishes. If they keep this up, I think they will really be some runners you will have to keep your eyes on.”

Under the cover of darkness, the high school boys came out on fire. In the Gray Division race, Ethan Sparks paced the men’s team with a blistering 18:33, finishing in 33rd place overall out of 371 competitors! Ian Brown was next across the line in a time of 20:55, setting a new season PR for the Tiger senior. Luken Longenecker [21:37], Gavin Stachler [21:56], and Brayden Barnes [23:39] finished the top 5 for Ansonia, each of whom earned new PR’s on the season and took off a combined 5 minutes of race times for the Tiger trio. The Tiger team placed 23rd overall in a race that featured runners from 35 different schools.

In the final race of the night, the Scarlet Division, Matthew Lee tore out of the starting box and found his stride near the lead group, crossing the finish line in a jaw-dropping time of 16:53.2. With that run, Matthew fought his way to a 36th place finish in a race of nearly 230 runners. This new mark re-writes the old Ansonia high school record previously held by Matthew from his race two weeks ago at Greenville [17:36.9].

“Man. What can I say about these young men,” said Wright. “They set the tone for us in practice and they continue to work their way up the line. Every runner hit a PR tonight, some took minutes off their previous marks. That does not happen without a lot of hard work and persistence. We preach that in practice all the time. From stretches to cool down, you go hard and give it all you have. They have bought in to that formula and it’s paying off.”

“Matthew [Lee] had a great night. He has been wanting this for so long [to get under 17] and I was thrilled to have a front-row seat for his finish. He works so hard, not just during the season, but all year long,” Coach Wright added. “Allen Newbauer has been such an inspiration to Matthew. Allen has taken him under his wing and guided him to be the runner he is today. You won’t find anyone better than him [Allen] at working with so many of our young, up-and-coming runners in the Darke county area. Our kids are blessed to have him as a resource and mentor throughout the year.”

The Tigers will now look toward their next race this coming Saturday at Versailles for the Tour de Sewer. Races start at 9 am. Make sure to come out and support all of our county’s cross country programs this Saturday at Versailles.

Staff Report

This article was written by someone else and submitted to Darke County Now for publication.

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