The Field junior knew she was probably going

By Tom Hardesty Record-Courier staff writer Published:

The Field junior knew she was probably going to finish in the top three, but could only wonder what her teammates were doing further back in the field.

"I was hoping I could do my part," she said, "and that they would be able to do theirs."

They did _ and then some.

Two other Field runners finished in the top 26 and the fifth runner was 73rd, giving the Falcons their second consecutive state championship with a decisive 96-119 margin over runner-up Pemberville Eastwood on Saturday at Scioto Downs.

The state title was the fourth in five years for the Field cross country program, with the boys winning championships in 1994 and '97.

The girls' repeat state title was especially sweet, since the Falcons returned almost their entire lineup intact from a year ago and were in the crosshairs of every opponent they ran against this fall.

"There was a lot more pressure put on them since they were trying to repeat and were ranked No. 1 all year in the coaches' poll," said Field coach Bill Huntington. "I try to play that down, but it's still in the back of their minds. The girls knew they had a shot. We only lost one of our top five runners after winning it last year, so we had four coming back. That's a good nucleus to build around.

"It can't get a whole lot better than this. They're such good kids _ they're coachable, they stay out of trouble, they get good grades. I can't ask for any better girls to work with."

Mars and junior Kathy Shell earned all-state status by placing in the top 25. Mars, fourth a year ago, was third Saturday in 18:33, while Shell was 23rd in 19:25. Heather Patch, the lone senior in Field's top seven, just missed making all-state by placing 26th in 19:32.

Junior Shanna Craig was 62nd in 20:16 and the fifth runner, sophomore Dawn Hollis, was 73rd in 20:24. Also, sophomore Dee Cramer was 77th (20:30) and freshman Sheena Lemmons 150th (22:29).

Huntington had a strong feeling from the opening moments of the race that his team could bring the state title back to Brimfield for the second year in a row.

"I felt real good in the first half-mile," he said, "because our top three girls were in the top 30 and I knew we could improve on that as the race went on. I knew we were in good shape when I saw that."

For a long while, Mars appeared on track to win the race. She was first at the two-mile mark and second at the 2 1/2-mile juncture, and eventually finished third behind champion Jessica Oakes of Springfield Northwestern (18:29.6) and runner-up Stephanie Anderson of Conneaut (18:30).

"Me and (Oakes) were on and off," said Mars. "She would be leading me a little, then I would be leading her a little. We were on and off like that for a long time.

"I thought I could win it if I could get far enough ahead by the time we got into the stadium, because (Oakes and Anderson) are sprinters. They're fast and I'm not. I thought I'd have to be at least 10 meters ahead coming in, but I couldn't get that far ahead."

But it didn't matter. The Falcons were simply too deep, too talented and too much for the best the state has to offer.

"You get down to this level, and unless there's a dominant team, anybody can have a good day or somebody can fall apart," said Huntington. "You never know. You've got to get people in the right positions and give yourself a chance."

The Falcons did exactly that _ and gave themselves their second straight state championship.

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