Jon Huff | The Gazette
PENINSULA — Despite the recent trend of minimalist running, Cloverleaf’s Ashley Murray had no plans of running her race barefoot.
That changed early at the Woodridge Invitational when another runner stepped on her shoe.
“This is probably the worst race you could lose your shoe on — half this place is gravel,” Murray said. “But I worked through it. I pushed through. I was like, ‘You know what? This is my senior year, I’m going to push through it.’”
Murray continued running with one shoe. She finished in sixth place.
“Next time I’m having a bad race I’ll be like, ‘You ran the hardest course in the state with one shoe on,’” she said.
Teammate Riley Freeland came to the line right behind Murray for her fifth top-10 finish of the year. The pairing of Murray and Freeland has developed into one of the top tandems in Medina County.
“When we ran the race, every time (Murray) would pass me, I’d tell her, ‘Good job, good job, keep going,’” Freeland said. “Then I’d pass her back. We passed probably five or six times.
“We keep pushing each other really hard, so we both get better.”
“It’s nice having someone out there to push me knowing that if I have a bad race, someone can come in right behind me,” Murray said. “We push off each other through the races. I don’t like going out fast. She keeps me going out fast.”
Powered by the duo, the Colts took fifth. Anna Winnicki (27th), Faith Theobald (67th) and Hannah Swain (75th) also scored.
“This is a big invitational,” coach Garth Gucker said. “We’re a little bit dinged up. We sat a couple of our top seven runners to nurse some injuries, so we didn’t really know what to expect.
“To have two runners in the top-seven at an invitational like this is phenomenal. We had some girls step up. Anna Winnicki ran a great race. Faith Theobald stepped in and was our fourth runner as a freshman. It was a really good team effort.”
Woodridge coasted to victory on its home course with all five scorers finishing in the top 15. Watkins Memorial finished second led by Josie Woosley’s individual win.
Twinsburg won the boys team title with a one-two finish by Garrett Crichlow and Nick Schank. Crichlow won the race easily, taking the lead early and never letting up.
Buckeye’s Colin Theis finished seventh as the Bucks took 12th. Theis battled throughout the race, reaching as high as fourth. The race gave Theis his first taste of racing in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
“This was a very unique course with all those hills and just, torture,” Theis said. “I like the hills, but I don’t take them very well. It felt like I was barely moving up those hills. But on the downhills I was just taking people. So it felt good on the downhills. The uphills, not so much.”
The Kendall Hills course is one of the toughest in the state. Hills dominate the landscape with few flat spots. From peaks to valleys, the course covers almost 150 feet of elevation. Killer Hill alone climbs 100 feet within a half mile.
“A lot of the new runners, they’ve never seen anything like this before,” Gucker said.
“We haven’t come here in a couple years,” Buckeye coach Jon Brenenstuhl said. “It’s something new for them and an experience. We didn’t talk too much about the course before we came. They knew it was hilly, but I wanted to let them experience it for themselves. It gives them a different challenge, a change of pace.”
Contact Jon Huff at email@example.com.