CENTERBURG — Belief, determination and effort. Those three things have lifted the Centerburg girls cross country team to a berth in the 2009 OHSAA State Cross Country Championship at Scioto Downs on Saturday.
“I think we’re ready,” said Centerburg coach Sean Sweeney. “I think there’s a bit of nerves with the girls, but that’s expected. This is the first state meet they have ever been to for this group. They seem all right. They are always very competitive.”
Victoria Holt, who will lead her Trojan teammates on Saturday, is a study in the power of positive thinking. As her positive attitude grew stronger, her times dropped.
“Victoria’s development has been very interesting,” said Sweeney. “At the beginning of the season, she wasn’t even our No. 1 runner. She has just developed into that gung-ho, take-charge-type runner. She’s been like that all the way through. She really got a huge reward (last) weekend by being All-Regional. I still think she can run better and I hope I can see that this weekend, but a lot of her development has been her own desire.”
They were the Mid-Buckeye Conference’s best kept secret as they toiled against Division I teams. The Trojans, however, knew they were good.
“They were always ultra-competitive,” said Sweeney, “They just flew under the radar. They ran a lot of Division I races and they ran a lot of big races and a lot of people didn’t notice that. Back in the summer, when we spent a week at Delaware State Park together, that was when they realized just how good they can be. A lot of our belief comes from our freshmen. They don’t know what it’s like to lose. They won two years of the conference in middle school. They have brought a whole new attitude that I haven’t seen in a while.”
It was at the MBC meet, when all eyes were on the Johnstown girls, that Holt stole the show. Holt outdistanced the field. More importantly, she along with her teammates, proved that they belonged with the best.
“It gave her a lot of confidence,” said Sweeney. “It also showed her and the team that time is irrelevant. Victoria wants to break 20:00 but, if you look at how she has run since that meet, realistically, she has gotten better in every meet. Even though her times haven’t gotten better, placewise she has gotten better.”
In their third-place finish in last week’s District, behind Johnstown and Northmor, the Trojans landed three runners in the top 20 including Holt, Brett Teiga and Holt’s freshman sister, Amelia.
“They have gotten extremely aggressive,” said Sweeney. “Brett Teiga has stepped up since the league meet and really closed that gap between Victoria and her, which has brought Amelia right with her. The two of them have consistently closed that gap down. I think that you will see it closed down more this weekend. It’s not that Victoria is running slower. They’re just running faster.”
The same sort of things are happening further back in the pack between Elizabeth Holsapple and freshmen Alyssa Burton, Ali Socie and Gabriella O’Donnell.
“Eli Holsapple has really stepped up,” said Sweeney. “She has pulled Alyssa Burton, Ali Socie and Gabriella O’Donnell closer to Brett and Amelia. We only have three upperclassmen (Victoria Holt, Teiga and Holsapple) but they are really beginning to understand their role and have really accepted it.”
Now, these young Trojans will have a chance to show all of Ohio the power of positive thinking, along with discipline and desire.
“(Last Saturday) their youth could have gotten the best of them,” said Sweeney. “They could have gone out there and run completely out of control. One of the credits that I heard from all of the coaches that weekend was that they couldn’t believe how under control this young group ran and how they ran smart but also ran very, very well. I think everyone has underestimated this team throughout the season.”