It was quite possibly the greatest performance ever by the Tallmadge girls cross country team.
The Blue Devils not only won the 14-team Division II race with 53 points at the Ashley White-STUMPF Memorial Invitational Saturday at Marlington High School in Alliance, they ran so well collectively that they would have won the five-team Division I race, too.
"I was extremely proud of the girls," Tallmadge head coach Jeremy Huth said. "It was the first time the girls have won a meet since I’ve been the head coach."
Salem (100) and Canton Central Catholic (121) finished second and third, respectively.
As usual, seniors Kenna Loveless and Ravyn Edge led the way for the Blue Devils. Loveless finished second out of 152 runners with a time of 19 minutes, 30.7 seconds. Edge captured fifth with a time of 19:55.6.
Salem’s Carly Hall won the competition with a clocking of 19:18.4. Rounding out the top five for Tallmadge were freshman Kat Carter (14th, 21:12.7) and sophomores Ana Crangle (15th, 21:17.3) and Katrina Hunt (17th, 21:21.8).
"Kenna and Ravyn ran great," Huth said. "There was one girl in that race who Kenna knew had the potential to beat her and that girl went our super quick. Kenna had a solid performance. She had a fantastic race up front, but if you look at our top five scores, we had three girls, Nos. 3, 4 and 5, really close together. They were within about nine seconds of each other. That is huge when you’re looking at a team score."
"Overall, I'm happy with how I ran and I'm really happy with how our team ran," Loveless said. "Everyone ran well. There were a lot of personal records. I love that we have two girls up there because that helps our team a lot. In workouts, we get to work together and run with each other and push each other, so that makes us better all around, I think.
"I know [Kat, Ana and Katrina] were in a pack just racing together, learning how to work together throughout the race, so I think going into later races and going into the postseason, we’re going to be really good this year.
"There’s a little competitiveness because we want to beat each other, but we’re also working together out there and trying to help the team."
Carter is certainly coming into her own after her stellar performance Saturday.
"Kat is definitely becoming a huge leader with his group that’s running behind Kenna and Ravyn," Huth said. "She’s very consistent. Our other girls kind of base their efforts off her because she’s so consistent. Every week, Kat is out there doing what she needs to do.
"Ana and Katrina finally stepped it up and made the decision to just run with confidence and be with Kat. When you have three girls who are running those times only seconds away from each other, good things happen and they finally saw the outcome of that by winning that meet."
It was the first time the Blue Devils ran on that particular course, so there was a learning curve.
"The course was kind of confusing, but I really liked it," Loveless said. "It made you kind of think of how you’re going to take this turn and different strategies throughout the race. A lot of the turns were pretty sharp so that was interesting, but I liked it. It was a good course. The team studied the course on Baum’s Page throughout the week, so we were ready, going into it."
Tallmadge is off until the Galion Cross Country Festival, which is scheduled for Sept. 14 at 9 a.m.
"The girls have a lot of confidence right now," Huth said. "The only bad thing about having a week off is when you win a meet, you want to come back the next week and win the next one. But we have a week to get healthy, prepare and be ready to run Galion."
"I think [the win at Marlington] will build a lot of confidence throughout our entire team of what we can do, what we can do in the postseason and just carry it throughout and see what we can do at the end," Loveless said.