PENINSULA — Alyssa Deeds has been running well all year.
Her senior season previously included a 16th-place finish at the Spartan Invitational and a seventh-place finish at the Strongsville Invitational.
"We’ve kind of been waiting for it," Twinsburg coach Sarah Kmet said. "She’s been running really well. We were just waiting for that breakthrough race."
On Saturday, the Tigers got that breakthrough race, as Deeds won the CVNP Invitational against a challenging field.
"It’s a great feeling," Deeds said. "It’s my senior year, so it’s nice to have a win going into postseason to boost my confidence. This course is tough so it just really lifts my spirits."
Tough is an understatement.
The Kendall Hills course — located in the middle of Cuyahoga Valley National Park — is full of significant inclines. Add in temperatures that approached the nineties and the challenge was clear.
"She’s mentally tough so these kinds of courses don’t faze her and she’s physically tough," Kmet said. "These are the types of courses that she excels on, the ones that have the uphills and the ones that are more physically demanding, she thrives in those scenarios."
On a course that left many shaking their heads, Deeds left with a gold medal, her first since her freshman season. Entering the race, Deeds and Kmet had a feeling Peninsula might be the place to do it. The only other time she ran at the CVNP Invitational, as a freshman, she took second.
"I think I had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder wanting to come back and win it as a senior," Deeds said. "It’s a great thing to do."
On Saturday, Deeds ran perfectly according to plan, using the harrowing middle mile of the Kendall Hills course to increase her margin.
"She ran a really savvy race," Kmet said. "She was very patient that first mile. We knew the middle mile was where it starts getting tough, so she just did work in the middle mile and just created that gap and then it was game over so she ran really, really well."
While many runners don’t love hills, Deeds said she "has always had a thing for hills" and a hilly course "just feels like home to me."
"She doesn’t have flat-out track speed," Kmet said. "She’s good in track but she’s not someone that’s going to run a five-minute mile so the only way I can describe it is she’s a strong runner. She’s physically strong and for some, the speedsters, (a hilly course) takes away their speed, so they don’t compete well on these types of courses because they don’t have that strength."
The Tigers also got another strong performance from another senior as Rebecca Mold took eighth.
"Very similar," Kmet said. "She ran smart in that she was patient mile one and that was the plan and we talked about top ten and Rebecca always wants more out of her races but I think today was one of her better overall races."
Completing Twinsburg’s five scorers on the girls side were: junior Katie Vasiliauskas (25th), senior April Dale (40th) and senior Annabelle Dolney (44th).
"It’s just the mindset," Deeds said. "You can’t really go in here, thinking you’re going to run a crazy, fast time. It’s just not a fast course, so you just have to be mentally tough and really work on that aspect of running. When those hills start to get hard, you just kind of have to get a change of gears and just really motivate yourself to get up those hills."
On the boys side, seniors Mitchell Suder, Christian Harsa and Will Corbin crossed less than four seconds apart to take 37th, 39th and 40th, respectively.
"We had Christian Harsa and Will Corbin run really well, packed well right behind Mitchell Suder," Kmet said. "That was really good to see that packing up."
Freshman Vince Sciarabba took 73rd while fellow freshman Max Howard took 81st, crossing seconds ahead of junior Brian Nesic (84th).
"We told them all week long we don’t care about time, it’s all about place," Kmet said. "This course is for mental strength. You’re going to beat teams, if all things being equal, with a positive attitude on this, like, ‘We’re going to attack, we got this.’ People that look at this and go, ‘Oh gosh, this is going to be so (tough),’ they don’t run well. That’s just the bottom line."