Monday, November 9th, 2009
Minster girls win state title for eighth time
By Bruce Monnin
The Minster girls cross country team poses with the Division III state champions. . .
COLUMBUS - There is a wooden board set up at the state cross country meet that is out of sight of the fans at the event. This is where the results first get posted, and where coaches and athletes gather to see how they did and who won.
When the results for the Division III girls cross country race were posted, the person closest to the board proclaimed, "Look, Minster won."
There was soft chuckling from the rest of the people gathered, the type you hear when someone states the obvious.
That's what happens when a program becomes as consistently successful as the Minster girls have been the last 11 years under coach Jessie Magoto. The Wildcats have won seven championships, finished second twice and third twice during that span.
That type of consistency has led the Minster girls to eight state championships, passing Cleveland Heights Beaumont for the most titles earned by any girls' team in the state of Ohio. They are now just one championship behind the record of nine set by the Caldwell boys between 1973 and 1992.
Minster senior Jessica Albers was participating in her fourth state meet, while juniors Maria Dahlinghaus, Averie Bornhorst and Sophia Richard were at Scioto Downs for the third time. All four finished within 25 seconds of the time they ran last week, and all but Richard ran within 21 seconds of their time at last year's state meet.
"The whole season has been consistent," said Albers. "I ran how I have been every race, steady early on and then trying to move up at the end."
As the lone senior on the squad, Albers saw part of her job as providing guidance to the underclassmen.
"I try to give the freshmen all the advice I can, but it is difficult because they've been around the team so long," said Albers.
While the upperclassmen were a known quantity coming in, the unknowns for Minster were sophomore Samantha Hoelscher and freshmen Hannah Butler and Natalie Fausey.
"Underclassmen are always a wild card," admitted Magoto. "It is always good to have some upperclassmen who have experience and some underclassmen who are a bit naïve."
Butler posted a solid time of her own, only eight seconds slower than she ran at the Troy regional. It was the other two underclassmen who provided pleasant surprises for the Wildcats.
Samantha Hoelscher had been struggling badly at the end of the season.
"I had weak district and regional races," she explained. "Coach put a lot of confidence in my mind this week."
It must have worked, as Hoelscher went from being the seventh-best runner on the team at regionals to the fifth best at state, dropping over a minute off her regional time.
"I just kept telling myself during the race that it didn't hurt," said Hoelscher.
But Fausey was to provide the biggest shock of the race. The freshman was only the sixth-fastest Wildcat at the regional meet, but she reduced her time by over a minute and a half to become the top Minster runner on the day and to place 15th in the state, thus earning all-Ohio honors.
"I was ready to go," recounted Fausey, whose run was also 30 seconds faster than her previous personal record. "I knew that this race really counted and I wanted to help the team. The course felt short and I felt good."
While other coaches may have taken the Minster win to be no big deal, the same could hardly be said for the Wildcat teams and coaches. They had gone to retrieve their equipment from the start line and were not present when the results were first posted. When told they had won the championship, the girls hugged and celebrated while Magoto was unconvinced. Showing speed that eclipsed any shown by her team that day, she sprinted for the results board to see with her own eyes.
"You want to believe you've won, but until you receive the official results it is hard to do so," added Magoto. "The ups and downs with these girls can give you a heart attack."