Thursday, October 3rd, 2013
St. Marys cross country had a special 1992 season
Last Curtain Call
By Robb Hemmelgarn
St. Marys athletics were a pretty sweet entity to be involved with during 1992.
The football team was steamrolling its way to a second state championship in three years. The boys' basketball team was on the cusp of advancing to the state tournament for the first time in school history and the girls' basketball squad picked up its first Western Buckeye League championship that winter.
That excitement surrounding the Roughriders also evolved on the cross country course during the fall as head coach Joe Ginter led his girls' team to places they had never been - at the pinnacle of the WBL
"I took the program over in 1989 as a first-year head coach. There was a great cross country program in place, but head coach Rich Seas left and they had no replacement, so I agreed to coach," said Ginter. "I remember two seniors who were a big part of that 1992 team - Jeanna James and Kristen Horn. Their leadership meant everything and I give them credit for helping to elevate both the boys' and girls' programs during their final season."
The year began with victories in New Bremen and St. Henry before the Roughriders finished second at the Celina Invitational. A couple more first-place finishes at Lima Central Catholic and New Knoxville were followed by another runner-up trophy at the Spencerville Invitational. From there, Ginter's girls rattled off victories in 12 consecutive meets, including the top spot at the Van Wert Invitational.
"I remember going into every year and working hard for it to be a special season but being my senior year we definitely knew it would be more special than the others," said Jeanna James, now Jeanna Godby. "Myself, Kristen and Heather Gill were the seniors and we had been running together for five years. There were so many runners that came along before us who set a great example and we wanted to accomplish the same success they had."
On October 19, 1992, the season came to a head in Faurot Park in Lima. The Roughriders fought cold temperatures and overcame fierce competition en route to grabbing the coveted WBL trophy, the first in school history. James, Stephanie Stroh and Heather Butler powered their way into the top 10 at the meet with third-through-fifth finishes as the Blue and Gold tallied 49 points compared to Van Wert's second-place total of 60 points. Horn placed 18th while Abby Widner was right behind her in 19th place with a final time of 22:57.
"Celina, Van Wert and Defiance were amazing programs at the time and being able to win the league over them was quite fortunate for us and a real feather in our caps," said Ginter. "It was a very difficult course with a lot of hills so it made it more of a mental race. That was where the senior veteran leadership paid off."
Unfortunately for Roughrider fans, the WBL title was the peak of the postseason as they slipped to fourth place the following week in district competition and failed to qualify for state before the end of the campaign. While the postseason abruptly ended, it didn't take away from the thrill of the season's highlight for Ginter, who was assisted by Sue Sherman and Dane Widner.
"My coaching was quite unorthodox but I did my best to make hard work fun for the girls," said Ginter, who currently teaches fifth-grade language arts at the St. Marys Intermediate School. "I felt that my philosophy led to harder work, which led to more confidence and from there more winning. Times have certainly changed in that regard. Everything now is way too serious."
Twenty years have passed but after having the chance to reflect, Godby looked back on how special of a campaign it was for her and her teammates.
"Coach Ginter was outstanding with all of us," she said. "From our water polo workouts in the summer to the endless sessions of foot reflexology, he was a great coach. Sports overall, and running specifically, can be so enduring but if you are surrounded by great friends and teammates along with a wonderful coach who keeps things light and fun, running and athletics are much more bearable. Those were great times for me and I was so excited to be a part of such a special team that season. It is a time that I won't forget."