Grace Siehler doesn’t run like an athlete who was forced to sit out an entire season because of an injury.
The South Carroll junior has won all but one race this season and captured the individual county title at last week’s county meet at South Carroll. Siehler followed that victory up with another Thursday when she won the Class 2A West meet in 19:51.3 at Liberty High School.
Siehler beat Middletown freshman Erin McQuitty in 34.9 seconds and helped the Cavaliers finish second as a team with 73 points. Winters Mill junior Kathryn Hopkins finished third in 20:38.9.
“I like this course a lot, it’s a lot easier than the county course and I felt good going into it,” Siehler said. “I knew that I would have some strong competition with Winters Mill and Middletown. They’re great runners and I wanted to run strong and obviously qualify for states and help my team qualify for states … despite the conditions, I’m proud of myself.”
Siehler suffered a stress fracture that forced her to miss her sophomore cross country season, but she was able to return for indoor and outdoor track. She battled iron deficiency during the outdoor season, and said the setbacks were a learning experience as she prepared for her junior year.
“That experience taught me so much more than if I would have been able to run because this past summer I trained a lot smarter," Siehler said. "I would say my training was even better and I was able to push myself longer and I felt a lot stronger mentally and physically — I learned that recovery is a huge part of distance running.”
Liberty’s girls finished eighth in the region last fall, and failed to qualify for states.
However, this year’s Lions were determined to not let that happen for a second consecutive year. The Lions, led by freshman Izzy Lucas, placed five athletes in the top 20 to capture the regional title with 59 points and qualify. Lucas finished fifth in 21:14.4, followed by teammate Sammie Spargo in 21:24.5.
Julia Lucas was 15th, Christian Lemaster finished 17th, and Jenna Zietowski was 18th.
SC’s Kate Yokay was ninth and Century’s Allison Leimkuhler finished 12th. The Knights were seventh with 157 points, and Winters Mill was 10th with 223.
Oakdale’s boys placed four runners in the top 10 to win the team crown with 37 points, and Liberty was second with 48. The Lions placed five runners in the top 15 — Woodrow Kashima (fifth), Gavin Edson (eighth), Connor Stewart (ninth), Trent Taylor (11th), and Jake Beaumier (15th).
The Bears beat the Lions in a tiebreaker at last year’s regional meet.
Century junior Hayden Hebert was Carroll’s top finisher Thursday and finished fourth in 17:26. Hebert placed second to Kashima at last week’s county meet, and said he started out a little too fast for that course.
However, he was able to keep the pace with Kashima Thursday to pass him and beat the county champion by 11 seconds.
“I know it was a hilly course … Woodrow just held on to me for the first two and a half miles and he was able to have a stronger finish there,” Hebert said. “Today, I led the first mile out of our county and I was feeling a little exhausted so I let him lead me and I drafted off of him for the second mile and I was able to pass him pretty well, just coasted by.”
The Knights finished third with 120 points, and their next best finisher was senior Tyler Dregely in 19th. South Carroll senior John Kettula finished seventh in 17:52.4 and teammate Brendan Cave was 17th.
The Cavaliers placed fourth with 131 points, and Winters Mill finished 10th with 234.
Baidy Ba, an Oakland Mills junior, won the meet in 16:43.7 and Oakdale seniors Kyle Lund and Collin Dempsey were second and third. Hebert has his sights set on next weekend’s state meet at Hereford High School to close out championship season.
“I would like to place maybe top 10,” Hebert said,” Get a really good time there.”