By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP —
Karen Barrientos knew exactly when to make her move. It might have been a little early in the race, but the Lakeside senior couldn’t have timed it better as she pulled away from the pack and coasted to a victory in the season-opening War on the Shore on Monday at Lake Shore Park.
“She always tries to go out controlled,” Lakeside coach Christina Powers said. “Just before she took the mile, she made her move. She did a nice job of that. She tends to judge where she’s at. She just took off. We don’t want her to go out too fast.
“Honestly, I was surprised she did it so quickly. She was have thought it was the right time and just did it.”
Mentor claimed the team championship with 64 points. Madison was second with 76 and Edgewood was third with 90.
“We lost our top three to graduation,” Madison coach Kelly Chandler said. “I am neutral about today. I’m not happy, but I’m not disappointed. We’re extremely young. We have just two girls who have run cross country before.”
“We had some girls step up today,” Edgewood coach Steve Hill said. “Considering all the competition there was, and how far back we were last year, placing third was a great reward for them.”
North was fourth with 101 points and Lakeside was fifth with 107. Geneva placed sixth with 123, Bristol was seventh with 195, Jefferson was eighth with 204 and Poland was ninth with 204. Pymatuning Valley and Andrews did not have enough girls to earn a team score.
Barrientos finished the course in 21:20, well ahead of Hilary Reigle of Madison, who was second in 22:39.
“Being the first race, I felt great,” Barrientos said. “Nothing was hurting. I felt like the wind. I tried to take a position so I’d be up front so I wouldn’t get caught up behind everyone.
“Really, there was no strategy. We’ve practiced her here so many times, I was just ready.”
That move Barrientos made a mile into the 3.1-mile course made the difference.
“She has really done a nice job of racing the past year,” Powers said. “She’s worked on that. She uses the most opportune times to make her moves. We talked about the course and the times she’d have the opportunity to go. She’s been racing really smart.”
Emily Deering of Geneva, who would have run in the lead pack, missed the meet after having her wisdom teeth pulled and was not cleared to run by her dentist.
“I feel like more competition would have made me faster,” Barrientos said. “I didn’t push as much. I was just trying to stay in first.”
Following Reigle were Sydnie Schwenk of North in 22:57, Hailey VanHoy of Geneva in 23:17 and Carlie Watt of Lakeside in the top five. Shelbie Sporcich of Edgewood was sixth in 23:51, Sydney Ball of Madison was seventh in 23:59, Kayla Knowles and Samantha Meyer, both of Mentor, were eighth and ninth, respectively, in 24:04 and 24:12 and Hannah Thoss of North was 10th in 24:20.
Reigle moved past Schwenk late in the race.
“It was on the flat ground where the coaches told me to catch up and going up the hill,” she said. “The coaches were telling me to pass (Schwenk) and I’d be second. I did and it made me faster while she slowed down.”
VanHoy was the leader for much of the first mile, but faded a little after Barrientos moved past her.
“I was really struggling today,” she said. “This is definitely a hard course. I was happy, overall.
“Getting a good start, definitely helped me through the whole race. I struggled through middle mile.”
Watt ran a career-best 23:26, but wasn’t entirely happy with her result, despite finishing in the top five.
“I was just hoping for the top 10,” Watt said. “The whole time, I was pushing hard for the team. I just wanted to do my best.
“It wasn’t the best time.”
“Carlie is a determined girl,” Powers said. “She sets goals and works to achieve them. She’s a true competitor. She knows what she wants and goes out and gets it.
“I’m not surprised she said (that she wasn’t completely happy). She usually says that. I would tell her it was a great race and she did what she needed to to help her team.”
Colleen O’Connor paced the Falcons, finishing 14th in 24:23 and Saydi Lappe was the top runner for the Lakers, placing 29th in 25:36.
The Mentor coach was not available for comment after the race.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.