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SAMANTHA TURNER (left) of Pymatuning Valley qualified for the Division III state meet at the Boardman regional on Saturday with a seventh-place finish.

BOARDMAN — If you were an area girls cross country runner at Saturday’s regional meet competing individually, you had a fighting chance of seeing your season continued. If you were part of a team entry, you reached the end of the trail.

Pymatuning Valley junior Samantha Turner and Edgewood sophomore Mallory Kreider were the only entries from their schools at Saturday’s meet at Boardman High School and earned tickets to the state meet next Saturday at Scioto Downs. The other area girl to qualify for the state meet was Perry freshman Abbie Clifford, the only member of her team to survive as an individual as the Pirates were unable to finish among the top four teams in the Division II ranks, placing seventh.

Perry was not the only team to fall by the wayside. Riverside and Madison were 10th and 15th, respectively, in the Division I team competition. None of their runners were able to advance individually, including Riverside junior Susie Nelson, who ran at last year’s Division I state meet, and Perry junior Meredith Schuette, who competed in the Division II state meet.

Lakeside senior Karena Sezawich and Conneaut senior Sheila Sherman, also competing individually, were eliminated, but both ran well in their respective divisions.

It was a big day for Turner, who qualified for the state meet as a freshman, then missed a return trip in 2006 after suffering through an injury-plagued season. She placed seventh in the Division III race in 20:22.

“I’m very happy,” Turner said while surrounded by fans after the race. “Before the race, I felt bad because I wanted to go back so bad. Just before the race, I got a call from (former teammate) LaJoya Smith. She told me she knew I could do it. Once I got into the race, I felt fine.

“Last year was so tough. I just missed making it to state meet after I tore the growth plate in my knee. I still hurt every now and then, but it’s much better this year. I really wanted to get back to state badly. I wasn’t worried so much about my time today as placing. This got the job done. Now I’ve got something to build on.”

PV coach Shawna Bryan was equally pleased for her runner.

“This is fantastic,” she said. “Sam ran an outstanding race today. We spent the week reminding her she had to stay calm.

“She had an awesome race. We had her figured before the race at somewhere around 14th and we knew it would be tough for her to qualify, but she did so much better. Our focus this week was just on getting her back to Columbus. She ran with the right combination of confidence and knowing what she had to do. It wasn’t her best time, but that wasn’t the idea today. We can work on a better time next week.”

Running for a place in the top 16 in deference to time was also the strategy for Kreider in earning her first trip to the state meet. She did so in fine fashion, placing 12th in 20:01.

“I’m so happy,” Kreider said. “The big thing today was the place. I really was focused on making it to state. I was hoping to be in the top 16. I worked real hard this year to get to state.

“I was worried about where I was at pretty much the whole race. I’m so excited. Now I can build on this.”

Kreider ran the race just the way she and coach Steve Hill plotted it.

“Mallory did a great job,” he said. “We wanted her to be around 10th or 11th at the mile mark and just try to hold on from there. I knew if she ran the way she has all year, she’d be right there.

“Mallory took the first step in the right direction today. Twenty minutes is a good time. Next week we can have her shooting for the school record (19:33 set in the late 1990s by Laura Stiles).”

Clifford maintained her status as one of the sports’ rising stars by finishing third in 18:59. That brought her home for the second straight week behind the acknowledged star in state cross country, Beaumont’s Emily Infeld, who won in 18:10 by a 33-second margin. Chelsea Oswald of Walsh Jesuit was second in 18:33.

But Clifford’s success was severely tempered by the fact the rest of her team didn’t advance.

“I really felt pretty good about today’s race,” Clifford said. “It was a lot nicer here today than for the (Boardman) Invitational (in which she was the Division II individual champion earlier in the season). I felt really good about my race, but I was more worried about having the rest of the team make it.”

Perry coach Bill Sarvis was definitely pleased with his freshman phenom’s performance.

“Abbie went out and was very patient,” he said. “I think she got more relaxed as the race went along. She did a very good job. I just hope her teammates can go along with her.”

That turned out not to be the case. Perry finished seventh in the Division II team race with 151 points. Beaumont was the team champion with 94 and a better sixth runner. Also earning team qualification were Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy with 94, Salem with 131 and Peninsula Woodridge with 139.

Schuette, a junior, just missed qualifying individually by placing 19th overall in 20:29. Sophomore Marissa Baranauskas was 25th in 20:44, junior Karmen Pirc was 51st in 21:25 and senior Stephanie Stark was 74th in 21:49.

“(Not qualifying) was really disappointing, but I talked with the girls about everything they’ve accomplished,” Sarvis said. “Two years ago, we were dead last in the team race, and now we’re to the point where a lot of people considered us a factor to qualify to state. I told the girls that they’re running in a region where nine of the top 16 teams in the state are.

“We have everybody back next year except Stephanie. All the other girls felt badly for her. That’s what happens when you toe the line here. You have to have a great race. Now I’ll be looking to see how the girls respond. I don’t want them walking around with their heads down. They walked away from every meet this season with some hardware except one. They should be proud of what they’ve done.”

Sezawich finished 31st overall in the Division I race in 20:28. That was 28 seconds short of qualifying individually.

Sherman placed 58th overall in the Division II meet in 21:33. The last qualifying spot at that level was timed in 20:08.

Riverside coach Jennifer Johnson watched her team finish with 249 points in her final meet as coach. Magnificat was the Division I team champion with 86 points, while Massillon Jackson with 88, St. Joseph Academy with 94 and North Canton Hoover with 98 earned the other team berths to state.

Nelson was Riverside’s top finisher in 24th overall in 20:19. Senior Danielle Gallo was 55th in 20:54, senior Madalyn Trout was 62nd in 21:03, freshman Cierra Hungerford was 67th in 21:11 and senior Anna Marie Lauter was 88th in 21:39.

Saturday’s race was one of mixed emotions for Johnson, who is retiring after 13 years of cross country coaching at PV and the last 10 at Riverside.

“I think overall the girls put forth a huge effort today,” she said. “They were up against a loaded field and ran well. It wasn’t about time today. It was about places.

“No doubt I’m going to miss these girls, although I’ll probably be around somewhere. I couldn’t asked for anything more from them. They’ve supported and respected me so completely. This sport has been like a family to me for 13 years. These girls have been with me through thick and thin, and I’m grateful to them.”

While Johnson rang down the curtain, at least for the time being, on her career, Madison coach Rachelle Orris watched her team go through its paces in her first year coaching her alma mater. The 397 points the Blue Streaks put up will serve as a building block for future developments.

Senior Jill Dickman led Madison by finishing 37th overall in 20:32. Fellow senior Miranda Boggs was 92nd in 21:47, while freshman Jillanne Mackey was 93rd in 21:47, junior Tory Furpahs was 118th in 23:18 and junior Lauren Hutchinson was 119th in 23:31.

“I think the girls ran well today,” Orris said. “They came in prepared and excited. Only (Dickman) had been here before, so it was great just getting the team here.

“Four of our top seven are coming back, so this was a good experience for the girls. We’ll miss Jill and Miranda. Hopefully, we can use this experience as a stepping stone for next year.”

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