Smithies working hard, optimistic for cross country season

Smithies working hard, optimistic for cross country season
Aaron Dorksen

Smithville’s Rebekah Carr, right, sprints to a fourth-place finish at the Smithies’ tri-meet on Sept. 8 at Wooster. Carr is the team’s top returnee from last year’s squad that finished 18th in the state.


It was hot and humid. A swarm of pesky gnats invaded the finish line area. And after a long day of school, many of the cross country runners at the Wooster triangular meet held Tuesday evening were feeling a little tired before the race even started.

None of that mattered, though, for Smithville senior Rebekah Carr after she crossed the finish line fourth overall in a time
of 21:17.

Carr’s smile was so wide she looked like she’d just received every present on her Christmas list, instead of having run 3.1 miles in 82 F heat.

“Tonight, it’s like the start of normalness again, with COVID and everything,” Carr said. “It’s been different, with us only running 2 miles in each of our first two meets. It just made everything seem weird, like it wasn’t really a season. It’s hard to run on weeknights after school because everybody’s tired and stressed and you have all day to worry about it, but still, everyone was really looking forward to this. Tonight, it’s like back in the swing of things. It’s been like 10 months since our team has run a 5k together, so this is really good to get started again.”

The Cloverleaf girls ran past host Wooster 23-50, followed by Smithville with 68 points. The Colts’ Sophia Spencer won in 19:43 while Wooster was led by Marion Dix (fifth, 21:17).

The last time Smithville coach Greg DeRodes’ girls ran together in a 5k was in the Div. III girls state meet held Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. Smithville placed 18th out of 20 teams and returns five of its seven runners.

Completing the Smithies’ top five at the Wooster tri-meet were Josephine Heeke (seventh, 21:38), Elizabeth Heeke (15th), Ava Wilford (17th) and Liz Cool (25th).

The Smithies had competed in only a pair of 2-mile races prior to the showdown with Wooster and Cloverleaf on the Generals’ 3.1-mile layout, which sprawls behind the high school and Follis Field, all the way up past the softball field on Oak Hill Road.

Because the Smithies won’t be going to many big invitationals due to COVID-19 concerns, it was exciting for DeRodes’ teams to test themselves against a pair of perennially strong big-school programs.

“These girls are definitely hard workers,” DeRodes said. “Rebekah has her head on straight. She’s working hard, and that’s a good leader to have on the team. Everyone just kind of gets pulled up in that swell of positive energy she brings. We graduated an All-Ohioan in Ashleigh Clabaugh, but we’re optimistic. We were lookinag forward to just having a season, first of all, and now we’ve been trying to make the best out of it given the cards we’ve been dealt.”

The host Wooster boys edged Cloverleaf 28-30, followed by Smithville with 91 points. The Colts’ Nolan Freeland crossed through the chute first in 16:53, followed by the Generals’ Ashton Dunlap (17:37).

Smithville was led by Knox Spurlock, who was 14th in 20:06. Grouped closely behind for the Smithies were Aidan Erb (16th), Steven Lessiter (17th), Cameron Carr (21st) and Jake Hershey (23rd).

“This was really good competition in both races,” DeRodes said. “It’s harder to run weeknight races compared to Saturday invitationals, but it was good for the kids to get out here and run.”

DeRodes’ boys program has a phenomenal history including two trips to the state meet and a string of 10-straight WCAL titles that was snapped two years ago. They’re undergoing a rebuilding year in 2020.

“Our boys team is young,” DeRodes said. “Actually, we are super young. For the longest time, we were led by seniors year after year, and now we have five freshmen and two upperclassmen in our top seven. That’s a big shift, but it’s good for the future.”

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