By Joe Wilkinson
Special to the Economist
SOLON– Alex Smith has been running distance races since junior high. Now, though, as a junior on Solon’s girls cross country team, she is learning to run again.
In the last two years, she could keep her eyes, and pace, on now-graduated Lauren Benzing. Benzing did not lose a regular season or district meet through three years. Smith could settle into the pace and do well. She finished in the top five, 10 or 15 at most meets, settling in as Solon’s second, third or fourth runner.
Now, she is figuring out who sets the pace. It has to be her. “I haven’t learned to set my pace, myself. I need to get out so my teammates can get out too… working off me,” said Smith.
She took a big step, leading the field well past the halfway mark Monday (Sept. 23) at the Solon Invitational. “I went out with the top pack; hung with them. I thought the Williamsburg girl was struggling, so I passed her. I was running really strong at the 1 1/2 mile mark,” recalled Smith. A strong City High pack of three caught her with a half mile or so to go. “I had to stay mentally tough (after that) to keep the distance between us from widening.”
Her fourth-place finish (16:20) in the 4 kilometer race fit well with teammates Katie Folkerts (seventh, 16:36), Tayvia Hansen (12th, 16:57), Molly Walkner (16th, 17:04), Carlyn Haas (32nd, 17:54) and helped push the Spartans to third place overall in the tough eight-school field. Sophomore Trisha Coberly was 35th, (running 17:56), with senior Emily Capper moving up to varsity this week, finishing 54th (19:28).
City High won the meet, with the first three runners, as well as the ninth and 22nd, to total 37 points. Williamsburg finished second with 60 team points. Solon was close behind at 71. They were followed by Mount Vernon-Lisbon (85), North Scott (134), Northeast-Goose Lake (150), Central DeWitt (166) and Clear Creek-Amana (237).
Meanwhile, that race for the pace continues; for Smith and the rest of the Solon runners, as they take over those leadership roles.
Solon’s boys rode an 11th place finish by junior Ty Appleget to a fifth place team finish in the boys 5K race. Senior Patrick McGill was pushing him with a 16th place 17:52. Sophomore Simon Düster (30th, 18:35), senior Taylor Walkner (32nd, 18:38) and senior Nik Rehnke (36th, 18:48) paced the Spartans. Senior David Coberly (47th, 19:15) and junior Josh Prybil (49th, 19:15 as well) backed the scoring five.
City High won the boys race, too, with all five scoring runners in the top nine. Their 27-point total outran Mount Vernon-Lisbon (111 points), Tipton (115), Williamsburg (116), Solon (125), followed by Northeast-Goose Lake (153), North Scott (155), Central DeWitt (207), Clear Creek-Amana (209), North Cedar (243) and West Liberty (328).