ONTARIO ― When Shelby senior Huck Finnegan approached the finish line ahead of everyone else and saw the time on the clock at last week's Galion Cross Country Festival, he couldn't help but sport a huge smile on his face.
That same bright white grin appeared when he scored another first-place finish Saturday at the Ontario Bill Brown Invitational at Marshall Park. There was plenty to be happy about. Finnegan scored his second consecutive individual meet win and his time of 16:33.24 was sensational given how tough the course is at the Bill Brown every year. It didn't come close to the 16:01 he ran last week at a fast course at Amann Reservoir, but with the hills and turns at the Bill Brown, Finnegan was extremely satisfied, as if everyone couldn't tell by his smile as he crossed the finish line.
"I said it my sophomore year after I ran 17:01 and how it is a slow course and the weather is always cooler at this meet," Finnegan said. "The finish last week boosted my confidence to come out and win today on a tough course, but the work never stops and I am still going hard at it."
Finnegan was pushed by Northmor's Ryan Lehman, who took second with a 17:03.87 and even led the senior as they approached the two-mile mark, but Finnegan saved a kick for the final mile and pulled away. Being pushed helped him post a low time for the second consecutive week.
"I was sticking with the Northmor kid and he kept making surges and I wasn't sure if he was going to stick with me or not," Finnegan said. "He started dropping at the two-mile, but I was happy to have some competition to push me today."
Being pushed is a blessing and a curse for Finnegan. He loves having competition to help him run faster in meets, but when he has someone right on his tail, the mental game of cross country starts to kick in. On Saturday, he won the race between the ears.
"It helps to be pushed, but sometimes it does get in my head when I have competition because I start to believe they are better than me," Finnegan said. "I keep wondering when they are going to drop back if they do at all, versus when I am by myself all I have to do is worry about myself and my breathing."
Led by Finnegan, the Whippets won the overall team title as well with 69 team points. Luke Dininger was sixth (17:17.42) while Marshall Moore finished strong in 16th (17:46.41), Indy Mayer was 17th (17:47.22) and Ian Finnegan was 29th (18:20.83) to round out the scoring runners for Shelby.
The Whippets will have this week off before heading to Marion Harding on Oct. 8 to finish the regular season on a course Finnegan said can produce some fast times. And, with a week off to rest, he is going for the PR he set last week at Galion.
"We have an off week next week so that will be nice to be able to go into Marion Harding with fresh legs, and I will try to go after that PR I set at Galion last week," Finnegan said. "Marion Harding is a quick course and it will be nice to finish the regular season strong."
He hopes he can finish strong before the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference championships on Oct. 15 and the district meet on Oct. 22 leading to the regional at Tiffin, where he has some unfinished business with that course. Last year, Finnegan was 22nd at regionals in 17:33.0, nearly a minute and a half slower than the time he posted at Tiffin earlier this year.
"I've had some beef with the Tiffin course," Finnegan said. "That 16:06 I had there early gives me a lot of confidence that I can conquer that course at the regional meet. When that time comes around, it is mostly a mental thing and I start thinking about those two hills that slow everyone down. I have a different mental approach going in this year."
Ashland placed second in the team standings with 71 points, led by fourth-place finisher Andre Harrison (17:14.31). Lukah Will was ninth (17:28.62), Luke Wash 14th (17:34.50), Brody Blough 23rd (18:00.11) and Owen Lemon 34th (18:47.280.
Host Ontario placed fifth as a team with 173 points. Miles Meisse, who is starting to get back into race shape after missing a few weeks with an illness, was fifth with a 17:15.52 and Xavier Trent was 20th with a 17:53.65. Dean Morrison (30th, 18:26.65), Rylan Baker (51st, 29:29.89) and Logan Morehead (97th, 21:26.03) all scored for the Warriors.
Crestview finished in 12th, led by Cooper Brockway, who was 12th in 17:32.52. James McPherran (108th, 22:10.41), Daniel Hout (131st, 24:50.73), Kaden Walter (134th, 25:29.11) and Nathan Hummel (137th, 26:44.37 also competed for the Cougars.
Lucas placed 13th behind Gavin Bichsel, who was 48th in 19:20.86. Kalem Warner (68th, 20:03.60), Zach Krupa (105th, 22:01.27), Trevor Estep (110th, 22:20.94) and Antonio Restelli (136th, 26:04.03) also competed for the Cubs.
Madison was 14th, led by Watt Rivers (54th, 19:39.97). Korbin Wieland (117th, 22:43.63), Nicholas Baul (127th, 23:37.37), Dryden Durbridge (146th, 29:27.27) and Drew Kepple (147th, 40:31.57) competed for the Rams.
Crestview girls win team title, Gonzales takes second individually
Crestview used a balanced team effort to take home the 2022 Bill Brown Invitational girls title with 64 team points.
Audrey Wolford was fourth in 20:37.97, while Alina Durbin finished 11th in 21:38.77, Leyna Gerich 14th in 21:45.06, Emmie Kemp 21st in 22:15.78 and Georgia McFarland 22nd in 22:17.61 to give the Cougars the team championship.
Shelby was second with 69 points led by Kayla Gonzales, who placed second overall in 19:07.29 behind New London's Reese Landis, the only sub-19-minute runner with an 18:58.47. Gonzales led most of the race until about the final 800 meters when Landis made her move.
"She caught me in the woods and I kind of struggled running on the gravel in there," Gonzales said. "I had a lot left in me and I wish I would have picked it up and stuck with her late in the race because I felt good. But she is an amazing runner and lived up to the hype when we saw her results. But it was nice to be pushed here."
Shelby's Emma Montgomery was fifth in 20:42.92, while Channon Cundiff was ninth in 21:21.28, Kailyn Schwall 27th in 23:02.46 and Courtney Stiving 33rd in 23:21.62.
Ashland finished sixth with 148 team points. Isla McFrederick was 25th (22:48.31), Ava Cline 26th (22:49.36), Katherine Stefaniuk 31st (23:16.91), Alex Huckleberry 34th (23:22.40) and Ava Bracken 47th (24:19.14) were the scorers for the Arrows.
Host Ontario finished ninth with 209 points. Baylee Black led the Warriors with a 13th-place finish in 21:42.04, followed by Kenzie Goodlin (45th, 24:16.61), Zoe Hampton (50th, 24:27.92), Journey Ross (58th, 24:59.56) and Sarah Strickler (59th, 15:01.78).
Madison was 10th behind by Callie Cyrus, who placed 20th in 22:14.97. Next for the Rams were Victoria Freeman (28th, 23:04.97), Olivia Lord (61st, 25:09.19), Megan Reynolds (66th, 25:32.64) and Irelyn O'Connell (73rd, 26:10.59).
Clear Fork finished 11th with 277 points. Madison McKenna led the way with a 36th-place finish in 23:25.44, followed by Claire Blubaigh (37th, 23:26.82), Callie New (62nd, 15:13.74), Alexandrea Welshans (93rd, 28:06.10) and Sydney Kime (106th, 31:48.69).
St. Peter's sophomore Kaylee Bond was the lone runner for the Spartans and was 86th in 27:08.36.
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Shelby's Huck Finnegan wins individual title at Bill Brown Invite