West Fairmont Middle girls cross country wins first Marion Co. Championship since 2007

Nov. 1—FAIRMONT — West Fairmont Middle School's girls cross-country team won the Marion County championship for the first time in 16 years on Saturday.

The team placed three runners in the top five, four in the top 10 and five in the top 15. Two more placed just outside the top 20 for a total of 32 points. West Fairmont beat perennial powerhouse East Fairmont Middle, who scored 33 points, for the title.

"We were really excited," eight-grade runner Gracie Snyder said. "We didn't really think we were able to win, but then we really pushed ourselves, and we were really, really excited."

Lyla Garcia led West Fairmont with a time of 12:01.8, good enough for second place overall. She finished behind East Fairmont's Jenna Conaway, whose 11:31.1 time clinched first for individuals.

"It wasn't as hard as all the other meets, but it was still pretty difficult," Garcia said.

Hallie Greene finished fourth in 12:39, and Snyder rounded out the top five, finishing the course with a time of 12:55.1. Sienna Zuchelli placed seventh at the meet with a time of 12:59.8.

Finishing up the scoring seven for West Fairmont, Zoey Fout finished 14th in 13:31.8, Marleigh Styles 21st in 13:53.4 and Lauren Drennan in 27th in 14:23.0.

"A lot of people stepped it up," Greene said. "Seventh graders like Sienna [Zuchelli] and Zoey [Fout], they stepped it up and they really helped us win the championship."

At the beginning of the year, winning the championship wasn't the main goal for the girls team. According to coach Ashley Reed, the team focused on doing the best it can at each meet and pushing itself to be better.

"We just wanted to go out, run our best and just challenge ourselves with each race, getting better and better," Reed said. "The outcome will be determined based upon their effort. So we just wanted to give our best foot forward and just build on that."

At first, the girls didn't put their best foot forward, according to runners like Greene and Snyder. Some of them played soccer during the fall season, meaning they couldn't focus all of their time and energy on running cross country.

It showed in the early events as the team didn't place well, according to Greene. The team also didn't run as a team, but rather individually, according to Garcia.

"We cared, but we didn't really care that much in the beginning," Snyder said. "But then as the season progressed, we wanted to really win and beat other teams."

By the time the Marion County championship meet came around, it came time for the girls to put their hard work to the test. East Fairmont Middle, who's won the crown in all but two years since 2007, according to Reed, provided a challenge to West Fairmont, but the Polar Cubs had seen East Fairmont nearly all season.

"At the end of the day, your goal is to win," Reed said. "And to be the best, you have to compete against the best, and [East Fairmont] was at most of the races we're at, so we knew what we're up against."

And West Fairmont came one point ahead of East Fairmont to win its first title since 2007. According to Reed, the girls don't feel the need to boast about their accomplishment.

"To be the first championship since the school opened in 2007 says a lot for these girls," Reed said. "They're very modest, all of them. They won't come out and tell you they're good and brag on themselves. But they're very deserving of winning that first place and did it under the radar because no one really expected us to win, except we had to believe in ourselves."

Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548