WEST MILTON — When the Minster Wildcats girls cross country team attends a meet it’s not unusual for the competition to perk up. That’s the result of being the Division III defending state champions.
Minster got a dose of that Saturday at the Bob Schul Invitational at Milton-Union High School. The Wildcats won the Division III meet, led by junior Emma Watcke’s third-place finish.
But Watcke, the defending D-III state champion, wasn’t totally satisfied with her performance. Most any runner would have swapped places with Watcke, excluding the only two that finished ahead of her – Springfield Catholic Central junior Addy Engel and West Liberty-Salem freshman Megan Adams.
Engel pulled away from the field to win in 18 minutes, 45.1 seconds and Adams clocked in at 19:09.7. Watcke finished in 19:16.8.
“She did well, but probably not what she wanted to do,” Minster girls coach Jessie Magoto said. “We have a long, long season. It’s not all bad. Just relax and focus on what you’re doing. It’s a good reminder for her that where you begin and where you end has no relevance.”
Minster flexed the same pack mentality that won them a second straight state title last season. Senior Kaitlyn Albers finished fourth (20:00.5), sophomore Ella Boate eighth (20:28.5), junior Gwendolyn Meiring in ninth (20:33.5), senior Madeline Magoto in 10th (20:34.9) and junior Mackenzie Bohman in 11th (20:42.2).
“I was really happy with our pack (of runners from No. 3 through No. 6) watching those girls work through the race. It was a solid start,” Magoto said.
Minster won with 34 points, good for a 17-point victory over an also loaded West Liberty-Salem team.
“Coming off a state championship — and it’s not coming from us — but the pressure you feel from the outside world is immense,” Magoto said. “It’s a good opportunity for us to reinforce taking that pressure off, getting out there and competing and doing the best you can. … It’s a good opportunity to reflect what went well, what do I want to improve on and let’s see what happens next week.”
Russia finished fifth and was led by sophomore Becca Seger (20:54.9) in 13th.
Botkins finished 6th, Houston 7th, Lehman Catholic 12th and Jackson Center 18th.
The Schul Invitational featured a total of 1,743 high school and junior high runners, with 1,007 from the high school level. The Schul Invitational is named for the West Milton native who won the 5,000-meter gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the only American to win that event. Schul, 80, usually attends the event and signs autographs during the meet but a prior commitment prevented him from attending Saturday.
In the Division I-II big school meet, Sidney senior Gavin Bockrath scored the area’s highest finish with 11th in 17:29.3. The Yellow Jackets finished ninth as a team in the 13-team field.
The Houston and Minster boys scored top-five finishes out of a field of 37 teams in the Division II-III small school meet. Houston senior Tristin Freistuhler finished 14th (17:29.8) to lead the Wildcats to third place. Minster junior Luke Barga finished fourth in 18th (17:33.7) to help the Wildcats finish fourth.
Botkins finished seventh, Russia 11th, Jackson Center 19th, Fairlawn 26th and Lehman Catholic 35th.
In the girls Division I-II meet, Sidney finished 13th out of 17 teams.
New Bremen girls 3rd, Anna 5th at Blue Jay Invitational
New Bremen’s girls cross country squad finished third and Anna finished fifth in Delphos St. John’s Blue Jay Invitational on Saturday.
The Cardinals were third with 80 points. Alayna Thieman led the squad with a fifth-place finish in 21:40.
Anna was fifth with 129 points. The Rockets were led by freshman Kaylie Kipp, who was 12th in 22:06.
Celina Rotary Invitational canceled
The Celina Rotary Invitational was canceled on Saturday morning due to weather. Fort Loramie and New Knoxville were going to participate.
Sidney Daily News sports editor Bryant Billing contributed to this article.