Freshman Stanhope has best finish ever for Badger

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Miranda Stanhope, right, of Badger heads down the stretch to a ninth-place finish Saturday in the Division III state cross country meet. Western Reserve’s Ashleigh Rowley, left, finished 11th.

HEBRON — Miranda Stanhope is Badger’s best.

The freshman phenom distance runner placed ninth with a time of 18:43.2 on Saturday at the Division III girls state cross country meet at National Trail Raceway. That made her the best all-time finisher in Braves history.

Badger boys coach Kurt Ward placed 10th at the 1997 Division III boys state meet when it was run at Scioto Downs in Columbus.

Despite the finish, a small unopened bottle of chocolate milk drew her interest as well after the race.

The exhausted freshman clutched the plastic bottle as she was talking about her race. Which one meant more to her at the time?

McDonald's Malina Mitchell, left, is helped off the course by teammate and friend Ally Jamison. Mitchell, who was running after breaking her foot Saturday at the Division 3 girls state cross country meet in Hebron. The Blue Devils took fifth.

“It’s pretty close,” Stanhope said. “Having it over is a nice feeling. The finish was good. I was happy with where I finished.”

Badger girls coach Carrie Albert said Stanhope wanted to be in the top 16 so she could make the podium.

The top 20 made the podium and top 25 were all-Ohio.

“We hope she’ll be back here again,” Albert said. “We wanted her to have fun with this race. That was something I said many times to her. I wanted to have fun, think of it like any other race.

“The rest will take care of itself. It did. She ran great today. I’m extremly proud.”

Stanhope, who was battling hip issues near the end of the season, enjoyed the flat course Saturday.

“It was a forgiving course being the state course, being nice and flat,” Stanhope said. “There were good opportunities to pass people too. That helped with my finish and knowing where I should be.

“I definitely surprised myself this meet. I didn’t know what to expect coming in as a freshman. I’ve never been here before or run the course. It definitely was a surprise. It’s a positive surprise.”

MCDONALD’S SURPRISE GUEST RUNNER: McDonald junior Malina Mitchell broke the third metarasal in her foot before the district meet. She couldn’t run at the district or regional and was confined to walking boot.

McDonald coach Mike Richards said there was a 10 percent chance Mitchell would run at state.

“She took that 10 percent chance,” Richards said. “She just wanted to be out here. That’s all there is to it. She wanted to be out here for her teammates. She did.

“She knew she was in a ton of pain. She was. Actually I think being out here helped her teammates run better.”

Mitchell, who is the team’s No. 1 runner, finished fourth on her team in more than 20 minutes.

Freshmen Anna Guerra, Bella Wolford and Sela Jones were the team’s top three runners Saturday.

“I’m really proud of them,” Mitchell said. “They’re a great group of girls. When this happened about three weeks ago, they were so supportive of me. I think it drove them to keep working hard. I’m really proud of all of them.”

She’s proud of her teammate, fellow junior and close friend Ally Jamison. Mitchell ran in Jamison’s place on Saturday.

When Mitchell came off the course, it was Jamison who had Mitchell’s arm around her, carrying her weight and helping her friend.

“It means a lot to have her around,” Mitchell said. “She’s had a rough season too with her medical issues. I was there for her. This was a rough experience for me. She was the first one there. That means a lot.”

The Blue Devils finished in fifth place in Division III with 233 points. Minster won its 10th championship, most in OHSAA history, with 38 points, well ahead of second-place St. Thomas Aquinas (95).

“We’re happy,” Richards said of the team’s state finish.

NOT THE FINISH SHE WANTED: Western Reserve senior Ashleigh Rowley placed 11th, but didn’t have the race she envisioned.

She was considered one of the ones with a chance to win the D-III race Saturday.

“Normally anyone else would say it’s rewarding,” Rowley said. “Unfortunately that’s not what I came here to do today. Even though it didn’t end the way I wanted to, I was happy with what I was able to accomplish throughout the season.”

BETTER LUCK THIS TIME: Grand Valley junior Grace Steimle came down to the state meet the past two seasons and came away with all-Ohio finishes in Division II, including a 17th-place finish last year. This season, she was a D-III runner and placed 17th like last season. Unlike 2015, Steimle made the podium. The top 20 advanced this year.

“Two years in a row 17. Last year 17 was a heartbreak,” Grand Valley coach Kurtis Fisher said. “This year 17 gets us on the podium. I’m just so excited for her. The race didn’t play out like we wanted, but she stuck with the plan as best as we could.”