Guerra reaches podium as McDonald girls place 3rd at state cross country

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Anna Guerra, right, tries to overtake Minster's Kaitlynn Albers down the stretch in Saturday's Division III girls state cross country race in Hebron. Guerra did overtake Albers, who took ninth. Guerra was eighth.

HEBRON — Anna Guerra saw the grouping in front of her.

Standing on the podium is all that the McDonald sophomore thought about when she starting passing runner after runner in the last mile of Saturday’s Division III state girls cross country meet at National Trail Raceway.

She finished eighth. The top 25 in each race are All-Ohio runners.

“I wasn’t sure what place I was in, but I wanted to get podium,” Guerra said. “I heard I was in 19th place and had a half-mile to go. I just got to go and get as high as I can. I really pushed myself at the end.”

It was the highlight of the Blue Devils day. They came into Saturday’s race ranked second in the state and thought they would probably get that placing.

Instead, McDonald took third, eight points behind second-place Mount Gilead. Minster won the state team title handily.

The muddy course and cold weather took its unwavering toll on the distance runners taking around the grounds of a drag strip placed in the rural flatlands 40 minutes east of Columbus.

Senior Malina Mitchell, who has been running with a stress fracture, finally felt the ill effects Saturday as she had her right leg up, wrapped in ice and elevated on a foam cushion, writhing in pain in the medical area following the race. Mitchell finished 90th.

“She’s really hurting right now,” Guerra said.

“I know she gave it her all. Nobody’s mad at her. We know she pushed herself as hard as you could.

“It has to be so hard since she has a stress fracture.”

Mitchell hasn’t been running during the week but was on an elliptical practicing.

McDonald coach Mike Richards said his heart breaks for his senior runner.

“It’s obvious we’re probably standing here looking at Malina with a broken leg,” Richards said. “I’m kicking myself whether I should’ve let her run. She probably would’ve tackled me or tied me up if I wouldn’t have let her run. Her mom was behind that.

“It breaks my heart to see that.”

The one thing this Blue Devils team is taking back to McDonald is a top-10 finisher.

“Anna didn’t even know she was podium,” Richards said. “She didn’t even know she got top 10. She probably passed 25 girls in the past 3/4 of mile. We’re happy for her. We’re going to celebrate with her and get ready for this guys race.”