State cross country notebook

CHAMPION’S SPARKS TAKES NINTH: Champion High School sophomore Allan Sparks ran his personal best time of 16:25.01 to finish ninth in Division II.

“I exceeded my expectations by a landslide,” Sparks said. “I didn’t expect I’d PR (personal record) by about 20 seconds. I’m so happy right now. I’m praising God for that.”

It was one of the most invigorating runs he’s ever had.

“I had much more energy than the past few races,” Sparks said. “It’s the last race of the season and the state championships. I felt really surged during the whole race. It felt great.”

HOFFMAN TAKES ALL-OHIO: McDonald High School sophomore Heidi Hoffman saw a gigantic likeness of her face on a stick, carried by her teammates.

“It’s usually on the boys team. It’s the first girls floating head,” McDonald girls coach Mike Richards said. “Maybe we need to do that for all of them.”

“Usually the boys do that,” Hoffman said. “Since I was the only girl, I had to do what the boys did, I guess.”

Hoffman knew her trip to the state meet was bittersweet with her team missing out on their first state trip since 2008 by one point.

“Things didn’t work out last week,” Hoffman said. “My teammates are awesome. They decorated my room at home as a surprise. They decorated my hotel room. They did everything they possibly can. They’re the best teammates to possibly have. To have that is like having a family to push you. It was just for them, my coaches. My mom and dad are big help in my life and my sister. I did it for them because they wanted me to.”

It willed her to a 21st-place finish in the Division III girls race in a time of 19:36.44, giving her all-Ohio status. She was the first McDonald runner to take all-Ohio since Jennifer Wenhold placed fourth in 2002, leading the Blue Devils to a third-place finish. Jennifer’s sister, Jessica, was 11th that year as well.

“It feels really good,” Hoffman said. “It was one of my goals. That was going through my head and that’s what I wanted to do. I’m glad I did it.”

INSPIRIED RUNNER: Grand Valley sophomore Jessica Finley didn’t have the state race she envisioned, placing 111st in the Division II girls race in a time of 21:14.80. However, she knew she made it to state because of another Ashtabula County runner.

“I’m excited to come back next year and do what I’m capable of,” Finley said. “The highlight of my year was to see Karen Barrientos (Ashtabula Lakeside) make it. She’s got a whole lot of drive and is very inspiring.

“It’s awesome to see people like that make it. I would not have made it if I were in her division.”

AROUND THE STATE: Liberty Center beat out Gilmour Academy for the Division III girls title, 98-110. Liberty Center’s Brittany Atkinson won the race in a time of 18:31.45. Wauseon’s Taylor Vernot (18:04.40) beat Oakwood’s Mary Kate Vaughn (18:09.70) for the D-II girls title. Mason beat Beavercreek for the girls Division I title, 76-107. Cincinnati St. Ursuline’s Annie Heffernan (18:13.90) beat Lebanon’s Jacquelyn Crow (18:26.77) for the individual title. In the Division II boys race, Defiance beat Tippecanoe for the team title, 107-140. Sheridan’s Matt Bromley (16:04.58) beat Chagrin Falls’s Joseph Bistritz (16:10.67) for the individual title.

MAKING HISTORY: Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary beat Bay for the Division II girls title, 101-119. It is the first time any girls team has won five straight state titles. That last non-Irish team to win in D-II was Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in 2008.