Badger’s Stanhope betters time in runner-up finish

Submitted photo / Craig Rupe Badger’s Miranda Stanhope, center, runs between Waynesfield-Goshen’s Taylor Spencer, right, and Springfield Catholic Central’s Bridget Engel on Saturday at the state cross country meet.

HEBRON — Miranda Stanhope came down the final meters of Saturday’s Division III race.

Some competitors were struggling to breathe. Others let the cold conditions get the best of them.

Not this Badger High School senior distance runner. She’s been there before, crossing the finish line first last year as a state champion in Division III.

This year, in what could be a better run for her than her stellar junior season, she took second behind an immovable force such as senior Addie Engel from Springfield Catholic Central. Engel came into Saturday’s state cross country meet with a time about a minute ahead of the rest of the runners. It showed in the early parts of the race as Engel distanced herself from the remainder of the other 179 runners meandering their way around this NHRA dragstrip in a rural plot of land 40 minutes east of Columbus.

“Having her in sight ahead of me did a lot to push me to close the gap,” said Stanhope, who ran 18:21.9.

Submitted photo / Craig Rupe McDonald’s Brody Rupe runs the last couple of meters toward the finish line as he took third overall in the Division III boys state cross country race Saturday in Hebron.

Engel ran 17:46.9. Stanhope’s run was the best of her career and was about 30 seconds better than her time to win state in 2018.

“I thought I ran pretty well at the end, put everything out there,” Stanhope said.

McDonald junior Brody Rupe has been the Blue Devils’ lead runner all season. Saturday, he became one of the tops in the state in Division III.

He felt the surge in the final stretch as he passed senior Noah Fisher from Ayersville to finish third in 15:58.6.

The top 20 runners in each race made the podium in front of the main stands at National Trail Raceway, while the top 30 were All-Ohio runners.

“I went harder and faster than I’ve ever went out in a race before,” Rupe said. “It helped me catch a lot of the kids who went out a little too hard. It was a great finish for third.”

The Blue Devils team took fourth with 185 points, while last week’s Division III Boardman Regional champion East Canton team took third with 141. Cincinnati Country Day won with 98 points, while Mount Gilead was second (112).

McDonald had its ups and downs this season, including one of its top runners kicked off the team for a social media incident. The Blue Devils overcame plenty.

“It was one of the most challenging seasons, losing Connor (Symbolik) and everything,” Rupe said. “Coming in fourth place was a great accomplishment, and we’re not mad about it.”

RUSH OF EMOTION: Badger junior Lincon Hopkins came into Saturday’s D-III boys race after making it here his freshman year. In the regional last season, he was one place off coming to state. Hopkins ran a personal-best 16:30.7. Hopkins and teammate Jacob Zahoransky ran at state Saturday.

“It’s emotional,” Badger coach Jim Richards said. “I love these two boys like they’re my own two kids. It’s an absolute blessing I get to coach guys like this.”

Meanwhile, the McDonald girls took seventh with 258 points, led by senior Anna Guerra with 19:17.6 for 22nd place.

She became dizzy and began to wobble during the final steps before the finish line. Guerra fought to hold back the tears following her D-III girls state run.

“I tried my best out there,” she said. “It was definitely wasn’t what I wanted. I’m proud of our team of placing higher than what we were ranked (11th).

“I gave it my all out there. I tried my best. That’s all I can ask.”

SCHOOL’S BEST: Maplewood sophomore Marissa Ventura became the fastest Rockets girls runner at the state meet by taking 21st in a time of 19:16.9.

Maplewood girls coach Michelle Rupe said Ventura will enter the Rockets Hall of Fame for this performance.

“It’s a great feeling to be a part of Maplewood history and represent my school,” Ventura said.

Rupe said the sophomore, who led the Rockets with a 10th-place finish in the Division III race (282), should be a leader on next year’s team. Rupe added this year’s team exceeded expectations.

“Marissa ran an awesome race today,” Rupe said.

TIGER’S TALE: Howland’s girls team became the first area Division I team to make state since Austintown Fitch in 1996.

This is the first time in school history the girls team at Howland advanced to state.

The future is bright for the Tigers, since they were led by a freshman, Megan Hipple. She took 34th, just making it out of All-Ohio’s reach in Division I.

Running at state was an experience to say the least.

“It was cold and harder than I expected, but I didn’t give up,” Hipple said. “I did it for my team.”

Howland placed 14th as a team with 341 points. The Tigers are coached by Robin Kapalko, who has transformed Howland’s girls into the best female distance team in Trumbull County.

“I think we put a lot of faith in our coach,” Hipple said.

Making it to state will spur younger Howland runners be part of this team.

“I think they’ll get more people to join,” Hipple said.