Note: This recap appears in the Sunday, Oct. 13 newspaper on Page B2.
The Athens Bulldogs ran a perfect race, the Vinton County Vikings remained on top and the Trimble Tomcats won their title back.
The Tri-Valley Conference Cross Country Championships were held on Saturday morning in Athens.
Athens won the boys won their fourth straight TVC-Ohio title by posting a perfect score. Vinton County won a third straight TVC-Ohio girls' title, while Trimble won the boys TVC-Hocking title and Eastern the girls TVC-Hocking crown.
The Bulldogs had little drama in their title. The top five Ohio Division finishers all wore the Green and Gold of Athens for a perfect team score of 15.
"Really proud of our boys," Athens assistant coach Fitz Read said. "It was a total team effort. We've graduated some really great runners these last two years. These boys have just stepped right up and filed the void. We're much closer one to seven than we have been in many years."
Zachary Kessler led Athens' effort with an Ohio Division winning time of 16:23.49. It's the eighth season in a row the Bulldogs have had the top male TVC-Ohio finisher.
"It's been working great for Zach," Read said. "He's had a really nice year. He's made a quantum leap compared to last year, his freshman year. Real proud of him."
The rest of the Bulldogs finished in a flourish behind Kessler. Jack Myers was second at 16:26.51. Eric Johnson was third at 16:38.97. Bozeman Koonce was fourth at 16:45.94 and Walker Evans was fifth at 16:46.35.
Campbell Hauschild (seventh, 16:59.88) and Erik Dabelko (10th, 17:17.28) gave Athens seven of the top 10 placers and the group was separated by less than a minute.
"I think they really get a charge out of being near each other and feed off each other's energy," Read said. "Any given race they could be one to seven. There's not a lot of distance between them. We just had some fantastic team work on their part."
Vinton County was second with 56 points, as Quentin Campbell (eighth, 17:08.20) and Blake Swaim (ninth, 17:11.23) had top-10 finishes for the Vikings.
Trimble took home team championship honors in the TVC-Hocking with a score of 26, edging out Belpre's 32 points.
The Tomcats won their third league title in the last four years by wrestling the top spot away from the defending champion Golden Eagles.
"It means a lot to them," first-year Trimble head coach Steve Weber said. "They've worked hard this summer and all season long. They are pretty determined."
Belpre junior Eli Fullerton won his third consecutive individual title, beating the entire field with a time of 15:41.07. The time set a new school record for Belpre and was well ahead of Fullerton's previous best time of 16:04.4.
Despite Fullerton's win, the Tomcats were still able to push ahead. Brayden Weber and Danuel Persinger ran side by side most of the race, with Weber just finishing ahead for a second-place finish.
Weber posted a time of 16:30.33, while Persinger's third-place time was 16:31.84.
"Every practice, those two are the ones that always push each other," Steve Weber said. "They try and get the rest of the team involved as well. A lot of the success is on those two."
Tyler Weber finished eighth for Trimble with a time of 17:14.79. Dillon Banik was 10th at 17:26.45 and Tucker Dixon was 12th at 17:56.63. That gave Trimble five runners across the finish line ahead of Belpre, as the Golden Eagles' fifth runner came in 16th place.
The Tomcats had done enough to win back the TVC-Hocking crown.
"Every race that we raced against them, we had goals with where we wanted to be with them," Steve Weber said of competing against Belpre. "We know Eli was a heck of a runner. We just worked on making ourselves better also."
Trimble's Braxton Mitchell (14th, 18:54.91) and Zayne Moore (24th, 20:11.45) rounded out the Tomcats' top seven.
On the girls' side, the Vinton County Vikings won their third consecutive team title, and senior Rylee Fee ended her career TVC career with back-to-back first-place finishes.
Fee set a new personal-best time of 18:35.74 to cruise to the victory.
"She dropped under 19 (minutes) for the first time last week up at Thomas Worthington," Vikings' coach Josh Kirkpatrick said. "She just crushed it today. She was on top of her game. She's worked really hard to get to where she's at. Just put a lot of time in. She's ultra-committed."
Vinton County finished 26 points, ahead of Athens' 40 points. Olivia Mayers finished in second place for the Vikings with a time of 18:59.24.
"She's just stepped up," Kirkpatrick said. "She's looked really good as well. Look forward to having her back next year."
The Vikings' top five runners were all inside the top 10. Lexie Walker was fifth at 19:40.48. Emily Reynolds was eighth at 20:25.76. Olivia Wells was 10th at 20:55.64.
Athens wasn't far behind — the Bulldogs' fifth runner came in 12th place — but the Vikings did more than enough to keep the title in McArthur.
"It's just something that's been a long time coming," Kirkpatrick said. "I have eight senior girls this year. It starts with my seniors. They're a phenomenal group of girls that are hard workers and very, very committed to the training that we do."
Athens' Raney Riddlebarger was fourth overall with a time of 19:26.67, while Sarah Deering (sixth, 19:54.44) and Ashlyn Webb (seventh, 20:07.59) also finished in the top 10 for the Bulldogs.
Eastern's girls cruised to its eighth TVC-Hocking title in a row by scoring 23 points. Belpre was second with 50 points.
Easter's Erica Durst won the individual Hocking crown with a time of 19:21.95.
Federal Hocking's Rosemary Stephens finished third with a time of 20:50.77. Ashlynn Jarvis was sixth at 21:22.28 for the Lancers.
Trimble's girls were led by Alison McCoy's 13th place finish, and time of 23:17.50.
In the girls' Ohio Division race, Alexander was led by Abby Schooley's ninth-place finish. She posted a time of 20:37.40. Emily McWilliams led Nelsonville-York with a time of 24:41.57, good for 43rd place.
In the Ohio Division boys' race, Alex Norris paced Alexander with a time of 19:28.89, good for 25th place. Brody Riley led Nelsonville-York with a time of 20:20.68, good for 36th place.
In the boys' Hocking race, Brayden Tabler led Federal Hocking with a 13th place finish at 18:35.97.
Saturday's race was held at the Venue in Athens, the site of Numbers Fest in the spring. Read, Athens head coach Alex Moody and many others at Athens did a lot of work to get the course ready for competition.
"It was a totally untamed wilderness," said Read, who coached in place of Moody on Saturday. "Thanks to coach Moody and a super human effort with bringing tractors and heavy equipment out here to design the course. It was a very long process."
Read said that the footing was hard as concrete after the grass was mowed, but that the recent rain and cooler temperatures helped make the course ready to go.
"It was a really fast course," Read said. "The rain made it softer and I really think the weather, this is by far the best weather of the year. I think this is the first time we've raced under 75 degrees. The kids love it. They come alive when the temperature gets in the 50s and 60s. We had so many PRs today. Fast course, good conditions."