During summer workouts West Liberty-Salem junior Noah Smith and freshman Dylan Lauck battled for the top spot on the Big Orange cross country team, typically separated by seconds.
They kept the friendly competition alive at the Bob Schul Invitational on Saturday at Milton-Union High School.
Smith finished second in the Division II-III small school meet and Lauck fourth to pace the Orange. Smith finished in 16 minutes, 53.1 seconds and Lauck in 16:55.2.
“Along with our lone senior, Jordan Lewis, they’re really pushing the younger guys and it’s paying off early,” WL-S coach Mike Louden said. “Hopefully we can do this when it matters at the end of the season.”
The Big Orange boys weren’t the only ones hitting their stride.
Catholic Central junior Addy Engel scored perhaps the biggest win with her 24-second victory in the girls D II-III race. She won in 18:45.1 to top WL-S freshman Megan Adams and Minster junior Emma Watcke, the defending D-III state champion.
Shawnee’s boys won the D I-II big school title, the Greenon boys finished second in the D II-III small school meet and the WL-S girls finished second in the D II-III meet.
“Just hoping to shake off the rust,” WL-S girls coach Ann Vogel said. “We had a really good summer of training so our expectations were high. I wouldn’t say we exceed expectations today but it was a good rust buster for us.”
The Schul Invitational featured 1,007 high school participants and 1,743 total including the junior high runners. The Schul Invitational is named for the West Milton native who won the 5,000-meters at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the only American to win that event. Schul, 80, attends the event and signs autographs during the meet but a prior commitment prevented him from attending Saturday.
Also on Saturday, Shawnee junior Alex Dyar paced the Braves’ victory by finishing fourth (16:50). Senior Will Geist (16:55.8) was sixth and senior Keith Kaiser (17:09) also cracked the top 10 in eighth.
Northwestern junior Drew Blazer was seventh (17:08).
“We had a great 1-2-3 punch that set us up well,” Shawnee coach Brian DeSantis said. “Our fourth guy (senior Ethan Griffith) had a great summer and he came in the top 15. It was nice to have four in the top 15.”
Sophomore Ethan Wallis finished fifth (16:58.3) to lead Cedarville and junior Calvin Wise was eighth (17:07.7) to pace Greenon in the D II-III boys meet.
In the girls D I-II meet, Shawnee freshman Audrey DeSantis had the area’s top finish with fourth (20:01.5).
“They get along better than any girls team I’ve ever coached,” DeSantis said of his Braves. “It will come together because of that. But for a first meet I thought we did pretty well.
“This (boys and girls) group gets along really well. … I think it’s great leadership. We just have nice, friendly kids. These kids could get along with anybody.”
Northwestern junior Kassidy Carpenter finished seventh (20:23.2) in D I-II.
The WL-S girls placed three runners inside the top 10 with Adams, sophomore Katelyn Stapleton (fifth; 20:07.4) and junior Grace Adams (seventh); 20:17.8).
The Big Orange finished 17 points behind Minster, which won the D-III state title last season and is the favorite again.
“You might as well dive in head first and know what to expect,” Vogel said.
“We know we can compete with some of the best teams in the state so it’s a good feeling.”