St. Paul sophomore Lily Dowdell knew almost instantly that Saturday’s Division III state cross country championship race had a different feel to it.
“I knew once in the race I was going to have to go fast and see what would happen,” Dowdell said.
What happened was a performance no one could see coming — including from Dowdell herself. Not only did she run a personal best time on the biggest possible stage at National Trail Raceway — but Dowdell smashed her PR by almost 20 seconds, finishing the course in 19:13.7 to place 10th overall out of 184 runners.
“The crowd was definitely great and gave me a big lift today,” Dowdell said. “I had a lot of family and friends who came down. But I think it was more about the course, because there were a lot of girls out there pushing and aiming for the same thing.”
She entered the race with a PR of 19:32.8 — a mark she set at the Galion Festival on Sept. 16. But after an opening mile of 5:56.4 (24th place) and a second mile of 6:26 put her in 14th, Dowdell entered the last stretch of the race in prime position to run the race of her young life to date.
“It’s been a goal for a while, but I wasn’t aiming for a certain time today,” she said. “But it was definitely a surprise at the finish line to see 19:13. I knew I had run a strong race, but I wasn’t sure how strong.”
Dowdell, who was 54th as a freshman last season at the state championships, had no idea she was a lock for All-Ohio honors (top 25) — or that close to the front of the pack.
She was 2.6 seconds away from sixth place and 1.3 seconds ahead of 13th.
“Most of the race I was back and forth with different girls, but I knew it would be close toward the end,” she said. “But I didn’t know I was that far up … I just had to smile and thank my coaches for everything they had done for me this season.”
Minster’s Emma Watcke was the individual champion in 18:38.4, as her team won the state title (34 points) by a record margin.
After two seasons of cross country, Dowdell is a two-time Firelands Conference champion and now an All-Ohioan who wasn’t far off from a top five finish.
“I think it was a great experience last year, and great to have teammates go down with me today,” she said. “But it was a big week, I can’t deny that. I wasn’t expecting it today, but it does show that hard work and having strong support pays off.”
Avandano, Arnold finish in top half of boys race
St. Paul junior Noah Avandano continued his rapid ascension in results on Saturday with another strong showing in the Div. III boys race.
He crossed the finish line in 17:02.9, good for 61st out of 183 runners. He opened with a 5:08.4 first mile, then followed with a 5:41.2 second mile before finishing the last stretch in 6:13.3.
His teammate, Jared Arnold, was 72nd in 17:09.6 — up from 84th place a year ago. Arnold started with a 5:08 first mile, and his second mile run on the course was 5:46.1. He finished the last stretch of the run in 6:55.5.