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Lady Clippers take TRAC crown

Bureau Valley’s Veronica Riggen, left, and Katelin Johnson run next to each other during the Three Rivers Conference Tuesday evening at Erie.
Bureau Valley’s Veronica Riggen, left, and Katelin Johnson run next to each other during the Three Rivers Conference Tuesday evening at Erie.

ERIE – One by one, in reverse order, former Erie-Prophetstown cross country coach Joel Geisz announced the team finishers at the Three Rivers girls meet.

When he got to the runner-up, he said, “second, with 51 points, Erie-Prophetstown.”

That elicited a roar from the last team standing: Amboy/LaMoille. The Lady Clippers finished with 48 points to edge the Panthers on Tuesday at Lake Erie Golf Course.

“I knew we were a top contender, but I honestly was surprised that we pulled it off,” sophomore Jennifer Popovich said.

“This feels really, really good, especially because it’s the first year of the new conference and it really counts for something now, with 11 teams instead of the four or five that we’ve always had,” Amboy coach Bob Halberg said.

“It’s a big, big win for us.”

Princeton’s Zoe Mead finished third.

Halberg, a Princeton native, has been the coach at Amboy for eight years, and he noted his team’s previous-best finish was third – and that was way before squads like Sherrard, Orion, Rockridge, St. Bede, Hall and Princeton joined the fray this year.

“I don’t normally go out and talk to them in the front when they’re warming up,” Halberg said, “but today I did go out and tell them this was a chance to make history. It’s cool that it came true.”

Leading the Clippers was freshman Megan Grady, who blazed to a time of 19 minutes, 19 seconds over the 3-mile Erie course. It was a new record for Three Rivers meets held at Erie, shattering the previous mark of 19:48 set by Newman’s Emilie Barton in 2008.

“I didn’t think I was going that fast, honestly,” Grady said. “I’m so happy, I’m shaking.”
Grady needed about 1 1/2 miles to shake the only runner who posed much of threat, Erie-Prophetstown’s Corrie Reiley. Reiley finished in 20:29, while the third-place finisher, Princeton’s Zoe Mead, crossed the line in 20:50.
“[Reiley] just kind of slowed down,” Grady said. “I was like, OK. I just kept my pace and kept going.”

Popovich finished fourth in 21:00.9. She was followed by Erin Hosto (10th, 21:57), Caitlin Boers (15th, 22:31) and Brenna Rieker (29th, 23:46.9).

The top 15 overall finishers earn all-conference honors. Amboy’s entire lineup consisted of freshmen and sophomores.

“These next four years are going to be good, I have a feeling,” Grady said.

PHS coach Pat Hodge was pleased with Mead’s third-place finish in her TRAC debut, considering the field she faced.

“She lost to a girl who will probably qualify for state this year and one who qualified for state last year and may do it again,” he said.

The runner-up finish for Reiley was her second in a row in the conference meet. She finished behind Bureau Valley’s Regan Weidner a year ago in Walnut. Weidner is sidelined with a leg injury.

Bureau Valley was third with 82 points. Leading the Storm were Helena Arnadottir (12th, 22:08.5) and Riley Francis (17th, 22:46.9).

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