Parks qualifies for state

BOARDMAN – United senior Allison Parks was running like the wind Saturday.

Parks ran away with the Division III girls regional cross country title on a blustery day at Boardman High School for her third straight state berth.

“It was real cold,” she said. “The wind was really bad, but it was dry, so I was OK.”

Parks held off Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas sophomore Athena Welsh by less than a second for to win her 13th consecutive race.

“I’ve been nervous these last two races and will be next week,” Parks said.

The top four teams and top 16 individuals advance to the state meet next Saturday at National Trail Raceway near Hebron.

“She still hasn’t lost to a Division III girl,” United coach Ken Beaumariage said. “It’s like being an undefeated athlete for her. It’s exciting for her and for us.”

Parks ran with the lead pack before pulling away again in the third mile.

“I always run around with people,” Parks said. “There was a pack there and they were right behind me. They kept pushing me.”

Parks completed the 3.1-mile course in 19 minutes, 33 seconds and held off Welsh at the finish to top the 123-runner field.

“There are a lot of good runners here,” Parks said. “If she wasn’t there, it would be someone else.”

The United girls, making their first regional appearance since 2007, finished 10th in the team standings with 294 points.

Following Parks for the Eagles were freshman Brynn Hofmeister in 61st, junior Natalie Gamble in 75th, senior Elaina Zehentbauer in 99th, junior Cheyenne Dolph in 107th, sophomore Rebecca Bock in 122nd and sophomore Jackie Bentfield in 123rd.

Parks, who was 13th at the state meet last year, will be one of several runners expected to challenge in Division III next week.

“It’s been in the undertones,” Beaumariage said. “We know what’s out there. We’ve talked, about girls, not about times.”

“I try not to look at any times because I tend to overthink,” Parks said.

Is anyone going to beat her next week?

“I’m going to say no, because she’s an amazing runner,” South Range sophomore state qualifier Mollie Pierson said.

Of course, she only sees Parks for a brief time every race.

“Right at the start beginning and then she’s gone,” Pierson said.

Parks hasn’t let herself dream of winning a state title.

“Not quite,” Parks said. “That’s one of those things your sort out when you get there. I’m just going to run my race and do what I normally do.”

Parks has been to the state cross country and cross country meets three times and has stood on the podium in both.

“There’s only one place to go,” Beaumariage said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

Meet notes

Parks may not look at the times from Saturday’s other regionals, but we will.

Only three runners ran under 19 minutes and all three were at the Tiffin regional.

Those three were Coldwater junior Sarah Kenney (2012 state champ), Liberty Center junior Brittany Atkinson (2011 state champ and 2012 state runner-up) and Coldwater senior Christina Seas (2011 state runner-up).

What does a regional champion do after the race? Parks helped teammates remove their timing chips and waited for a team photo from the Eagles’ last race together.

“She loves it (being part of a team),” Beaumariage said. “Four years ago, it was just her and her sister.

“Practice is a lot better. She’s shared that with me. It’s hard to practice by yourself.”

It was so windy during the Division III girls race, the first race of the day, the public address announcer said, “I feel like Dorothy’s house is going to fall on us.”