Parks caps stellar career

HEBRON – United senior Allison Parks is the most accomplished cross country runner in school history. Western Reserve freshman Ashleigh Rowley is on her way to doing the same.

Parks earned a second straight podium finish by finishing 12th – one better than last season – out of 142 Division III girls at Saturday’s state cross country meet at National Trail Raceway.

“There are a lot of great runners here,” she said. “It was a fast start. Usually when they start out fast, they slow down. But these girls never did.”

Rowley – the first Western Reserve runner in 32 years to qualify for state – placed 31st in 19 minutes, 52 seconds.

Parks ran a season-best 19:12 on the 3.1-mile course.

“She wanted to be in the 18s and that is the only reason she was disappointed,” United coach Ken Beaumariage said.

Parks had won 13 consecutive races and never lost to a Division III girl all season – until Saturday.

“It was all in my head today,” Parks said. “I didn’t run my race. I had too many ideas in my head. I should have picked one.

“Once you get behind here, you can’t catch up. I really wanted to get in the 18s.”

Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas sophomore Athena Welsh – who finished second at districts and regionals behind Parks – broke into the 18-minute range as finished sixth and beat Parks for the first time.

“It was fast out there today,” Beaumariage said. “She’s on the podium. You’re a little bit off and you still run a 19:12, which isn’t bad.”

Liberty Center junior Brittany Atkinson won her second state title in three years after being runner-up last season in 18:31. She helped Liberty Center win its third straight team title.

“I want to cry,” Parks said. “I’m sad it was my last race.”

It won’t be the last race for South Range sophomore Mollie Pierson, who was 59th in 20:18.

“I tried to stay with Ashleigh,” she said. “It just wasn’t my day today.”

Pierson is still upset the Raiders missed a team berth to state by five points at the Boardman regional.

“I miss my team,” she said. “It is fun running with them.”

She is already looking forward to next season.

“I’m excited to train with my team and plan on being with them at state next year,” Pierson said.

McDonald sophomore Heidi Hoffman placed 21st in 19:36.