ONA, W.Va. - Run as a pack, succeed as a pack. Racing well in a tightly packed bunch, the Winfield girls and Cabell Midland cross country teams each placed second at the annual Geico Classic Invitational on Saturday.
The Generals placed five runners in the top 16 finishers of the AAA girls race. Meanwhile, Midland finished with seven boys runners among the top 31. Thomas Worthington (Ohio) edged Winfield and Midland respectively to capture the team titles in both big-school races.
"You want to be able to work together as a team," Winfield coach Kelsey Spang said. "This is probably one of the only individual sports where it's essential to work as a team. I was really impressed and I think that through the example of those experienced runners and how they showed how they could implement that team pack running, I think that it's only going to help the rest of the team whenever we go to practice."
Generals sophomore Brittney McMillion paced the Winfield pack with her second-place finish in 20:13. Beyond McMillion, Rachael Englund (sixth, 20:39) and Barkley Castro (seventh, 20:52) also placed in the top 10, with Alyssa Rittinger (12th, 21:07) and Darian Wikel (16th, 21:35) also contributed solid performances.
Spang said she hopes the team's lesser-experienced athletes learn from the success of Saturday's race.
"The new runners, they don't understand how important it is to run as a pack, but with this now, that they understand what it's like to run in a high school meet," she said. "They know how important it is and they can have that real-life example to actually understand what we're talking about in practice."
Knights senior Eric Wooten led Midland with his 10th-place finish in 17:23. Fellow senior Hunter Adkins finished 13th, followed by a slew of other solid Knight runs from Brandon Atkinson, Nick Salmons, Austin Jarrell, Jeremiah Parlock and Will Sheils.
"Our boys ran as a pack," Midland Coach Chris Parsons said. "On any given day it's like flipping a coin who's going to be number one, and we ran tough."
While the Midland boys and Winfield girls concentrated on running as a pack, Capital's Peyton Panger ran away from the field. Panger won the AAA girls race in 19:15, three seconds off her seventh-place finishing time at the 2012 state meet.
Panger said she felt comfortable with the course, but was less familiar with some of the participating runners.
"I felt pretty good about the race," she said. "I was a little apprehensive at first because I knew there were some people here that I hadn't run against before and they were kind of hanging back. I know it's sometimes a strategy to let the frontrunner go out and think they're beating everybody and then they end up going too hard."