"It's a good day be a Ranger and a Rangerette."
No truer words were spoken by Benton High School cross country coach Brent McLain after Benton's boys and girls teams ran away with Ohio Division conference titles here Thursday at John A. Logan College.
Benton's boys won the team title with a score of 20, outdistancing second place Herrin with 38 points. West Frankfort was third at 86, followed by Murphysboro (110) and Harrisburg (132).
"Our boys did a phenomenal job. We weren't about times, we were worried about places and they ran and competed hard. They've been on a streak and it's their third year in a row so we're very happy with them," McLain said.
Benton runners took the top five out of six places. Joey Sample was the top boys runner for the Rangers, finishing in second place with a time of 16:28.4. He was followed by Chase Owens, Brady Gischer, Avery Potter and Mason Wills. Ethan Krieger finished 18th and Jay Simmons 20th.
Junior Mia McLain was the top female runner in the division, clipping the 3-mile course in 18:05.8. Three other Benton runners finished in the top six places -- Hailey Wallace (third), Addisyn Miller (fourth) and Peyton Tieffel (sixth) - as the Rangerettes won the team title with a score of 25. Herrin was second with 53, followed by West Frankfort (59), Murphysboro (84) and Harrisburg (118). Lacey Jerkins placed 17th.
"The footing on the course was not good so I couldn't really get myself to speed up," Mia said. "I've never ran here, but it's not my favorite course I must say. We had a good first mile. I stumbled a couple of times during the first mile and then the last two miles were awful. There were a lot of holes."
McLain, who has posted the fasted time in the state this year (17:34 at Peoria) in Class 1A, is gearing up for postseason.
"I'm starting to feel really good. I'm getting my legs under me and not turning over. I've been working on strength all summer and now I'm working on more foot speed so I feel like I'm in top-notch shape and ready to go."
It was only the second time in 13 years that Benton won both the boys and girls division titles in the same year -- the last coming in 2005.
"The girls have only won it twice, in 1993 and 2005. I'm just proud of them and for the school, students and administrators to come out and win the conference on the Ohio side," McLain said.
After hosting its own invitational on Monday, the Benton teams will participate in regional action this weekend in Du Quoin.
"We're going to start looking at running where we can run faster and we start using times, splits and surges. Today they ran well for places. Now we need to start transitioning into running fast," coach McLain concluded.