By Ben Stroup
After winning conference, district and regional championships last fall, then finishing sixth in the state, a repeat performance from the 2015 Liberty girls cross country team looked like a lot to ask.
After Saturday’s fourth-place finish in the ultra-competitive OHSAA Pre-Season Invitational at National Trail Raceway, though, it might not be all that far-fetched.
The Patriots, led by Emma Bower’s fifth-place finish among individuals — a top-five showing she earned by finishing in 18:39.8 — finished with a combined 114 points. Only first-place Centerville (59), Hilliard Davidson (72) and Mason (73) were better.
Claire Linn joined Bower in the top 10, finishing 10th overall among the 166 girls in the Section A race with a time of 19:49.6.
Other top Liberty contributors included Emily Matta, who finished 28th (20:44.1), Sarah Colvin, who finished 34th (20:47.3), Meghan Piero, who finished 37th (20:49.8), Madeline Ailes, who closed 43rd (21:13.1) and Micayla Gammon, who finished 58th (21:35.4).
Orange’s boys also got the season off to a steady start, finishing 11th in the Division I Section B race with 298 points.
Tommy Heiden and Jackson Schiefelbein led the way with top-50 finishes. Heiden closed 45th (17:17.4) while Schiefelbein finished 48th (17:23.0). Matt Hartzell was solid, too, crossing the line 58th (17:27.6).
Big Walnut’s boys and girls teams were also in action, finishing 16th and 19th, respectively, in their divisions.
Sophomores Morgan Hemming (93rd overall in 24:38) and Jacob Hutchinson (33rd in 17:45) led the way.
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.