Clintonville eighth graders Ali Johnson, Brianna Gretzinger and Jessica Petruzates, along with Hannah Beilke (Amherst) and Bailey Wolf (Oconto Falls) traveled to Hoover, Ala. to compete in the Junior Olympics Cross Country Nationals.
Each December over 3,000 youth athletes compete in this event.
Hoover has one of the most premier cross country facilities in the nation which is located in Veterans Park. The course was 4,000 meters and deceivingly tough. What seems like a relatively flat course has long gentle grades for the first 2,400 meters. Then when entering the woods the roller coaster begins.
“The hills were hard core,” said Petruzates. “Hills help you just as much as they kill you, but I think they kill you just a tad more,” commented Johnson.
The girls competed in the youth girls division, which consisted of 278 of the top runners in the United States. They placed 10th as a team out of 26 and individually as follows: Bailey Wolf 28th (15:09), Ali Johnson 30th (15:12), Hannah Beilke 99th (16:12), Jessica Petruzates 124th (16:24), and Brianna Gretzinger 167th (16:45). They were coached by Jay Harris under the team “Distance Demons”. Johnson had the fastest race of her career, knocking almost one minute off her state time.
Johnson, Gretzinger, and Petruzates have been running on the Clintonville Cross Country team for the past two years. Jeff Crumbaugh has been their coach and he continued to practice with them after Cross Country season was over until they went to Nationals, which the girls are very thankful for.
Crumbaugh is very dedicated to his runners and they are lucky to have him as a coach. “They are three of the hardest working athletes I have ever coached. They ran well against elite national competition on a demanding 4,000 meter course. I am really proud of their accomplishments,” Crumbaugh said. The parents of these five girls are also very proud of them.