Veteran trio has Eagles girls cross country primed for a big season

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

Last season, Eastwood girls cross country finished 12th in Division II, with Leah Emch taking all-Ohio honors with a 14th-place finish in 19:14.57.
That team was arguably the best in the girls cross country program’s history.
This year’s Eagles could be even better.
Led by Emch, who has already twice beaten her time at the state tournament, Haley Sponaugle and Z Ramsey, all of whom were key contributors on last year’s team, Eastwood is off to a fast start. The Eagles won the Mel Brodt Invitational, finishing atop the 13-team competition; placed fifth (out of 32 teams) at one of the most prestigious invites in the state, the Tiffin Carnival, and took third (out of 12 teams) at the Darin Goodman Night Invite.
“Leah, Haley and Z really pride themselves on trying to stick as close as possible. They try to lead by example for this team,” said Eastwood assistant coach T.J. Tuttamore. “We just have a lot of girls that work hard.”
Emch finished third in 19:09.25 at the Tiffin Carnival, followed by Sponaugle (16th in 19:41.41), Ramsey (22nd in 19:56.82), Reagan Russell (76th in 22:16.34) and Emerson Sheets (86th in 22:25.88).
“The girls do a really good job of rising to the competition levels that are there each week. They always tend to bring out the best in each other,” said Tuttamore. “In the long run, we work through these weeks, not keying on these middle weeks. They always seem to get after things at the invites.”
At the Brodt Invite, Emch, Ramsey and Sponaugle finished second, third and fourth, respectively. Emily Payne was 16th in 22:20.00 and Russell finished 22nd in 22:40.00.
And at the Goodman Invite, Emch won in 18:49.87, Sponaugle was ninth in 20:28.07, Ramsey took 20th in 21:12.36, Emily Payne finished 42nd in 22:42.58 and Sheets was 44th in 22:46.73.
“The girls are working really hard right now,” said Tuttamore. “They’re working through the season – workouts are the main thing. We don’t make these middle meets such a big thing. Their eye (is focused) on the postseason.
“We talk a lot about goals. The girls and boys teams, they create their own team goals, and we tend to look more at goals outside of just making it to state, so it’s kind of a week-to-week thing. I think they choose their goals wisely.”
Head coach Nathan Howard and Tuttamore are in their fourth year leading the program.
“I thoroughly enjoy coaching the team,” said Tuttamore. “I think we’re a good team and we complement each other well.
“I love it. I’ve been running all my life, even for the last 20 years, half marathons and marathons. I coached my kids in different sports, now I’m coaching my passion. Getting to know the kids is the best thing about it,” he said.
He is also working to strengthen the foundation of the program.
“We had a couple of people that used to coach the elementary cross country program, but they stepped away,” said Tuttamore, who is also the distance coach for the track team. “The high school is running that now. Some of the girls stay and help, it’s K-5th grade.”


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