Obstacles abound at the Bellbrook Cross Country Invitational

There are at least three water crossings — including one through a creek that immediately challenges footing on a muddy, slippery hill. There are three large rocks waiting to greet runners’ shins should they cut a zig-zagging pattern too close.

Then there’s those barking dogs as the course runs past backyards butting up against the course’s outer edge.

And for Brookville junior Spencer Schick, there were three additional obstacles – three returning Bellbrook runners that beat him at last season’s meet as Schick finished fifth.

On Saturday, Schick overcame them all. The Blue Devil won the high school boys 3.1-mile race in 17:02.3, edging teammate and runner-up Justin Bland’s 17:05.9.

“It’s probably my favorite course because it’s like a cross country course (back in the woods),” Schick said. “I’m more of a track guy. That’s why I have to get close to them, speed is more my thing. … I believe if I’m close to anybody I can beat them at the end.”

Bellbrook’s pack running helped the Golden Eagles defend their home turf in the team results. Bellbrook’s 36 points earned them the team trophy by a whopping 33 points over runner-up Little Miami. Brookville finished third with 70 points.

“I thought I was going to take the first mile faster, but I ended up going slower than usual,” Schick said. “Back in the woods is really hilly and it’s a tough course. There are a lot of creeks you have to go through. The two guys I was chasing after most of the time, they really pushed me.”

Bellbrook’s Justin Boreman (17:06.08) led the Eagles with third place. Connor Robinson (5th overall), Cole Weslow (6th) and Nico Taylor (8th) all finished in the top 10 and Clay Cavanaugh (14th) put all five point scorers among the top 15 finishers. Even the two if-needed tiebreaker runners finished among the top 17.

In the girls meet, Bellbrook senior Madison Pelfrey (19:55.3) gave chase after winner Maria Kaylor of Princeton (19:35.7) and finished second. That’s fine with her as long as the Eagles won as a team. They did, scoring 39 points to Princeton’s 41.

“I wasn’t really feeling too great after the second mile. I’m just going for place and I’m happy the team got first,” said Pelfrey, who logged her third straight top-five finish at the meet. “That’s what we were going for, winning our home meet.”

Carlisle’s Tori Combs finished fifth and Waynesville’s Tara Todd was 16th.

Running on their home course – and one so unique – gives the Golden Eagles an advantage. So what’s Pelfrey’s favorite part of the course?

“Finishing it,” she said with a smile. “I feel like the water hazards help me because they cool me down. But finishing is probably the best because of the feeling you get. It’s that rush of adrenaline.”