By Josh Brown
WEST MILTON — For the first time in their careers, Troy’s Morgan Gigandet and Emma Shigley ran together at the Miami County Championship cross country meet.
The result? The Trojan girls dethroning the Tippecanoe Red Devils, who had dominated the meet for more than half of the last decade.
Gigandet and Shigley finished first and second, respectively, leading the Troy girls cross country squad to the overall team title at Saturday’s Miami County Championship, defeating Tippecanoe with 28 points to the Devils’ 42 at Milton-Union High School.
Last season, Shigley was still recovering from an injury when the time came for the county meet, but Gigandet ran and won in 17:57. Saturday morning, Gigandet was more than half a minute faster than the competition, winning in 17:59.
“I didn’t have any goals really. I just wanted to run it and not strain myself by winning it for the team,” Gigandet said. “And I think I accomplished that.”
And while it may not be a physical toll, Gigandet has to work hard in other ways while leading a race with no one else near.
“It’s a lot of mental work,” she said. “All the bad stuff that’s just telling you to go easy because there’s no one pushing you, you have to overcome that. It’s hard, but I’m used to it. It’s definitely a different mindset when I’m by myself.”
Two years ago, when both were freshmen, Gigandet didn’t run in the county meet, but Shigley did, winning in a time of 18:49 — which, until Saturday, stood as her personal best. Saturday, though, Shigley finished the race in a new PR of 18:43.7.
“This is only the second race I’ve finished this year,” Shigley said. “I struggled at the beginning finishing my races. Part of it was the heat, but the other part was that mentally, I thought I couldn’t do it. Physically, I know I can now.
“I didn’t have any injuries during the summer this time, and I knew I was supposed to be below 19 (minutes) this whole year. But I finally did it — I broke my PR from here two years ago. I’m so happy right now.”
After they both finished, Gigandet seemed more interested in watching the rest of Shigley’s race than worrying about her own.
“That was nice to see,” Gigandet said. “I knew I was just racing it, so I didn’t care about what I would do, except for what I would do for the team. But it was nice to see her finish it.”
“Emma finally is performing in races what she has been running in practices for weeks now,” Troy girls coach Kevin Alexander said. “She has come out of that cocoon, and she is ready to fly.”
What sealed the win, though, was the pack of Emma Bryant (seventh, 19:18.8), Olivia Tyre (eighth, 19:20.3), Megan Myers (10th, 19:35.2) and Kate Pence (11th, 19:40.7) preventing all but one runner from breaking them up.
“That strong group, just having those girls being together is what’s going to be critical for us coming into the second half of the season,” Alexander said. “They’re starting to show up. We break the season up into chunks and prioritize certain things. They’re starting to roll now, but there’s still room for improvement.”
“We want to win state,” Shigley said. “We’re up in the ranking right now (No. 10 in the latest Division I poll). We’re expecting a lot of good things this year.”
Tippecanoe’s girls, currently ranked N0. 3 in the latest D-II poll, were only behind the Trojans by 14 points.
“We’d won seven in a row,” Tippecanoe coach Byron Kimmel said. “Congratulations to them and coach Alexander. I wish them the best of luck. Their fourth and fifth girls really ran well today.”
Katie Taylor led the Red Devils in third place (18:51.9) and Kaili Titley finished fourth (19:02). Abbi Halsey broke up the Trojans’ seventh-through-11th pack in ninth place (19:25.5), Jillian Brown finished 17th (20:42.3) and Laura Fink finished 18th (20:43.1).
“We have not put it all together yet,” Kimmel said. “Our biggest struggle right now is mental. We have to regain confidence. So much expectations, preseason No. 1, coming off the state runner-up finish, six of the seven girls back. We haven’t been lucky with injuries, and right now it’s a confidence issue. And Troy is outstanding. They ran really well today.”
Covington was third with 79 points. Anna Dunn finished sixth (19:17.1), Paige Boehringer was 12th (19:49.9), Ashlyn Plessinger was 20th (20:47.5), Kelsey Dysinger was 22nd (21:08.9) and Danielle Alexander was 24th (21:16.3).
Miami East was fourth with 98 points. Lorenza Savini led the Vikings in fifth (19:05.4), Marie Ewing was 14th (20:22.7), Lindsey Yingst was 16th (20:28.3), Josie Desautels was 32nd (22:27.1) and Rachael Hodge was 71st (25:12.9).
Piqua was fifth with 143 points. Lauryn Gray was 25th (21:33.4), Kenna Bell was 30th (22:00), Lily Stewart was 34th (22:36.4), Meredith Butt was 49th (23:19.5) and Juliya Hsiang was 51st (23:27.8).
Milton-Union was sixth with 148 points. Kyli Parsons was 27th (21:54), Kiley Jacobe was 33rd (22:33.5), Ally Lyons was 35th (22:40.1), Lauren Meredith was 47th (23:16.2) and Brianna Collins was 57th (23:58.4).
Newton’s Macy Flanary was 13th (20:10.5), Tatum McBride was 48th (23:17.5) and Lexi Oburn was 60th (24:07.2).
Troy Christian’s Gracie Glaser was 31st (22:14.6), Rachel Plummer was 43rd (22:59.9) and Sophie Pitsenbarger was 95th (32:40.3).
Bethel’s Kaitlyn Balkcom was 38th (22:45.5), Gemma Miller was 74th (25:28.2) and Emma Daugherty was 86th (26:19.7).
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.