Lady Eagles return to state

   FORT WAYNE — Guess who’s back at the state finals.
   If you thought Columbia City girls’ cross country just happened to find its way to the state final in 2009 then they didn’t have a hard time remembering the way back Saturday.
   After finishing in the sixth and final team spot last season, the No. 18 Lady Eagles improved upon that at The Plex Saturday for the New Haven semistate. As it has all season, City used its senior-freshmen  combination to put three Lady Eagles in the top 20 and finish third overall.
   Columbia City beat out four of the seven state-ranked teams in the 20-team field. The Lady Eagles beat No. 16 Concordia 108-126 for third-place.
   “I thought we had fourth or fifth,” Columbia City head coach Bob Fahl said. “To beat Concordia was a major deal. To get third and not necessarily run our best race, I’m just tickled to death. We won as a team.”
   All season the Lady Eagles have been led by a senior and freshman.
   In her fourth season as leader of the pack, Menzie again led the way with her eighth-place finish running 18:54. Menzie was joined in the top 15 state qualifiers by freshman Samantha Roush who took 12th.
   The difference might have come from another freshman who took 20th overall. Brooke Werstler ran her best race as a Lady Eagle, running a personal best time of 19:20.
   “She had the race of her life,” Fahl noted. “If there had to be a hero today it’d be Brooke Werstler. She was a big factor for us in third there.”
   Sophomore Carlee Hearld finished 47th in a pack with senior Laken Lefever. In just her second race back from injury, Lefever finished 49th for the Lady Eagles.
   Another freshman-senior duo finished out the City’s run. Newcomer Erin Knepple took 70th while senior Samantha Engle was 96th.
   The times might not have been there for Columbia City with week after week of topping personal bests.
   “We’ve been on cloud nine the last four weeks with our times,” Fahl said. “I’m sure everyone but Brooke is a little disappointed but whatever negatives there might have been there was a positive at the end.”
   With three seniors and three freshmen in the top seven runners, Columbia City has used both experience and new talent to post its highest semistate team finish since 1986.
   For the second straight year, Columbia City will run in the final race of the season at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course at Wabash Valley Sports Center next Saturday.
   Among the other teams getting out, No. 11 Carroll took the top spot with 72 points. Senior Charger   Brianna Johnson ran a semistate record time of 18:13 to win while Northridge’s Skylair Hilton was 23    seconds back in second-place.