For three seasons, it has seemed automatic. Lauren Benzing. Cross Country meet? First place. Through three seasons (she played volleyball as a freshman) the Solon senior was first in every regular season and state qualifying meet. Add to that a state title in 2010 and a state runner-up finish in 2011…. and the stage was set for this year.
“I went out really good; really relaxed, not tight,” said Benzing about the start at last weekend’s state meet. Also towing the line were Madison Waymire (Dallas Center-Grimes) and Anna Holdiman (Waverly-Shell Rock). Waymire beat Benzing last year for the 3A title, with Holdiman third.
Holdiman, top-rated most of this season, sprinted into the lead at the gun. Benzing, Waymire and MOC’s Bethany Dykstra were bunched up behind her. “I ran third most of the race, with a pack of three or four. With about 600 (meters) to go, I felt the other girls closing in. As they made a move, I picked up the pace,” noted Benzing. She moved into second, and held on, finishing in 14:30, one tick ahead of Dykstra, and four seconds in front of Waymire.
Thirty-plus wins and a couple seconds. Not a bad finish, in a sport where you routinely run against dozens to 100 or more competitors once or twice a week. But it is finished. “It’s bittersweet. It’s a happy day. It’s a sad day, too,” reflected Benzing. “This year just flew by. I can’t believe it’s over. My teammates are awesome.”
“Lauren’s just been such a constant presence,” added Coach Emy Williams. Having her at the top at each meet? The other girls could rely on that... and on her.