By: Alan Brads
Hundreds of women from across Ohio stand with bated breath, gazing at a man 50 yards away, illuminated only by portable stadium lights and the waning moon. The buzz of the crowd becomes a murmur, pierced by an occasional shout as anticipation mounts. The whistle blows, then silence. Time freezes, the runners are statues.
An eruption of cheers and the stampede of 334 runners from over 30 universities kick off the 2022 All-Ohio Intercollegiate cross-country championships.
Five kilometers and 17 minutes later, four forms peak over a hill, rushing towards the finish line. The darkness obscures their identities, so it’s not until they nearly cross the finish line that their jerseys and faces become visible— Alayna Ackley- Cedarville, Savannah Ackley- Cedarville, Hannah Rehm- Cedarville and Bethany Sholl- Cedarville.
The Yellow Jackets won the team competition by a longshot, beating out Division I schools like Akron, Wright State and Dayton.
Senior Alayna Ackley claimed first place with a time of 17:38.9, outpacing her younger sister Savannah by less than three seconds.
“We are very competitive with each other,” Alayna Ackley said. “We always have been from a young age. It’s pushed us both to be our best. We’re best friends, but we’re also best enemies.”
Despite their competitive relationship, Ackley’s love for her younger sister shines through.
“It’s been amazing running here with Savannah,” she said. “We ran together in high school, so it’s been great to have the 1-2 punch again.”
After the race Alayna Ackley led a circle of athletes from various schools in prayer.
“That’s what we’re all about.” Cedarville Athletic Director Chris Cross said. “We’re going to dominate in the name of Christ, as Dr. White likes to say, but we’re going to do it in the right way and give God honor.”
The Yellow Jackets entered the meet ranked eighth nationally in NCAA Division II. After claiming the top four spots on the podium, it’s safe to assume they will rise in the next poll.
Cedarville could not have asked for a better start to their season, but greatness in the opening moments of the season means sky-high expectations for the rest of the year. According to Alayna Ackley, a performance like this one is only the beginning.
“This is the best team we’ve had in women’s cross-country history,” she said.
The team’s next chance to back up her bold claim comes in the Louisville classic on October 1.
Alan Brads is a freshman journalism student and co-sports editor at Cedars. He enjoys playing the drums and speaking Spanish, and watches Buckeye football like his life depends on it.