Ten Years of Alliance Running Invite
On a cold rainy November evening in the late fall of 2003, Jack Lintz (Northmont), Mark Brown (Brookville), and I met at the Miami Valley Career Technical Center. I had recently launched the Alliance Running website and had always entertained the dream of sponsoring a mega high school cross country meet. Upon contacting two of the most passionate distance coaches at the time, I was a visionary with no home for the vision...a race without a course.
Jack suggested the CTC as possible site. We trudged through the muddy grounds and explored the trails and air strip. We all agreed, "This was the place!"
In the spring, we met with the CTC administration to discuss the prospect of hosting a meet on their grounds. Thankfully, the CTC brass was on board and my dream was nearing reality. Over the next few months, I sent hundreds of emails almost begging schools to attend the meet. Mason High School was the first school to commit and for that I'll always be a fan of the Comets. Dublin Coffman and Cincinnati Turpin were the next to hop on board. A total of 22 schools participated in that memorable first year.
Mason's Angela Bizzari blasted a solid field. Bizzari went on to star at the University of Illinois. Bizzari was an NCAA champion in cross country and track for the fighting Illini. Her 18:10 established a course record that was eventually bested by Brooklyne Ridder (Oak Hills) in 2007 (17:48) and recently by new record holder Mary Kate Vaughn (Oakwood) with a 17:37.
The lady Comets took home team titles in 2004, 2007, 2008, and 2010. Springboro's 2009 and 2011 titles join Mason as the only schools with multiple team championships.
The 2004 boys race featured a bevy of future collegiate runners including Levi Fox (Troy), Nik Schweikert (Beavercreek), Chad Balyo (Springboro), Tom Middleton (Carroll), Zak Wilburn (Steele), and Paul Krebs (Alter). Amherst Steele's Zak Wilburn bolted out off the starting box and led the first 1.5 miles of the race. Fox, Schweikert, and Middleton settled a few meters behind Wilburn. Eventually, Levi Fox would surge to the front, hammering the last 800 meters and finishing in 15:43.
Centeville's boys upset regionally ranked St. Xavier to capture the team title. Mason is the only boys team to record multiple titles (2008 and 2011).
The 2012 meet was a year of record breaking performances. Oakwood's freshmen phenom Mary Kate Vaughn blasted a 17:37 eclipsing Brooklyne Ridder's (Oak HIlls) 17:48. Vaughn would go on to win the DII state championship and qualify for Nike Nationals in December.
Tippecanoe's Sam Wharton bested Fairborn and current Ohio State Buckeye Jordan Redd's course mark of 15:27 with an unchallenged 15:14. Wharton remained undefeated all season and collected his first state title at National Raceway setting a course record of 15:09. A few weeks later Sam won Nike Cross Nationals and finished 6th at Foot Locker Nationals.
The list of state champions that have competed at the meet is impressive. Angela Birzzari (Mason), Sarah Leeper (Loveland), Brooklyne Ridder (Oak Hills), Katie Landwehr (Tippecanoe), Jacquelyn Crow (Lebanon), and Mary Kate Vaughn (Oakwood). On the boys's side: Chad Balyo (Springboro), Zach Wills (Mason), and Sam Wharton (Tippecanoe).