BAUMHOLDER, Germany – The chilly weather that settled over the Baumholder Army Golf Course on Saturday couldn’t stop the fastest high school runners in DODDS-Europe from scorching the course.
New course records were set in both the girls’ and boys’ races at the 2015 European championships.
In the boys’ meet, Stuttgart’s Hunter Ficenec ran 16 minutes, 31.4 seconds to smash the 16:53 mark set only last year by former Patch runner Mitchell Bailey on the 3.1-mile hilly course. With two runners on his heels, Ficenec had to blast the course record to nab the title. Wiesbaden’s Sidney Perry and Stuttgart’s James Fullwood were only about 6 seconds off of Ficenec’s pace. Perry, who beat Ficenec one week ago at Wiesbaden and hadn’t lost a race all season, unleashed a sprint in the final meters to nip Fullwood by less than a second, 16:37.06 to 16:37.75.
Ficenec, a senior who transferred from Okinawa, said he tried to run smart since he’s never run at Baumholder. He hung with Fullwood and Perry for the first of two loops that runners take around the golf course, before making his move on a downhill stretch more than halfway through the race.
After Ficenec pulled away, he powered to the finish and never looked back. “I feel like I could run it again right now, actually, ” he said.
Perry, a senior who transferred from Florida, said he was pleased with a runner-up finish on a tough course. “You think one hill is done and then you’re on your way back down and you’re back at another one, ” he said.
In the girls’ race, St. John’s Kayla Smith dominated from the gun. The sophomore ran mostly by herself, winning in 19:28.61, beating teammate Sofia Jegnell by more than 40 seconds. Smith’s mark bested the record of 19:46 set by former Patch standout Baleigh Sessions in 2013.
“It was a tough race, but I felt really good, ” Smith said.
Her strategy was to go out easy and when she was ready, take off “and run away from everyone, ” she said. That happened perhaps faster than she expected. “After the long downhill, I started to go and I pulled away, right after the start, ” she said.
Ramstein’s Katelyn Schultz was third, helping lead the Royals to the girls’ Division I title and dethrone reigning champion Stuttgart (formerly Patch), which has had a lock on the crown for several years.
“A good solid team effort for a young team, as a coach you can’t ask for more, said Ramstein coach Alan Correa. “Most of the girls ran the race of their lives.”
Royals freshman Holly Moser was fourth. “I was really nervous, ” she said. “We hadn’t run against a lot of these girls, so I didn’t know how good they were going to be.”
Winning the team title was “just a big rush, ” she said, “a lot of excitement and happiness.”
Schultz, who was seventh in the same race a year ago, felt fatigued after battling a cold and sinus congestion the last few days, she said. But sitting out wasn’t an option, she said. “This was the championship, the last race. I’ve got to run.”
Her plans for the rest of the day were a good antidote to the tough hills at Baumholder: “Eat some Cinnabon, drink some hot chocolate, sleep.”
Ficenec and Fullwood helped Stuttgart defend the school’s title in the boys’ Division I, giving the team a wide margin over runner-up Ramstein.
“We got our goal – six guys under 18 minutes, ” said Stuttgart coach Philip Bailey.
In the other team contests, Hohenfels dominated Division II boys, while Incirlik was first in Division III. In the girls’ race, St. John’s easily won the team title in Division II, while Brussels was best in Division III.