The Okaw Valley Conference cross country meet at the Shelby Trail was everything folks thought it would be.
Three top-ranked state teams competed head-to-head and were separated by just four points, while the premier individual runners did not disappoint.
Tolono Unity, Monticello, and Shelbyville vied for the conference title and Monticello claimed it by scoring just 45 points.
Tolono was 2nd with just 48 points, and Shelbyville was 3rd with 49 points. The rest of the teams were about 90 points back.
"This was as close as expected between #2 state ranked Monticello, #3 state ranked Unity and the #4 Rams," said Ram coach Kevin Kramer. "I thought we had a little bit of let down from last Saturday. We have not been real focused in practice this week and I think it showed. I am a big believer in you perform how you practice. So we will be getting back to, hopefully, a little more focused group. I didn't think we ran terrible, just not as good as we can. And to beat two of top three teams in the state you have to bring your A game. I thought we ran a solid B race."
Tuscola's Eric Ponder (15:00) led from start to finish and won by 14 seconds over Monticellos' top man, Matthew Norville (15:14). Tolono's #1, Andrew Warnes, was 3rd (15:35), out-sprinting Shelbyvile's Marcus Skinner (15:37), who was 4th.
Skinner's teammate Drennian Martin was 5th (15:42) and gave Shelby an early lead.
"Marcus Skinner led the way with an All-Conference performance. Marcus cut 38 seconds off of his earlier time at our invitational. He also was just under course record time of 15:38 set by Corbin Kakac of Fairfield at our invite. Drennian ran an All-Conference time, cutting 16 seconds off of his time from earlier.
Tolono, then Monticello had the next two runners in the chute.