By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer
Left: ELLIE GILBREATH: Regent Prep’s Ellie Gilbreath wins her fourth state cross country championship.Right:ELLA EURESTE: Bishop Kelley runner Ella Eureste wins a state cross country title as a freshman.
A senior became a four-time state champion and a freshman got started on what she hopes to be a similar journey.
Regent Preparatory School senior Ellie Gilbreath won her fourth state championship with a time of 11:37 at the Class 2A meet on Oct. 20 in Shawnee. Her sophomore teammate, Natalie Cleveland was just 41 seconds behind her in a runner-up finish. The Rams took fourth as a team with 134 points.
One week later in Edmond, Bishop Kelley freshman Ella Eureste and her team captured the Class 5A state championships. Eureste took top individual honors, wining with a time of 19:40.6, edging Guthrie’s Mercy Dement (20.06.5) by nearly 26 seconds.
The Lady Comets won the team championship with 133 points. Guthrie was second with 90.
Other Kelley runners were sisters Tess (20:12, fourth place) and Sarah Crosley (20:34, sixth), Alexandra Borovich (20:44, 10th) and Addison Gehring (21:09, 14th).
Gilbreath became the sixth runner in Oklahoma history to win the state title all four years in high school. She joined Cheyenne Walden, Sand Springs (2013-16), Brooke Edsall, Lomega (2001-04), Jessie Gordan, Plainview (1998-2001), Amanda Jordan, Bishop McGuiness (1997-2000) and Natalie Gray, Cascia Hall (1990-93).
“It felt amazing,” Gilbreath said. “Ever since my freshman year, when I won, this has been my goal. So, it was just a lot of fun being able to do this and accomplish it.
Gilbreath managed to stay healthy the whole season, she said, and never missed training.
“I was just really determined to win,” Gilbreath added. “That helped, too.”
“I was in the lead pretty much most of my races this season. Sometimes it’s kind of hard because I’ll be tired, and I’ll look back and no one is even close. But I just try to keep going and get a good time even if no one is pushing me. At state, no one was near me.”
Winning four state titles is not the only accomplishment Gilbreath has made in running. She broke three OSSAA state records in track last spring.
She won the 3200-meter run with a time of 11:00.52, breaking the old mark of 11:21.96, which stood for 12 years. The other two records came in the 800-meter run and the 1600-meter run, where she won respectively with times of 2:16.40 and 5:13.60. The old marks were 2:17.38 and 5:14.71.
“That was so cool,” she said. “I honestly did not expect that time at all. But it just felt really good. I had planned on hopefully breaking the record, because I had run faster than that before, but I had never really been able to do like my best performances at state, so I was really happy that I finally did it.”
Gilbreath hopes to break her own record again in the spring.
As of mid-November, she was leaning toward Oklahoma State for college. She had other official visits planned, she said.
It was special for Regent Prep to have runners finish 1 and 2, Gilbreath said.
“I think it just shows that we have some talented athletes,” she added. “The program is growing, and the coaching is good. This was like our first year to have a full team on cross country. So, it will definitely help the program keep going and it’s getting stronger every year.”
Gilbreath believes Cleveland can win it next year.
Winning as a freshman was a thrill for Eureste, but she said it doesn’t compare to winning as a team.
“The many months of hard work came together, and it was a special experience that can never be taken away.
“I really think the key to winning is the girls’ cross country program, which is really different than other high school cross country teams,” Eureste said. “We all are so close because of the hours we have spent together. We are not just teammates; we really are family. We do all of our workouts together, which is a bonding experience every practice and it makes us rely on each other, so we work out as a unit to finish the workout.”
Eureste said winning the next three years is definitely a huge goal she sees herself striving for,” Eureste said.
“However, I will never take winning a race for granted, because I know there is always someone out there that is working just as hard as me. I’m always looking for ways to improve my stride, form, and times to push myself to the next level,” she added.