Perhaps a rivalry was born in 2012 when sophomore Sarah Kanney of
Coldwater took the top spot on the podium that Liberty Center sophomore
Brittany Atkinson occupied the year before. Brittany is 2nd in this photo.
This Saturday will mark the finale of one truly special high school sports rivalry. Senior cross country runners Sarah Kanney from Coldwater and Brittany Atkinson from Liberty Center will meet for one last time on their sports biggest stage, the OHSAA state cross country course. Over the span of four seasons these two girls have been widely regarded as two of Ohio's best distance runners, and not just in Division III, in all divisions. Their careers against one another have defined what a rivalry is. In 2011 as freshman they met at the regional and state meets. Brittany beat Sarah at both, including winning the state championship. In 2012 as sophomores they met again at the regional and state meets. Sarah beat Brittany at both this time, including winning the state championship. In 2013 as juniors they met for a third time at the regional and state meets. Sarah won the regional, but Brittany won state. In 2014 as seniors they met during the regular season for the first time at the Tiffin Carnival. Sarah ran an eye-popping time of 17:57.87 to win, while Brittany ran a 17:59.78 for second place. The two rivals also met again last Saturday at the regional meet. Sarah won and Brittany finished second. For those keeping score, their record against one another is Sarah 5 - Brittany 3 or Brittany 2 state titles - Sarah 1 state title, depending on how you're counting.
I've had the opportunity to meet both runners and both are class acts. Sarah will be heading to NC State after graduation to begin her collegiate running career and Brittany hasn't decided on a college yet, but has six official visits scheduled after the state meet. Until then, high school cross country fans will enjoy one last battle this Saturday at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. I'm not predicting who will win this final showdown, but I predict both girls will be running side-by-side as they pass in front of the grandstands for the first time around the 1/2 mile mark. The crowd will come to their feet and the rest of Ohio's best runners will likely be a distant third at that point. Enjoy it folks, it's the end of a rivalry.
In 2013 both girls ran together for much of the first half of the
state race. In the end Brittany won her second state title.
With close to 10,000 spectators, the OHSAA State Cross Country
Championships is one of the largest meets in the nation.