The plan was simple, the execution nearly perfect. The result was her best effort in the race.
Lakota senior Cariss Reese wove her way though the 300-plus crowd Saturday, finishing 12th in 20:01.99 in the Tiffin Cross Country Carnival's Division III race.
"She had a great race," coach Don Windom said.
"It's the best she's ever done, it's the best time she's ever had at the Carnival. I thought she ran a solid race," he said. "We talked about staying out of trouble; she stayed out of trouble. We talked about certain places on the course to move through; she moved through. She set herself up and had a nice finish. She got all she could and it was a great race. We're all smiling."
That included the senior, who said that along with Windom's instructions, she did her best to not let running with some of the state's best Division III runners in one of the nation's premier high school meets affect her.
"I was trying not to psyche myself out, so all week I was trying not to think too much about it. I was just thinking about getting out in a decent pace and then trying not to settle," she said. "I wanted to be able to surge in random parts so I could either pass people or stay in front of people or make my time better.
"The main thing was just, try to run faster. So I feel like it was pretty close to what I wanted," Reese said.
About the only goal Windom said his senior didn't accomplish was getting below the 20-minute mark, but making up for getting edged out by friend and rival Olivia Smith of Calvert for the runner-up spot at last week's Bucyrus Invitational was a great consolation, he said.
Smith, the two-time defending state track champion in the 800, finished 25th in Saturday's Carnival race after nipping Reese by four-tenths of a second at the end of last week's race.
"That's just huge for her psyche. Cariss and Olivia are just great friends, and last week they ran together the whole way and Cariss is pushing and Olivia beats her in the last 20 meters, and afterwards, they're good friends," Windom said.
"She knows that Olivia has all kinds of speed, and if she's ever going to beat Olivia, it's going to be in the middle of the race and not at the end. Actually, in a race like this, it's kind of good because you get lost. I think if Olivia saw Cariss, she probably would have run with her and beat her at the end," he said, laughing.
Despite falling to her rival en route to finishing 25th in 20:28.67, Smith said she enjoyed her final Carnival run.
She's certainly had put in the time, having run in it in one form or another since her youngest days of school.
"It was fun, just like all the other runs. I've been running here since I was in kindergarten, first grade. Every single year you look forward to it, it's really fun," she said. "It's a very exciting weekend, one of my favorite weekends of the year.
"I thought I ran pretty good. This is a tough course, 25th is pretty good. I got a pretty good time, so I'm pretty happy about it," she said.
While the pair led the local individuals, Mohawk had the best team finish, ending 14th (440) in the 46-squad race.
Freshman Shauna Leeth ran 68th (21:22.64) for Mohawk and classmate McKenzie Richardson took 81st (21:37.5).
Juniors Kayla Risner (22:09.21) and Haley Leeth (22:10.38) ran 96th and 97th, and freshman Beth Dundore ended 102nd (22:17.17).
Coach Brock Cleveland said the Carnival was a big jump in competition for his his Warriors, especially the younger ones.
"Our goal was top 10, but there's obviously some really good teams, so I'm pretty happy. There were some teams we were shooting for and we were able to beat them. I think as far as our regional is concerned, there were two teams from our regional that beat us. So we're in really good shape right now," he said. "A couple people have a little better race that's obviously going to improve it. Especially when you have so many people. Somebody has a bad race, that can be 50 to 100 places. I was really happy with how the girls ran today.
"We had three freshmen in our top five. One of them we share with soccer (Dundore) and she had a tremendous race. She had a super race for us today. Our two juniors came in together. That's all you can ask for," he said. "Hopefully next week we can get better and hopefully keep improving as the season goes on."
St. Wendelin took 17th (520), Calvert claimed 21st (719), Carey came in 29th (838), Lakota finished 32nd (887), New Riegel wound up 38th (1,040) and Seneca East ended 42nd (1,193).
Victoria Volpe's 64th (21:19.68) paced St. Wendelin and Jocelyn Reinhart ran 90th (21:52.24).
Calvert's Morgan Smith backed up Olivia Smith by taking 93rd (22:04.29).
Carey got an 84th from Jaclyn Troiano (21:43.15) and a 160th from Amber Spurlock (23:28.69).
Morgan Mowry's 170th (23:38.44) backed up Reese for Lakota.
New Riegel's Morgan Nye ended 166th (23:34.77) and Gidge Elchert crossed the line 188th (24:07.56).
Kirsten Camp came in 151st (23;18.56) for Seneca East and Alyssa England finished 229th (25:23.56).
Columbian found itself bumped up to the Division I-B race this year, and even though the particular race was new for the team and the meet itself was new to some of the Tornadoes, coach Nikki Hintze left the course pleased.
"A little more spread out that what we hoped for but they still had a great race. We had a lot of PR's today, which, this late in the afternoon and this hot, that's hard to do. We had some good races," she said.
"This is our first taste at the whole game of it," she said, referring to her team's move up to Division I. "The whole, big races, racing against teams that have a lot more girls than we do. Getting used to the bigger races."
Columbian finished 11th out of 33 teams, scoring 358 points.
Freshman Derra Cheatham continued to lead TC, breaking the tape 23rd in 21:11.91.
"She ran awesome. She went out hard, she did exactly what she had to do and she pulled the team along," Hintz said. "She had a great race."
Alexis Desjardin added a 59th (22:27.78), Cassandra Gooding ran 72nd (22:41.86), Abrie Smith came in 101st (23:17.09) and Amanda Schwartz took 105th (23:21.32).
Just two area teams competed in the Division II-B race, with Hopewell-Loudon moving up from Division III to claim 15th (437).
Leah Reinhart's 33rd (21:47.33) paced the Chieftains and Keely Hoover claimed 60th (22:24.63).
Upper Sandusky took 20th (500) out of 28 teams on the strength of Olivia Thomson's 44th (22:02.11) and Mackenzie Myers' 97th (23:04.23).
Division II/III Open
While Reese had the day's best time, Old Fort's Kayla Garza wound up with the best individual finish.
The sophomore crossed the line fifth out of 394 runners in the Division II/III Open in 21:12.99, surging up from the eighth spot while going up the meet's final hill several hundred meters before the finish.
"I don't know where it came from. I've had ankle problems, but I just pushed from there on," she said. "I thought, Yeah, I'm tired, but I just got to give it my all now.
"It kind of spooked me out a bit, but I woke up this morning prepared, ready to run, and I did good," she said.