Eagle runners took three of the top four spots and five of the top 11 on their way to winning the Henlopen Conference Championship Saturday.
A sea of red swept over Killens Pond State Park Saturday as the Smyrna High School girls cross country team dominated the Henlopen Conference Championship.
Smyrna's Naomi Bowser won the 3.1-mile race in 18:44.5, while Abby Mace placed third in 20:53.7 and Destinee Ekanem finished fourth in 20:54.9.
But waves of Smyrna runners followed soon after, with Sarah Larose racing to a ninth place finish in 21:08.9 and Raegan Sebastianelli cruising to the finish line in 11th in 21:16.8.
In a 12-school event, Smyrna runners took five of the first 11 positions, compiling just 28 points in a sport in which the low score wins.
The Eagles easily outdistanced second-place Caesar Rodney which had 69 points. Cape Henlopen was third with 94 points.
While the top five runners score points, the Eagles' impressive showing continued with their sixth and seventh runners, as Audrey Price finished 24th in 22:10.1 and Cathryn Shahan crossed the line in 27th place in 22:24.2.
The Eagles didn't stop there, also winning the junior varsity race with the top three runners in the event. Melissa Perez won the race in 22:36.6. Zoe Wilcox placed second in 23:03.2, and Kendra Mounts finished third in 23:05.7.
And the icing on the cake was Smyrna head coach John Haller being honored as the Henlopen Conference Coach of the Year.
Haller called the Eagles' effort "phenomenal," but said it's a reflection of a commitment the runners have made throughout the season and in many cases over the course of multiple seasons.
"These girls just worked so hard. When you look at their dedication and work ethic, that's what sets them apart," he said. (SEE MORE OF THIS STORY BELOW THE VIDEO.)
The top-flight performance at the conference meet is even more remarkable considering Sebastianelli was overcoming a leg injury while a couple of the Eagles were nursing colds, including Bowser.
"They were fighting the odds and continued to work hard," said Haller.
Bowser said faith and the team's sense of togetherness are the reasons for the Eagles' outstanding efforts.
"I've been trusting God in all my performances," Bowser said. "We have a real family bond on this team and we all had one goal which was the conference championship, and we stuck it out and succeeded."
Mace said dedication and a positive attitude are characteristics that have brought the team members together.
"The keys this season are how close the team is and how hard we all work together," Mace said. "We all run together in our own pack and we push each other."
She said winning the conference championship is "amazing."
"It feels like all our hard work definitely paid off," Mace said.
Ekanem said the sense of togetherness is what motivates her.
"I try staying positive and not stress too much about my race, but I want to help my teammates out," she said. "The team is very close-knit. We're always goofing around and lifting each other up. We're very supportive of each other."