Parsells, Bishop top much smaller field at cross country finals

Kaiserslautern's Lena Herrmann finished second at the DODEA-Europe non-virtual cross country championship on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, at Seewoog Park in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany.


By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 24, 2020

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RAMSTEIN-MIESENBACH, Germany – Conducted under the shadow of a pandemic, this year’s DODEA-Europe cross country championship on Saturday had a much different feel.

There were fewer runners, no spectators and no awards ceremony.

Only seven teams – all from Germany – competed and those teams were further divided into small and large schools to reduce the number of runners at the starting line, meaning each group was also running against the clock.

Usually held on the rolling hills of Baumholder’s home course, the meet was moved to Ramstein’s mostly flat home course at Seewoog Park.
But despite all the changes and challenges, the athletes were just thankful to be racing.

“I feel really grateful to be out here,” said Kaiserslautern sophomore Lena Herrmann, second in her race, noting that many runners from other schools couldn’t compete Saturday.

“It’s too bad they couldn’t come out here today, but they were here in spirit,” she said.

But DODEA is still including them with plans to crown a champion from Saturday’s boys’ and girls’ races, as well as from a virtual one, school officials said.

Teams farther afield who couldn’t get to the meet without including an overnight weren’t allowed to travel due to military coronavirus regulations. Those teams will participate in a virtual championship and have until Oct. 31 to run and submit a time.

Leading the way Saturday for the girls was Stuttgart freshman Ella Bishop, who finished in 20 minutes, 5.22 seconds to win her race – and the overall girls’ contest. Bishop broke away from the lead pack early and never looked back.

“I was feeling pretty good, so I just decided to take off and go and see what would happen,” she said. “It’s like all that work that you put in (during the season), it really pays off.”

Bishop’s time was tops in the big schools’ race against Kaiserslautern, Wiesbaden and Ramstein, as well as the smaller schools’ division of Black Forest Academy, Spangdahlem and Baumholder.

Herrmann and Wiesbaden’s Kaitlyn Taylor rounded out the top three with times of 20:28.61 and 20:37.44, respectively, on the 3.1-mile course.

BFA’s Elmi-gret Van der Westhuizen, a sophomore, won the girls’ small schools’ race with a time of 23:00.60, which put her in 12th place overall.

In the boys’ competition, defending European champion Griffen Parsells capped his senior year with a decisive victory. Parsells’ time of 16:30.34 beat runnerup Manzi Siibo, a Wiesbaden sophomore. Siibo, running in his first European championship after transferring from Japan this year, clocked 17:06.09.

Parsells was hoping to break 16 minutes but was also just happy to get to race, he said.

“It’s been a really weird season with COVID and having to make all these sacrifices so we could do this,” Parsells said. “It was great that we could, it’s just not the same without everybody here.”

For the smaller schools, Black Forest Academy dominated: Senior Kade Erickson won in a time of 18:12.41, with sophomore Josiah Alexander and junior Colby Liesen trailing by seconds. The trio grabbed the top three spots in the race.

“We decided to push each other and that would be enough, so we didn’t really look at the time,” Erickson said.

Unlike years past, when teams lingered at the course waiting anxiously to hear the team scores and pick up their awards, this year athletes left the course soon after their races to head home. Team scores were not computed and individual awards were to be mailed, race officials said.

The Stuttgart girls, who have consistently been a top contender at Europeans and won the championship last year, placed four runners in the overall top 10.

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Stuttgart's Ella Bishop crosses the finish line first at the DODEA-Europe non-virtual cross country championship on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, at Seewoog Park in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany.