When the Westlake girls cross country team placed third in the recent Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I, it was the highest finish by the Demons in school history.
Three times before (1987, 1996, 1997), Westlake finished in the top 10, but the 151 points scored by the Demons placed them ahead of the 193 points of Perrysburg, last year's champion. Mason (75) and Davidson (91) were the top-two teams. Last year, Westlake finished 15th in the meet.
Placing second in individuals was Sarah Peer, a 16-year-old junior, with a time of 17:44.20. Olmsted Falls Katie Clute finished in first place at 17:25.10.
Sarah's sister Sydney Peer, a senior, placed 21st at 18:49.30. Freshman Julia Richards placed 49th at 19:22.50, followed by junior Ellie Irwin at 64th at 19:39.10, junior Christiana Ware at 89th in 20:06.60, sophomore Maggie Hennessey in 119th at 20:25.20 and senior Sarah Colman in 124th at 20:56.70.
Sarah and Sydney were the top-two finishers,for Westlake with Sarah being the top undergraduate finisher in the race. Both sisters are being recruited by various colleges.
Yet, Sarah points to the entire team as the reason for the high finish.
“My two very best friends are on the team,” Sarah said. “We're all super close, even after the season. We have a text-message group chat. And we like hanging out once a week and we go out for ice cream. We really love our team and the team dynamic has been so good. Everyone's so funny. And it's just fun to be around.”
The sisters were introduced to cross country by Dennis Sullivan when they were in middle school. He was their social studies teacher, who coached the cross country team.
Both played other sports, especially soccer.
“(Sarah) actually played volleyball and soccer in seventh grade,” Sullivan said. “I was her teacher, and I said, 'You should run cross country and track.' She didn't want to do that until eighth grade. She ran cross country. And then she fell in love with it.”
Sydney, who is also being recruited, didn't put as much emphasis on cross country until this season. Still, she played soccer too.
“My first three years, I would only go to a cross country practice like once a week and then I would run on the weekends,” Sydney said. “I was full-time soccer this year, with a little bit more cross country. So I try to show up like three to four times a week.”
That improvement showed up at the state meet. In 2021, she finished 115th at 19:59.7. Although this year's meet was held in heavy wind conditions, Sydney finished 94 places higher and 1:10.4 faster.
“It was pretty brutal,” Sydney said. “It was like running into a wall sometimes. Of course it was hard to notice when you weren't running into the wind.”
Strangely, Sarah finished with almost the exact time that she had in 2021 when she finished in 17:44.4.
“It was the same time but the conditions were pretty bad, very windy,” Sarah said. “I wasn't really expecting to go for my time, after realizing the conditions weren't ideal. I went into the race knowing okay, this is gonna be a race about just pacing myself, to be able to get in a great position and finish in a great position.”
She did finish in a great position, as well as her sister, who missed getting on the podium by one spot. The top-20 finishers are allowed that honor.
“Honestly, I was bummed that I didn't get on the podium,” Sydney said. “But considering how I finished last year, I came a long way.”
Colleges are interested in both sisters. Sydney, who is making college visits, has offers from High Point University, Elon University, The College of Charleston and Ohio University. She wants to major in interior design or architecture, but might try engineering.
“If I'm a college, I’m looking at her,” Sullivan said, “I'm looking at her potential.”
One of the possibilities is Sydney running the steeplechase in college.
“One of the coaches thinks that soccer would help me with that,” she said. “They said, 'You play soccer. You're more durable. ' “
Meanwhile, Sarah's list is impressive, with offers from Princeton, Brown, the University of Virginia and others being given. She wants to major in the biomedical field.
“I'm really thinking more about what school is good for running and education,” said the junior. “It's really early in my recruiting process. I'm going to keep my options open.”
Sullivan said Sarah has the opportunity to get even better.
“Sarah is a take-charge kid,” Sullivan said. “She does everything she can to get better: lifting weights, stretching, I mean, everything you can do to get better. She'll do it because she really wants to improve. She's an extremely hard worker. She's a totally focused kid. And she loves this sport.”
With them being sisters, is there any rivalry? Not really, both said.
“She's better than me at running,” Sydney joked. “But I'm better at soccer and swimming.”
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