Before Lady Lex could win a team trophy, they needed to follow an example.
Enter Nick Molnar.
The Lexington senior showed the game plan worked as he moved his way through the field en route to an All-Ohio podium finish of ninth in 16:05 at Saturday's state cross country championships at National Trail Raceway.
"I was very nervous, but then Nick did his race and my coach was telling me how he was 30th or 40th at the mile and I said I'm not going to run stupid," Lady Lex junior Lillian Freundlich said after posting an All-Ohio podium finish of her own with a 13th in 18:45. "I really followed his lead and didn't pick people up until the end and it really paid off."
Lexington coach Denise Benson said she implored her charges to stay patient in the first mile so they could attack the second half of the race.
"That was my plan," Molnar said after reaching the mile marker in 36th place. "My coach made it crucial all week not to go out flying because people get too excited with the crowd and they just go out like wildcats. You start out with a controlled pace, not too slow and not too fast. It is a three-mile race."
By the halfway point Molnar was 21st and moving. He closed on the second-mile marker in 18th and kept charging.
"One of my favorite things about racing is that final push, that last stretch where these dudes hurt, but I hurt less and I'm taking them," Molnar said.
It was his first state appearance, competing in boys Division II.
"That's what it's all about," Benson said of her tone-setter. "To be able to come here as an individual and stay composed and get the job done and making podium, we're very excited."
There was a lot of excitement for the Lex crew. Senior Ellen Isaac capped her career as a four-time state participant, three-time All-Ohioan (top 25) and two-time podium finisher (top 16). She followed the same plan as Molnar and Freundlich.
"I was really worried about going out too fast and my coach kept drilling into our heads, don't go out too fast. I knew my body would let me do what is right, and I just trusted myself and it worked out," Isaac said after finishing third in the girls Division II race with a time of 18:22.
Like Isaac, Freundlich and Molnar, senior Elizabeth Volz also earned All-Ohio honors for Lexington, picking off five runners in the final 800 meters to get the final spot on the list. She ran a personal best 19:13.
"It was a surprise, but at the same time coach told me and Dom (Clairmont) that you guys could be All-Ohio. We were like, 'You're joking," and she was serious," Volz said. "I was feeling pretty strong. I heard people calling out places and I heard 30th was behind me."
The area had two other All-Ohioans.
Northmor senior Dani Blum ran a Lex-style race, going out at about 35th at the mile, then closing a lot of ground in the last mile.
"I gave everything in the last mile," she said after getting 18th in 19:07 in the girls Division III race. "It's just go. You don't leave anything on the track or course. The last mile is when you let it go."
Blum said she gave herself a couple of pep talks when it looked bleak. She led the first 100 meters, then feared she burned herself out and throttled it way back to conserve herself before opening it back up for the final half of the race.
"I was aiming for podium today but I can't really be upset with 18th. All-Ohio is All-Ohio," Blum said of earning it for the second time of her career. "You can't be mad about that. It's an honor."
Fredericktown senior Sarah Fowler was a podium finisher in the race, getting 14th in 19:00. After sitting out last season after transferring from Mount Vernon, she was just happy to get the chance to run again.
"It was honestly the hardest thing I've ever done. I'd go to all the practices and workouts, and I'd run with them. I'd do the warmups at the meets and as soon as the gun went off, I'd stay there and they'd run without me," Fowler said. "I have to admit after all the meets I'd go home and cry. Running is like everything to me. To have it taken away like that is hard."
Fowler got away in the top 15 and kept her spot for all 5000 meters.
"I don't think I ever raced harder," she said. "I worked so hard for this. It's beyond words."