BELLAIRE - There was a time Fallon Doyle didn't like running.
Sure, when she was little she did it for fun, but the thought of doing it competitively terrified her.
''At first, I was totally against it,'' she remembered. ''Then, my mom told me to try it and when I went to my first meet I was really scared.
T-L?File Photo/SETH STASKEY
ST. JOHN Central junior Fallon Doyle runs in the OVAC?Cross Country Championship earlier this month. Doyle will now compete on Ohio’s biggest cross country stage. She will run in the Division III state meet on Saturday at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. This marks her third straight trip to the state meet.
''It was nothing like I'd ever done. I didn't really want to do it.
''Then, I ran my first race, and I loved it.''
The rest, as they say, is history.
Saturday, Doyle will look to make more history when she represents the area at the Ohio State Cross Country Championships at Hebron's National Trail Raceway.
Doyle's event - the Division III race - starts the day's action at 11 a.m.
''I'm so excited,'' she said. ''I honestly can't wait.''
The St. John Central junior is aiming for her third all-Ohio finish. She took third and 11th the last two years.
''I want to get back on the podium,'' said Doyle, the daughter William and Beth Doyle.
Her coach, Zach Foster, thinks she's got a heck of a shot.
''I expect her to run smart and be in contact through two miles then make a move to crack into the top 5 in the last mile,'' he said. ''It is so hard comparing regions and predicting who will run where, but if she runs as well as I believe she is capable she could be pretty high.''
Five girls from Liberty Center's 2012 state championship squad return, while Coldwater, last fall's runner-up, has four runners back in the fold. Coldwater's Sarah Kanney, a junior, is the defending individual champion, while Liberty Center's Brittany Atkinson, also a junior, took second in 2012.
''Fallon saw four girls last Saturday who had run 18:50 or faster this season and she finished second,'' Foster said. ''Those same four girls will be vying for spots in the top 5, so I think seeing those girls last week and even the week before will help out tremendously in removing some guess work as to how the the race could unfold.''
Doyle said she probably won't take a peek at the rest of the field until Friday.
''I usually wait until then so I'm not thinking about it so much,'' she said.
Her focus, mainly, is on what she's doing.
''I just try to focus on my race and hope for the best,'' she said.
Doyle added, the course, in its third year of use by the OHSAA after 26 years at Scioto Downs in Columbus, is a perfect fit.
''I like it a lot,'' she said. ''The first part you go in front of the stadium and it goes by quickly and you don't even realize you're running. It takes the edge off any nervousness.
''Then, after that, it's like you're in the middle of nowhere. But, by then, you're really focused on the race.''
It's been quite a season for Doyle. In addition to the runner-up finish at last week's regional race in Pickerington, she also was second at the district competition in Cambridge, along with the OVAC meet at Meadowbrook.
Victories came at the Newcomerstown Invitational and Meadowbrook Colts Carnival. She also placed sixth at the prestigious Midwest Catholic Championships near Dayton.
''Fallon did PR this season in a race she led from the gun to the finish, and I would not be surprised if she ran even faster this weekend,'' Foster said.
''I think the biggest jump we saw in Fallon (this season) was in her confidence in herself and her ability, as well as her confidence as a leader.
''Fallon was a great captain this season and behaved almost motherly in her duties.''
Doyle said she had more specific goals for the 2013 campaign.
''I wanted to control my starts better,'' she said. ''I wanted to come out better the first mile and demolish the second and third.''
Doyle's times, on average, are down about 12 seconds, she said.
''Fallon is a unique runner,'' Foster said. ''She is obviously gifted, but she is very consistent in how hard she works, it's not a week-to-week or day-to-day thing.
''She works hard every step of every run.''