NOAH cross-country runners Grace Partney, Darcy Vineyard, Tifiani Palm, Breelee Vineyard, coach Roger Sirmon, Lucy Donohue, Nikki Trost and Julia Trost celebrate winning the National Christian Homeschool Cross Country national championship in October.

2022 was a great year for sports in Rogers County, allowing for plenty of local content.

However, some stories slip through the cracks. It happens.

That doesn’t mean they don’t eventually find their way to the presses, though.

One such story involves several female runners who put their talents on display on a national stage … and won.

A group of seven runners, six of which are from Rogers County, competed for Northeast Oklahoma Association of Homeschools (NOAH) in the National Christian Homeschool Cross Country Championship in late October in Springfield, Mo., placing first of six teams with 34 points to win the title.

NOAH is open to any homeschool athletes in Northeast Oklahoma.

Julia Trost — a freshman from Owasso — led the way, winning the individual national championship among a field of 47 runners with a time of 21 minutes, 1.84 seconds in the 5K (3.1 miles) race. She claimed the top spot with relative ease, besting the second-place finisher from Springfield Homeschool Knights by 27 seconds.

Freshman Lucy Donohue of Tulsa earned a top-five finish as well for NOAH, clocking in at 21:54. Other point earners included senior Nikki Trost of Owasso (12th, 22:39.67), junior Darcy Vineyard of Claremore (13th, 22:45.15) and junior Grace Partney of Claremore (15th, 23:01.53).

Tifiani Palm, a junior from Verdigris, and senior Breelee Vineyard of Claremore also impressed, placing 24th and 38th, respectively, with times of 24:21.76 and 26:33.30.

According to NOAH cross-country coach Roger Sirmon, who was an assistant cross-country and track coach at Claremore High School from 1995-1998, there were no qualification standards to get into the national meet. The event was open to all homeschoolers who are either competing as part of a team or as individuals.

“With homeschool, they’re seeking the best education for their kids, but sometimes it’s hard to find the competition for sports,” Sirmon said. “NOAH stepped in and has done a lot for that.”

The NOAH cross-country team came to fruition in 2020 when Partney and Palm, who at the time were getting private coaching lessons from Sirmon, brought up the idea of running competitively against other homeschool students.

Sirmon contacted NOAH and was approved to start the program, and the rest is history.

NOAH didn’t field a full high school team until 2021, but that didn’t hinder their success whatsoever. In fact, the team took second at the national meet that year.

The girls wanted more, though, and set lofty goals for the 2022 season.

“This year they set their goal to try to win nationals, and they worked really hard,” Sirmon said. “A number of them ran between 200 and 300 miles over the summer.”

Of course, as part of a homeschool entity, finding a central practice location can be challenging. The program draws kids from all over Green Country, including Claremore, Coweta, Kiefer and Tulsa.

With so many athletes spread across the area, Sirmon holds two practices a week in the Claremore area and another two in Tulsa.

“We do a lot of practicing at Claremore Lake, Walnut Park and we like to hit the nature trails at RSU for our easy runs,” Sirmon said. “Twice a week we’re in Tulsa, and I move those practices around based on what we’re trying to accomplish. Long-run Saturdays we’ll move between Mohawk Park and Riverside.”

Sirmon is a longtime runner himself, even competing in the Route 66 Marathon Relay in November in Tulsa, but his team at NOAH has far surpassed his abilities by now.

“I can’t keep up with them anymore,” Sirmon said. “If it’s not an easy day, I’m on my bike. If it’s going to be a hard day going down the road, I’ve gotta get on my bike.

“I could brag on them all day long,” he added. “They’re really dedicated, they’re team-oriented and they did put in all that work over the summer. Some of them achieved the 200-mile goal, and some of them hit 300 miles.

“It definitely paid off.”

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