Emotional end reveals success behind girls’ 3rd-place effort

TERRE HAUTE — The tears started to flow as soon as some of the Columbus North runners reached the finish line in Saturday’s Girls Cross Country State Finals.

The tears weren’t from disappointment, but from the joy of knowing they put in maximum exertion in the biggest race of their high school careers. So even though the second-ranked Bull Dogs finished third for the third time in four years, they were content.

“All we wanted was to go out there and do the best we could, and we did,” senior Sierra Lax said. “We came home with a third-place finish, and we are very happy with that because not a lot of teams get that chance.”

Led by individual winner Sarah Leinheiser, top-ranked Carmel scored 70 points to run away with a record sixth consecutive state title at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course. No. 3 Fort Wayne Carroll finished second with 158, while North finished with 170 and Cathedral edged Zionsville 203-205 for fourth.

Junior Rachel Brougher led the Bull Dogs with an 11th-place finish in 18 minutes, 20.8 seconds for 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) to earn All-State honors for the second consecutive year. She also finished 11th last season.

“I was happy with it,” Brougher said. “I ran as hard as I could today, and I was pretty proud of my race.”

Lax, an All-State selection the previous two years, finished 35th in 19:00.5. Senior Nina Bouthier took 55th in 19:12.9.

“This has probably been my best state meet on LaVern in my four years,” Bouthier said. “I’m happy with how the whole team did. Getting third is unreal.”

North’s third senior, Allison Coffey, finished 72nd in 19:20.1. Sophomore Arig Tong rounded out the Bull Dogs’ scoring with an 88th-place finish in 19:20.2.

“I thought Rachel was solid up front,” North coach Rick Weinheimer said. “She just battled. I thought Nina had one of our better races, and Arig, from a year ago, has come a long, long way.”

North freshman Ensley Hammond finished 101st in 19:36.5. Sophomore Ana Singhal was 149th in 20:12.9.

“We all ran the hardest we could, and we put as much effort in and I’m really proud of all the girls,” Brougher said. “We had an amazing season.”

Lax, Bouthier and Coffey have been part of four teams to reach the medal stand. The Bull Dogs took third in 2012 and 2013 and fifth last year.

“That’s a great, great accomplishment,” Weinheimer said.

Meanwhile, Seymour finished 13th with 342 points. The 13th-ranked Owls improved on a 19th-place finish from last season.

“After last year, looking at the results, we set a goal and thought top-15 would be a great accomplishment for us,” Seymour coach Spencer Sunbury said. “We thought it was in our reach, so 13th, I couldn’t be happier with it.”

Freshman Ashton Chase led the Owls with a 42nd-place finish in 19:04.2. Sophomore Emma Brock took 66th in 19:17.0, while sophomore Claire Loebker was 117th (19:49.4), senior Megan Winter 130th (19:57.5), sophomore Oriana Morales 137th (20:01.6), sophomore Abby Voss 185th (20:43.8) and freshman Brett Kleber 205th (21:59.6).

Brown County senior Corrissa Proctor competed as an individual for the second consecutive year. Proctor, who finished 59th last season, took 84th in 19:26.2.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.