Although it finished eighth in last year’s Boys Cross-Country State Finals, the difference between that and third place for Columbus North team might have been a lost shoe.
Another competitor stepped on the shoe of Justin Spoon early in the race, causing him to run much slower than usual. Had he finished at his normal time, the Bull Dogs would have taken third and ended up on the awards podium.
Spoon is one of four seniors back from that state finals lineup. Elijah Brooks, Alec Embry and Eli Fischer join him in forming an experienced quartet.
“That’s a great way to start — with four seniors,” North coach Rick Weinheimer said. “The group of senior boys have taken their roles as leaders very seriously, and I think it’s important for them to leave a positive legacy. What we do this season starts with those guys.”
Beyond that, the Bull Dogs have little varsity experience. Juniors Charlie Allen and Drew Thompson and sophomores Sam Horak and Peyton Shelton figure to battle for the final three varsity spots.
Allen won the sprint portion of Saturday’s Columbus Challenge Triathlon.
“They’ve really tried to keep that gap pretty close,” Weinheimer said. “At one point, I thought we might have four, and then a big gap, but now it looks like that 5-6-7-8 have really closed on them.”
Sophomore Drew Smith, a standout golfer, did not run last season, but came out for the team when practice began last week.
Weinheimer thinks North could have another strong team.
“Our offseason has been terrific,” Weinheimer said. “It’s been a really warm, humid, stormy summer, and the good part to that is, our boys have been very committed to their training, and their bodies have pretty well adapted to that kind of weather. Sometimes when we have a milder summer, and warm weather hits, it’s hard to adapt, but we’re pretty adapted to anything.”
Last season ended in heartbreaking fashion for the Olympians. They finished sixth in regional, two spots behind Jennings County for the final semistate qualifying spot.
“We weren’t satisfied with where we ended up last year, and I think that’s driving them a little bit this year,” East coach Ryan Burke said. “Our end result is going to be better than it was last year. I think we have the potential to win a conference championship for sure and challenge for one of the spots into the state meet.”
Senior Paul Bean returns to lead the Olympians. Bean won Hoosier Hills Conference and Brown County Sectional titles last season and was a semistate qualifier.
Senior Jonathan Clayton also qualified for semistate as an indivdual last season. Junior Michael Zieleniuk, seniors Josh Sensanbaugher and Josh Wettschurak and sophomore Garrett McGaha give East six returning varsity runners.
Sophomores Owen Rupp and Jalen Pleak and freshmen Caleb Wettschurak and Drew Helton are battling for the final varsity spot.
“I think we’re in good shape right now, especially with a strong core returning,” Burke said. “They’ve been able to set a good example for the younger guys coming in. I’m excited about where this season could go.”
Like East, the Jets return six of their seven varsity runners.
Senior Owen Green has been Hauser’s No. 1 runner the past two years. Juniors David Seelye, Jordan Johnson and Sam Robinson and senior Austin Everroad also were in the Jets’ top five. Senior Hunter Albright also returns to the lineup.
“We have some upperclassmen this year, and hopefully they’ve matured and improved,” Hauser coach Ben Finke said. “We have some other potentials.”
Sophomore Noah Benge likely will fill the final varsity spot.
The Panthers have high hopes after qualifying for semistate last season.
“We believe this is the best team in school history,” Jennings coach Bryant Layman said. “We have two guys that are projected to run high 15s this season. This is the year we could beat Columbus North. Next year, we could be top five in the state.”
Five varsity runners return, led by sophomore Alex Hendrix and junior Franklin Sanders. Freshmen Carter Leak, a Junior Olympic finalist in middle school cross-country, and A.J. Seiner have been running No. 3 and No. 4 in practice.
Senior Wayne Komsi and juniors Ryan Gasper and Isaiah Ertel also return to the lineup. Freshman Jason Gasper figures to challenge for a varsity spot.
“We didn’t have depth last year,” Layman said. “We had the up front times to do some dangerous things, but we didn’t have the depth. We’re loaded as far as our back half goes.”
The Eagles could be rebuilding this year with only one varsity returner from a regional qualifying squad.
Junior Wyatt Wyman was Brown County’s No. 2 runner last season. He’ll have help this year from senior Job Lawson, who is running cross-country for the first time after playing football the past three years.
Senior Nathan Kilburn and sophomore newcomer Jackson McPheeters could be solid contributors. Senior Michael Southerland and freshman Tim Kilburn are battling for the No. 5 spot.
“Job is going to be pretty good, so we’ll have a nice 1-2,” Brown County coach Rob Abraham said. “Nathan has had a really good summer, and Jackson ran track for me, so he’s definitely a welcome addition. If we can find a fifth, we might be able to do something. I think we have four, but if the injury bug comes through, we could be in a world of hurt.”
The Lancers have only one runner out for this year’s team in freshman Isaiah Estes.
“He was coming (to workouts) all this summer, and I’ve already seen an improvement from him,” Edinburgh coach Ashley Myers said. “I’m really excited to see his first race. I think he’s going to do a lot of good things this season.”
Myers is new to coaching, but not to Edinburgh. She is a 2012 graduate of the school and ran cross-country and track there and at Franklin College.
The Cougars will have two runners this season, led by sophomore A.J. Goecker. Goecker won a sectional title in the 3,200 meters in track this spring.
“The last few base runs that we’ve been on, he’s been looking pretty good,” Trinity coach Chris Crenshaw. “By the time the season rolls along, he should be in pretty good shape.”
Junior Alex Royalty also is running for the Cougars.
2016 cross-country schedules for Bartholomew County schools:
Aug. 17;at Brown County Challenge;5:45 p.m.
Aug. 20;at Zionsville Invitational;9 a.m.
Aug. 27;at Rushville Invitational;9 a.m.
Sept. 3;at Columbus North Classic;8:30 a.m.
Sept. 10;at Ben Davis Invitational;9:30 a.m.
Sept. 17;Flashrock Invitational at Carmel;9 a.m.
Sept. 24;at Bedford North Lawrence Invitational;9 a.m.
Sept. 27;at Columbus North;5:30 p.m.
Oct. 1;HHC at Bedford North Lawrence;9 a.m.
Aug. 23;Martinsville;5:30 p.m.
Aug. 27;Conference Indiana at Terre Haute;9 a.m.
Sept. 3;Columbus North Classic;8:30 a.m.
Sept. 10;at Brown County Eagle Classic;9:30 a.m.
Sept. 17;at Louisville Trinity Invitational;9:30 a.m.
Sept. 24;at Culver Invitational;8:30 a.m.
Sept. 27;Columbus East;5:30 p.m.
Aug. 20;at Rising Sun Invitational;10 a.m.
Aug. 27;at Rushville Invitational;9 a.m.
Aug. 30;at Greensburg (with South Decatur, Eastern Hancock);5 p.m.
Sept. 6;at Edinburgh;5 p.m.
Sept. 8;6-way meet at Blue River Park;5:30 p.m.
Sept. 10;at Whiteland Invitational;8:30 a.m.
Sept. 17;MHC at Blue River Park;9 a.m.
Sept. 24;Heritage Day Classic;9 a.m.
Sept. 27;Morristown;5 p.m.
Sept. 29;at Greensburg Invitational;5 p.m.