NASHVILLE — Huddled together in front of the podium, surrounded by hundreds of muddied runners, the Jennings County boys cross-country team didn’t want to hear its name called.
As a woman in a gold Brown County High School hoodie announced the placings from the bottom up, the Panthers needed to finish in the top six to advance to the state meet for the first time in school history.
When they heard Silver Creek’s name called seventh, it was time to celebrate.
Scoring 173 points for fourth place, Jennings punched a ticket to next week’s state finals at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute.
Story continues below gallery
“They put in the work over the summer, winter and fall,” Jennings coach Bryant Layman said. “When everyone told us that they couldn’t do it, that motivated us more. It means everything to these boys.”
Not to be outdone, the ninth-ranked Columbus North boys and sixth-ranked North girls each finished third to earn return trips to the state meet. Terre Haute South won the boys meet with 78 points to 87 for Tell City and 127 for the Bull Dogs.
Elijah Brooks led the North charge, finishing 18th in 16 minutes, 25.0 seconds for 5,000 meters (3.1 miles). Next for the Bull Dogs was Eli Fischer in 33rd in 16:44.8, while Charlie Allen placed 38th (16:46.5), Alec Embry 47th (16:51.1) John Sluys 48th (16:51.5). Peyton Shelton 68th (17:04.2) and Drew Smith 78th (17:08.7).
There were a handful of very strong runners without full teams in the boys’ race, with the top 10 individuals advancing to state by placing among the top 12 overall.
“Our guys were especially far back at the start,” North coach Rick Weinheimer said. “I’ve seen teams panic and never move up when that happens. This group of guys didn’t do that. That’s a lot of heart and spirit that doesn’t come from the coach. I’m very pleased they got to the state meet.”
Alex Hendrix led the Panthers with a 19th-place finish in 16:25.5.
“We fought for it and feel like we deserve it,” Hendrix said. “Today, we just went on the course with the mindset that we’re going to fight every inch of the race. We wanted to run with all the big teams. We came here to do a job, and we did it.”
Franklin Sanders timed 16:49.0 for 40th, and teammate Carter Leak wasn’t far behind in 43rd at 16:50.3 for the Panthers. Dalton Craig clocked 17:05.5 for 71st, Ryan Gasper was 79th in 17:08.8, Wayne Komsi 87th (17:15.8) and Peyton Dixon 175th (19:10.8).
“Dalton Craig ran an exceptional race today,” Layman said. “He had been No. 7 and No. 8 for us all season. We kind of threw him in at the last minute. He surged to our No. 4 spot.
Columbus East’s two individuals fell short of a state berth. Paul Bean ran 16:51.0 for 46th, while teammate Jonathan Clayton finished 100th in 17:25.0.
Brown County’s Wyatt Wyman claimed 21st in 16:27.3, and Job Lawson was 70th in 17:05.7. Trinity Lutheran’s AJ Goecker placed 66th in 17:03.4.
Amassing 106 points, the Bull Dog girls earned the bronze behind Bloomington North (74) and Bloomington South (92).
Columbus North’s Arig Tong finished sixth in 18:43.2, and teammate Olivia Morlok was right behind in seventh in 18:44.6. Rachel Brougher took 10th in 18:49.1, while Ana Singhal was 44th (20:03.3), Emma Smith 56th (20:20.2), Kennedy Kerber 72nd (20:41.1) and Jennifer Gutman 85th (20:57.1).
“I thought our front three were terrific, as they have been all year,” Weinheimer said. “So few high school athletes get to experience a state finals. I love this team and these kids. I’m so thrilled to be able to share that experience with them next week.”
Jennings County placed 17th with 431 points. Ashley Heindel clocked 21:05.9 and teammate Emma Morrison ran a 21:06.4 for 94th- and 95th-place finishes.
Nicole Richardson’s time of 21:47.5 was good for 115th, while, Sydney Taylor was 121st (21:57.3) Marley Stearns 160th (23:30.5), Alana Daeger 163rd (23:37.8) and Patricia Henney 171st (24:08.0).
Individually, East’s Kristen Lyons finished 114th in 21:44.0, and Emma Mensendiek was 124th in 21:59.2.