TERRE HAUTE — Cross-country fans across the state traveled to Terre Haute trying to stay warm in 40-degree weather to watch more than 400 high school athletes compete in the 2017 Boys and Girls Cross-County State Finals.
Just one point separated the Jennings County and Columbus North boys teams. The Panthers took 16th place with 392 points, and the Bull Dogs were 17th with 393.
“We classified that we are the best team in the area,” Jennings coach Bryant Layman said. “We beat Columbus North, we beat Bloomington (North). We proved that we are actually a better team.”
Dalton Craig led the Panthers, finishing in 16 minutes and 21.0 seconds for 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) for a 61st-place finish. Carter Leak finished nine seconds behind (16:30.3) for an 86th-place finish. Alex Hendrix (16:38.1) placed 106th, and Franklin Sanders (16:51.1) placed 130th. Ryan Gasper (17:26.6) finished 176th, AJ Siener (18:11.7) placed 171st, and Jason Gasper finished 205th (18:35.8).
Story continues below gallery
“They competed at a high level today,” Layman said. “They ran great. I don’t know if there was any more we could have done. We peaked for this week, we did everything for this week.
“We made the environment for this week, we prepared for the weather this week and we practiced in the weather this week.”
North’s Charlie Allen came to Terre Haute wearing about five layers of clothing to try and stay warm, but said the weather didn’t affect him at all once the race started. He crossed the line first for the Bull Dogs in 16:25.2 to place 72nd.
“My first mile I felt good. I knew I didn’t go out too hard,” Allen said. “The second mile, I just kind of picked some people off. Once I got to the two mile or the three (kilometer), I picked a lot of people off and just kind of stayed even through the final stretch, so I’m really happy with my performance.”
John Sluys (16:35.6) finished in 101st place, while Peyton Shelton (16:39.7) was the 111th runner to finish. Sam Horak (16:52.6) placed 133rd, and Drew Thompson (16:59.4) finished 146th. Rishi Poludasu finished in 17:00.8 to place 148th, and Spencer Sherlock (17:22.9) placed 174th.
“We ran well the past two weeks, and we were hoping to carry that into this week,” North boys coach Danny Fisher said. “I think we were prepared and ready for this week, and some things worked out pretty well. We didn’t run as well as we did last week, but it’s still a pretty good day.”
This year was Brown County senior Wyatt Wyman’s last chance to run in the state meet, and he qualified as an individual. His goal was place in the top 50, but said he ran the best that he could do. He ran a 16:34.6 and finished 99th.
“I’m not really used to (the weather) but everyone was under the same conditions, so I can’t really complain too much,” Wyman said. “… I loved (my final year). I wouldn’t take it back for anything else. I loved my teammates and everything else.”
North girls coach Bethany Scruton said she was happy with the leadership her two seniors, Arig Tong and Kirsten Ballard, showed this season. Tong led the Bull Dogs in their 542-point 24th-place finish, crossing the line in 19:33.8 for 99th individually.
“I think I stepped up for my team and myself (this season),” Tong said, “Every race, I tried to run it like it was my first race, and I tried to give it everything that I had. The hardest part (today) was the temperature. I like running in the heat, and it was really cold.”
Emma Smith was North’s second runner, finishing in 20:06.2 for 144th place. MacKenzie Barnett (20:10) finished in 150th place, and Aric Tong (20:29.2) placed 166th. Ella Anderson (20:31.6) finished 169th, followed by Abbey Landini (20:32.8) in 170th. Ballard, who has been battling a foot injury, crossed the line in 20:51.0 to place 188th.
The Bull Dogs were without usual No. 2 runner Olivia Morlok, who has a shin injury.
“I’m really proud of the girls,” Scruton said. “This is the best of the best, and they showed that they are also the best of the best. They made it to the state meet and ran really good solid races.”
Carmel won the boys state title with 94 points, and Zionsville’s girls took first with 118 points. Hamilton Southeastern’s Gabe Fendel (15:17.2) and Greencastle’s Emma Wilson (17:45.9) were the individual champions.