A St. Peters Lutheran School cross-country program which started six years ago with just seven runners has grown to become one of the top Lutheran programs in the country.
The boys and girls teams have a combined 40 runners whose talent does not fold under the spotlight. The top seven runners for the boys and six of the top seven girls runners set personal records at the Lutheran National Cross Country meet Oct. 27 at Concordia University in Mequon, Wisconsin.
The boys claimed the championship with 82 points, and the girls placed third with 108 points.
“We always look at the times from the last few races and figure out what we needed to do to accomplish a first-place win,” Lions coach Bonnie Wittman said. “We let the kids know what they had to do, and they did exactly what needed done. I wasn’t expecting first when the race finished. I was thinking we were going to be top three, but not first.”
Will Baker, who just joined the team this year solely for basketball conditioning, ran the two-mile race in 11 minutes, 26.74 seconds for a seventh-place finish out of 201 runners to lead the boys team.
“I was very nervous,” Baker said. “(To calm myself), I just thought about it being just another race and to do my best.”
Mateo Mendez (11:56.58) placed 18th, and J.T. Kuhlman (12:07.02) finished 29th. Tyler Blythe (12:11.65) finished 36th, while Damon Gregory crossed the line in 12:23.84 for a 41st-place finish. Nathan Wettschurack (12:26.14) finished two spots behind Gregory in 43rd place, and Ben Sylva (12:32.84) rounded out the team’s top seven with a 52nd-place finish.
St. Peters’ top girls runner, Lily Baker, finished in 12:37.08 to earn a fourth-place finish out of 171 girls. Chloe Krueger (12:59.78) finished ninth, and Abigail Jacobi (13:52.74) took 39th.
Sylvia Sasse (14:15.65) finished 58th, while Sarah Sebastian (14:20.81) came in 63rd. Hallie Randle (14:22.58) finished 65th, and Kenzie Meyer (14.26.27) placed 70th.
Jacobi, an eighth-grader, has raced in three of the Lions’ four consecutive appearances at the Lutheran Nationals. She said she was glad she could help St. Peters achieve its high goals in her final year with the school.
“I really wanted our team to get top three,” Jacobi said. “That was our goal since the beginning of the year … I set the bar really high for myself.
Some states conduct a state meet requiring teams to place in the top five to advance to nationals. Indiana doesn’t have a state meet for Lutheran schools, so St. Peters just registers for the national meet each year.
The Lions were the only Indiana school that attended, but Wittman and assistant coach Chris Jacobi are hoping to change that next season.
“We want to host the state meet so that we can maybe encourage other Indiana schools to go to the race,” Wittman said.