TERRE HAUTE — Losing six of his top eight runners from last year’s state runner-up girls cross-country team, Columbus North coach Rick Weinheimer wasn’t sure if the Bull Dogs would make it back to state this season.
Not only did North make the state finals, it nearly duplicated last year’s effort. Led by All-State runners Mackenzie Caldwell and Rachael Sollman, the Bull Dogs finished third as a team.
“We thought it was going to be a longshot to make it back, to be able to get in the state meet,” Weinheimer said. “We knew Mackenzie and Rachael were going to have to really do a great job, and then other girls were going to have to get a lot better, and that’s exactly what happened. I’m thrilled with the girls finishing third. It’s a long way from where we thought we were a year ago.”
The North boys saw their three-year reign as state champions come to an end with a sixth-place finish. Senior Karson Tays took 21st to earn All-State honors.
Carmel swept the boys and girls team championships. The Greyhounds won their third consecutive girls title, scoring 66 points to 147 for runner-up West Lafayette. The Bull Dogs edged Conference Indiana rival Franklin Central 158-160 for third.
Caldwell, a junior, finished fourth for the second consecutive year to earn her second All-State honor. She led through the first mile and stayed with leaders Anna Rohrer of Mishawaka and Ashley Erba of Warsaw until about the 3K mark.
Rohrer and Erba pulled away for first and second, and West Lafayette’s Bobbie Burgess overtook Caldwell for third. Caldwell finished in 17 minutes, 55.8 seconds.
“That wasn’t really exactly the plan, but whatever happens, you just have to go with it, and I think it worked out great,” Caldwell said. “I’m really happy with it because even though I placed the same, I ran a little bit faster, so I know I ran as hard as I could. That’s a great time for this course, and I’m really happy with what I did.”
Sollman, a senior who finished 17th and 24th the past two years, claimed her third All-State honor with a 13th-place finish in 18:31.8.
“We went out kind of fast, and I kind of thought ‘Maybe this is too fast.’ But then I thought, ‘No. This is state meet. Nothing’s too fast at this point. Just go with it,’” Sollman said. “I kind of fell back behind the group, but throughout the race, I kind of just picked them off one by one and moved my way up.”
“Our two All-Staters had a great season,” Weinheimer said. “They both ran their best races in the state meet, and they helped everybody else get better and better.”
Freshman Sierra Lax took 41st in 19:11.7, and freshman Nina Bouthier was 83rd in 19:54.6. The key, however, may have been senior Caryn Wolfe.
Wolfe, who was running her first varsity race since early in her sophomore year, was North’s fifth runner, finishing 94th in 20:04.4. She has missed most of this season with a fractured growth plate in her hip.
“I am really happy with this,” Wolfe said. “It did not hurt at all. I am so glad to be back.”
Sophomore Morgan Neal finished 113th in 20:18.0. Freshman Allison Coffey was 126th in 20:35.6.
“For everyone besides me and Mackenzie running their first state race this year for cross-country, it was a great race for everyone,” Sollman said.
Seymour junior Zoey Johnson competed as an individual and finished 27th in 18:56.5, missing All-State honors by two spots.
In the boys meet, Carmel scored 93 points to 116 for runner-up Fort Wayne Carroll. Valparaiso finished third with 149, followed by Warsaw (157), Hamilton Southeastern (182) and the Bull Dogs (187).
Tays ran in the top 10 for most of the race and ended up 21st in 15:53.2.
“Around the 3K or the 2-mile, everybody kind of started to move a little bit,” Tays said. “I surged up a little bit to catch up to them, but I guess I just couldn’t hold it, so I just hung on as long as I could. I guess it’s not exactly as good as I wanted to do, but I gave it the best I had today.”
Junior Kaden Eaton, who missed the first half of the season with an injury, finished 39th in 16:07.6. Junior Andy Carr took 60th in 16:20.6, while sophomore Seth Williams was 74th (16:31.1), senior Kevin Rudzinski was 76th (16:34.6), sophomore Chase Ballard was 105th (16:52.0) and senior Josh Beiriger was 115th (16:58.3).
“When Kaden Eaton went down at the start of camp, we only had one guy who had run in the nationals for us, and everybody else had to get better,” Weinheimer said. “These guys were really patient and worked really hard. I thought our boys today performed at a very high level.”
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