Before the finish line at the Conference Indiana boys and girls cross-country championships at Indiana University, runners must get over a large hill.
The first one to stick their head up over the hill was Columbus North sophomore Rachel Brougher, and she was coming in fast.
As Brougher crossed the finish line to claim first place in 19 minutes, 27.5 seconds, junior Allison Coffey was coming in, and was able to hold off Franklin Central’s Brooke Talheim for second place in 20:02.1.
The fifth-ranked Bull Dogs went on to claim the girls team title with 32 points, their sixth consecutive Conference Indiana crown. Bloomington South finished second with 46, and No. 8 Franklin Central was third with 72.
“It was good to get the first meet under our belt,” Brougher said. “I was satisfied with my performance, but our team really stepped up.”
With Columbus North’s scheduled opener with Martinsville canceled because of heat Tuesday, the Bull Dogs were making their season debut.
“It’s been a difficult week with our first meet being canceled,” Brougher said. “For our conference meet being the first meet of the season for us, we were put to the test, and we performed real well.”
Bull Dogs coach Rick Weinheimer said the young group was full of excitement.
“We are very pleased with where we are starting,” Weinheimer said. “A meet like this to start the season brought a lot of adrenaline to the team.”
The girls had to race without Sierra Lax, who is out a few weeks due to a stress fracture. Weinheimer said that the younger girls stepped up to fill her shoes.
“Sierra has been a training and vocal leader,” Weinheimer said. “When you lose someone like that for awhile, you try to see what you can gain from a situation like that. We saw some of that today with Rachel and Allison.”
Nina Bouthier finished seventh for the Bull Dogs in 20:27, while Arig Tong took 10th (20:43), Avrie Allen 12th (20:47), Miah Kincer 13th (20:50) and Haley Duke 15th (20:57).
“We had kids that have never run a 5K before on the grass come out and compete today,” Weinheimer said. “They came out for their first time on one of the toughest courses around and competed really well.”
The boys race was a little tighter than the girls, with North senior Seth Williams going neck and neck with Bloomington South’s Anthony Williams, until Anthony Williams eventually broke away in the final half-mile to grab the win in 15:47.1.
No. 3 Bloomington North took the boys title with 45 points, followed by No. 6 Columbus North (48) and No. 4 Bloomington South (52).
Seth Williams, who took second in 15:52.2, said he wants to improve his speed on hills.
“I had a solid rhythm,” Seth Williams said. “I just need to learn to finish strong and do better in the uphill battle.”
Chase Ballard finished third in 16:17.7 for the Bull Dogs. Ben Rankin took ninth in 16:41.7, while Ben Porter was 16th (17:03.3), Joe Wright 18th (17:13.9), Nick Green 21st (17:20.3) and Daniel Padilla 29th (17:50.1).
“Bloomington (North) ran a little smarter,” Weinheimer said. “We were running full of adrenaline, and probably got out a little too fast, but the boys put up a great effort. This meet got us excited for what’s to come the next two months.”