Bente Bouthier and three of her Columbus North girls cross-country teammates were running in practice early last season when a car clipped Bouthier and broke her leg.
Although she felt pain right away, Bouthier thought she would be running back to North. But then she realized she might not be able to get off Washington Street fast enough to avoid more cars.
The hit-and-run accident that ended Bouthier’s freshman season is a distant memory now. She has been a varsity runner for most of this season and hopes to help the No. 58 Bull Dogs in the postseason, beginning with Tuesday’s Brown County Sectional.
“It was a really big disappointment to me,” Bouthier said. “I was really excited to be part of the team at North, and I still wanted to find a way to contribute even though I was injured. I kept coming to the practices and everything to stay motivated, and that’s what helped the most. You have to come every day and do something for yourself every day if you want to see improvement.”
Boutheir was back running again as soon as she was cleared in February. She ran in a few track meets but couldn’t crack the lineup for the bigger invitationals and the postseason.
“Bente started running a little bit last winter, and then in track season, she did a little bit more running, and they kind of left it up to her, her pain threshold and how she felt,” North coach Rick Weinheimer said. “She got to run some races in track, and we never expected that. We thought it would be about a year-long recovery.
“She was very dedicated this summer,” he said. “She’s a high-level trainer, and she’s just been a really good healer.”
This fall, Bouthier was a mainstay on North’s varsity until spraining an ankle. She ran junior varsity in Tuesday’s Conference Indiana meet and finished second in a personal-best 20 minutes, 16.46 seconds.
“I’m pretty happy with how I did,” Bouthier said. “I just wanted to go out and have a good race.”
Bouthier’s freshman sister, Nina, has been the Bull Dogs’ No. 4 runner for most of the season.
“It’s really nice having her on the team because it’s nice having a family member who understands the team dynamic and who is always there to encourage me, even at home,” Bente said. “It’s nice on Sundays or weekends if I can’t meet up with someone to run with, we always run together.”
Bente hopes to break the 20-minute barrier before the season is over.
“I just want to be as much of a contributing factor as I can in the team getting to state and placing the best we can at state, and I just want to be a positive force on the team,” she said.
North’s girls and seventh-ranked boys will be heavy favorites to win the sectional. The girls are led by junior Mackenzie Caldwell, who ran a school-, course- and conference-record 17:51 in winning the Conference Indiana title. Senior Rachael Sollman and freshman Sierra Lax were right behind her.
Senior Karson Tays, juniors Andy Carr and Kaden Eaton and sophomore Seth Williams lead the boys squad, which edged Lawrence Central by a point to win the conference title.
“This has always been a month where we gain a lot of confidence from the way our training progresses,” Weinheimer said. “Then when you have a really good meet like we had at Conference Indiana, that just adds to your confidence. So this is the right time for us where training is mixing with confidence mixing with racing experience, so we’re excited about attacking the tournament every step of the way.”