TERRE HAUTE — A slew of Columbus North girls cross-country runners ran in their first state meet Saturday afternoon, and while they weren’t thrilled with the final results, it was a new experience that will pave the way for success in the near future.
Scoring 313 points, the sixth-ranked Bull Dogs finished 12th of 24 teams at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute. North’s ninth-ranked boys placed 13th with 322 points. Jennings County was 22nd with 522 in its first-ever state championship appearance.
On top of combating strong headwinds and an unseasonable warm spell, the Bull Dog girls team battled injury.
“We just have a new group of girls experiencing the state meet for the first time,” North coach Rick Weinheimer said. “Unfortunately, Olivia Morlok has had a really sore shin, and she didn’t run at all this week until (state). She wasn’t able to hang like she normally would.”
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Just three of North’s seven runners were upperclassmen, with three freshmen taking the field. Rachel Brougher, the lone scoring senior, led North by finishing 36th in 19 minutes 15.9 seconds for 5,000 meters (3.1 miles).
Arig Tong finished 72nd in 19:53.8. Morlok took 83rd in 20:05.6, while Ana Singhal was 118th (20:32.1) Lily Dozier 137th (20:45.2) Kennedy Kerber 145th (20:54.0) and Emma Smith 171st (21:29.9).
While the team will miss its seniors, they know the future is bright.
“We have so much potential with so many freshmen,” said Tong, a junior. “Next year is going to be amazing. The learning curve of transition from 3K to 5K has worn off for them. We will all continue to help each other.”
The Carmel girls won their seventh consecutive state title by scoring 44 points with three runners in the top five. Carroll (Fort Wayne) was runner-up with 113, followed by Homestead (157), Zionsville (166) and Noblesville (245).
The individual champion was DeKalb junior Tyler Schwartz in 18:08.6.
Like the girls team, North’s boys struggled for positioning during their race.
“The boys, we felt that last week (at semistate), we let too many people out in front of us,” Weinheimer said. “We didn’t want to have that happen again, but I think some other runners were able to move up.”
Sophomore Charlie Allen paced the Bull Dogs by finishing 63rd in 16:48. John Sluys’ time of 16:56.1 earned 78th, while Elijah Brooks was 89th (17:02.7), Eli Fischer 111th (17:14.8), Alec Embry 115th (17:15.3), Justin Spoon 120th (17:16.8) and Peyton Shelton 143rd (17:36.4).
“I think we’ve known all year that we’re kind of a scrambling team,” Weinheimer said. “We scrambled to get our fourth and fifth persons in. The bigger the meet, the more people and the greater the score. I thought we competed really hard, and it added up about where we are in the state. We’re feeling good about sharing this experience with this group of kids together.”
The boys brought an experienced group to state with four seniors.
“We’ve known each other for at least five years,” Embry said. “For all four of us, it was special for us to run together one last time together. Everyone that has been on varsity has been close.”
Weinheimer said this year’s team was a special group.
“This has been one of my most enjoyable groups to be around,” he said. “I love these kids very much. They have been very helpful, extremely responsible, and it has been important to them to create the best team that they can.”
Jennings’ Franklin Sanders placed 77th in 16:55.6, and Alex Hendrix was next in 17:14.9 for 113th. Carter Leak was 163rd (17:52.6), Ryan Gasper 164th (17:53.0), Wayne Komsi 171st (18:00.8), Dalton Craig 177th (18:07.1) and Peyton Dixon 206th (21:17.8).
“We didn’t run our best,” Jennings coach Bryant Layman said. “We got the experience. The boys had never been there, so we didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know what to expect. Now, all we have to do is go back next year and prove to everybody we’re much better than what we were this year.”
Fort Wayne Carroll earned its first state championship by scoring 71 points, followed by Carmel (117), Lowell (166), Fishers (169) and Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran (173). Senior Curtis Eckstein of Oldenburg Academy was the individual champion in 15:13.3.