North runners sweep sectional

NASHVILLE — Columbus North boys and girls cross-country coaches Danny Fisher and Rick Sluder had the same idea about how to approach Saturday’s Brown County Sectional.

With regional, semistate and state coming up the next three weeks for the two top-ranked Bull Dog squads, both coaches decided to rest their entire top seven on Saturday and let their next seven runners compete.

Those plans did not hinder either North team on Saturday. The boys outscored runner-up Seymour 27-56, and the girls outscored the Owls 30-63 to bring home sectional titles.

“We looked at it the last two years, with our depth and how hard they work, that we have two varsities,” Sluder said. “So we felt they earned it. I just felt those seven girls deserved it, and they proved it today. They ran very strong.”

Ellen White and Jessica Meza finished second and third for the Bull Dogs in 19 minutes, 42.00 seconds and 20:16.42 for 5,000 meters (3.1 miles). Nicole Meza took seventh in 20:37.59, while Sierra Newell was 10th (20:57.37), Charley Kerber 13th (21:26.28), Emily Titus 16th (21:41.78) and Claire Wisler 18th (21:48.51).

Kellen Hottell led the North boys with a third-place finish in 17:02.66. Aiden Jeffares took fourth in 17:08.40, while Akot Tong was fifth (17:11.33), Neal White seventh (17:17.51), Sam Hobbeheydar eighth (17:18.68), Charlie Smith 10th (17:27.95) and Adam Reckers 11th (17:37.54).

“I think they ran great,” Fisher said. “What I’m more impressed with is, they prepared well and they came in with the right mindset and the right attitude to toe the line with full confidence and ability to run fast.”

Columbus East’s girls also advanced to Saturday’s North Regional with a third-place team finish with 71 points. Chloe Krueger took fifth in 20:28.66, while Carly Otte was 15th (21:35.95), Laurel Knight 17th (21:46.62), Jordan Spurgeon 19th (22:31.94) and Olivia Shoaf 20th (22:31.94).

“I’m really proud of our girls today,” East girls coach Jesse Shoaf said. “We had five on the podium, and Chloe led us well. I’m happy with the results.”

Brown County’s boys advanced with a third-place team finish with 64 points. Chase Austin won the race in 16:20.76, while Rhett Silbaugh was 12th (17:40.07), Cord Smith 13th (18:00.65), Case Smith 18th (18:35.45) and Waylon Patrick 20th (18:39.99).

“It definitely made me a little nervous because once (the top North runners) were out, I knew I was the favorite,” Austin said. “I knew they had good enough runners that were not in their top seven that could push me. So I was really excited to be able to come out here and win today.”

The Eagles also had the girls individual winner. Hadley Gradolf was victorious in 19:29.02.

“I kind of did more of a workout today because I knew North wasn’t running their top girls,” Gradolf said. “So it’s a good race to be able to take it a little bit slower and get some good splits in.”

Brown County’s only other girls runner, Kayleigh Austin, qualified for regional as an individual after finishing 27th in 23:26.52.

“It’s nice to have a sectional champion, especially two of them,” Brown County coach Rob Abraham said. “Our boys definitely had a really good day. We’re missing one of our runners (Rafe Silbaugh), but hopefully, we can get him back for next week.”

Meanwhile, East’s boys finished sixth with 158 points, one spot and 28 points out of the fifth-and-final team qualifying spot. But the Olympians did advance four individuals with Jackson Brookes (23rd in 18:42.51), Cayden Lynott (29th in 19:08.07), Braeden Collins (32nd in 19:23.82) and Derek Patchett (36th in 19:44.40).

“These guys put in so much hard work this year, it’s always disappointing when we don’t advance as a team,” East boys coach Ryan Burke said. “But I’m happy with the guys that did advance. Everybody ran as hard as they could, so we’re going to keep working with the guys that advanced and put them in the best position to keep going.”

Hauser advanced one boy and two girls as individuals. Colin Kistler finished 25th in the boys race in 18:55.58. Forthe girls, Callie Swegman took 25th in 23:06.73, and Amanda Steward was 34th in 25:04.37.