Kiesler’s win leads North girls to semistate title

NASHVILLE — The Columbus North girls put themselves in prime position to make a run at a state cross-country title with their performance in Saturday’s Brown County Semistate.

The top-ranked Bull Dogs scored 65 points to 96 for No. 3 Floyd Central. No. 7 Northview finished third with 110, and No. 20 Jasper (164), No. 22 Bloomington North (175) and Princeton (201) claimed the other qualifying spots to Saturday’s state finals in Terre Haute.

“We did really well today, even without one of our top five,” North girls coach Rick Sluder said. “I think we ran really lights-out today.”

The scary thing for the rest of the state contenders is that the Bull Dogs won Saturday without top runner Lily Baker. Junior Julia Kiesler ran to victory in 17 minutes, 41.6 seconds on the 5,000-meter (3.1-mile) Eagle Park course.

“We didn’t have Lily today, and she’s a big part of our team, obviously, but we couldn’t run in our heads thinking, ‘Lilly’s not here,’” Kiesler said. “We had to push that away and just run our best.”

Columbus North’s Brianna Newell wasn’t far behind, finishing third in a personal-best 18:16.2.

“We’re all a team, so we don’t rely on just one person,” Newell said. “So I think everyone stepped up and ran their best race today, which is all that really matters.”

“Julia ran incredible all by herself out front against a bunch of girls who were All-State runners, and she just ran away from the field,” Sluder added. “Bri ran phenomenal up front. She opened up a big gap and caught the one spot back that passed her. She just fought through that middle kilometer.”

The Bull Dogs’ next four runners all finished within five seconds of each other. Katherine Rumsey took 22nd in 19:01.0, while Alyssa Green was 24th (19:02.3), Abby Jacobi 27th (19:04.2) and Sydney Morlok 29th (19:05.2).

Ellen White finished 39th in 19:33.6, despite losing a shoe about a mile into the race.

“Our pack, our 3-4-5-6, they weren’t separated by 10 total seconds,” Sluder said. “Going 1-3 made a big difference, but that 3-4-5-6 coming in together just sealed the deal for us. That was incredible, and then Ellen White lost her shoe and still ran phenomenal.”

Menawhile, Brown County’s Hadley Gradolf qualified for state as an individual for the third consecutive year. She finished 13th in 18:48.4.

Jennings County finished 17th as a team with 391 points. Halle Franks took 42nd in 19:38.6, while Avery Willhite was 93rd (20:52.3), Sarah Poole 127th (21:34.9), Elizabeth Evans 128th (21:36.0) and Grace Gambrel 150th (22:29.6).

Columbus East finished 19th with 398 points. Chloe Krueger led the Olympians with an 82nd-place finish in 20:40.2.

Also for East, Laurel Knight and Carly Otte finished 90th and 91st, both in 20:48.0. Olivia Shoaf took 143rd in 22:09.4, while Riley Carothers was 145th (22:19.2), Jordan Spurgeon 152nd (22:35.6) and Victoria Cuhadar 158th (22:51.7).

“Today was really focused on the girls individually and their times, so we were happy with that,” East coach Jesse Shoaf said. “We had several PR times today and season PR times, and that was our focus today.”