Running Into History: North girls finish 12th, boys 26th in national meet; Kiesler betters school record

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. On a flat, fast cross-country course on a warm Saturday morning, the Columbus North boys and girls cross-country runners blazed to some fast times, and junior Julia Kiesler ran her way into the record books.

Kiesler finished in 26th in 17 minutes, 9.16 seconds for 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) to better Mackenzie Caldwell’s school-record of 17:29 from 2013 and lead the Bull Dog girls to a 12th-place finish in the Gold Race of the Garmin RunningLane Nationals. The event served as the unofficial high school national championship after Nike Cross Nationals was canceled for the second year in a row because of COVID.

“To finish top 12 in the country, that puts us as one of the best Columbus North girls cross-country teams ever, and that’s something they can put on their resume,” North girls coach Rick Sluder said. “Whenever your in the conversation for the best team in school history, that’s impressive.”

Lily Baker finished 72nd in 17:40.99. Brianna Newell took 173rd in 18:25.71, while Katherine Rumsey was 192nd (18:34.74), Alyssa Green 199th (18:38.90), Sydney Morlok 210th (18:44.76) and Abby Jacobi 217th (18:49.18).

Baker, who led the Bull Dogs to a state championship in October, was dealing with a slight hip injury on Saturday, and Rumsey was a little under the weather. Still, five North girls set personal records and the other two were within 10 seconds of their PR.

“I thought we ran just fantastic,” Sluder said. “I don’t know that we could have run better under the circumstances. We ran phenomenal. I don’t know if they would have been much better if they were 100 percent healthy, so we were just as happy as could be. Depending on the rankings going in, we were anywhere from 15 to 18, so for us to improve on our performance I thought was outstanding.”

Meanwhile, the Bull Dog boys finished 26th in the Gold Race.

“I think the goal going in was to run hard, get some learning experience and get the feeling for what a national-caliber team looks like, and I think we did that today,” North boys coach Danny Fisher said. “I think we were a little flat today. We geared up for the state meet and kind of put all our eggs in that basket.”

Reese Kilbarger-Stumpff, the Indiana state individual champion, finished 34th Saturday in 14:42.43, about 7 seconds off Christian Wagner’s school record. Matt Newell took 110th in 15:11.75 , while Clayton Guthrie was 247th (15:53.27), Will Kiel 252nd (15:55.32), Evan Carr 269th (16:01.18), Will Russell 276th (16:04.42) and Mateo Mendez 282nd (16:14.17).

“Talking to the guys, they were excited afterward,” Fisher said. “Reese and Matt PRed. Will Kiel PRed. It was a good day for the guys overall. It was a good way to end the season and get ready for track.”

Carmel junior Kole Mathison, the son of former North runner Scott Mathison, finished ninth in an all-time Indiana record of 14:23.32.