TERRE HAUTE — Even though Jackson Bertoli lost to an Indiana runner for the first time this season Saturday in the prestigious FlashRock Invitational at Carmel, the Terre Haute South junior is considered one of the top contenders for the 2012 IHSAA boys championship in cross country.
Hamilton Southeastern senior Troy Reeder, No. 3 in the state finals last season, finished first Saturday in 15 minutes, 19.8 seconds. Bertoli placed second in a personal-best time of 15:24.5.
The only other 2012 meet that Bertoli came in second was the Terre Haute Savings Bank Invitational on Sept. 1 at LaVern Gibson Championship Course. That’s where he finished 5.5 seconds behind winner Jacob Thompson of Louisville (Ky.) Holy Cross — 15:39.0 to 15:44.5.
There’s no denying that Bertoli has been climbing the ladder to success in this summer/fall sport and the best may be to come.
As a freshman in 2010, he was 183rd in the state finals with a time of 18:25.0. As a sophomore in 2011, he improved to 34th in 16:09.7.
In 2012, the 6-foot-2 Bertoli is running noticeably faster.
“The whole season has been phenomenal, just going through it day by day and not worrying too much about the meets ahead, taking practice every single day and working on getting better,” he said last week. “I try to keep the big picture in mind, even though it’s still somewhat early in the season.”
Bertoli has been dominant locally, winning the Vigo County boys title last Wednesday at Rea Park. He took it relatively easy, checking in at only 16:44.5. But by slowing down slightly, he helped boost the performance of sophomore teammate Spencer Danielson, who crossed he finish line right behind him in a personal-best 16:45.3.
“Jackson, he’s a great teammate,” Danielson said after his second-place county finish. “He’s super motivational. He helps you every way that he can … We cross-trained a lot together over the summer. He would always motivate me.”