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October 21, 2012

Vigo trio heads to state

NASHVILLE — High school cross country results for Vigo County athletes weren’t quite as good Saturday at the Brown County Semistate as they had been a week earlier — which, in retrospect, was a tough act to follow anyway.

In most cases, however, those semistate results weren’t bad. More importantly, they left unspoken promises that next week’s will be even better at the Indiana High School Athletic Association state championships at LaVern Gibson Championship Course.

Three of the home county’s four teams will be there next week. Terre Haute North’s boys had a disappointing finish that ended their season, but the Patriot girls were second and Terre Haute South got a second-place finish from its boys and a fourth-place showing from its girls.

No one could catch Columbus North on Saturday, both teams of Bull Dogs having the day the North girls and South boys had last week at the Bedford North Lawrence Regional. Mackenzie Caldwell was the individual winner for a Columbus girls team that had the top two runners and three of the top six, while Karson Tays had a second-place finish and two other Columbus boys were in the top 12.

Individual winner in the boys race was Barr-Reeve’s Connor Sorrells, who cruised home with almost a 16-second lead over Tays. South’s Jackson Bertoli was third in the boys race, Jessi Conley 11th in the girls race to lead the Patriots.

Here’s where those unspoken promises come in.

“Jackson’s a little disappointed,” coach Kyle Walsh of South said after the race, “but I think he has a lot more [left for the state finals] … he’s been beaten twice this year, and both times he bounced back really strong.”

“I’m hoping the same thing happens this week,” Bertoli said. “The team ran really well today, and that’s all I care about in the end … I need to refocus. I’ll have a better chance [to win] on my home course, so I’ll rebuild this week and come back as strong as possible.”

Also expected to bounce back is North senior Chanli Mundy, the name Patriot fans noticed was missing a few paragraphs earlier.

“We’re a little concerned, because Chanli had a bad race,” said coach Mike Dason of the North girls, certain his No. 1 runner would agree with that assessment. “But we’re going on, and she’ll have another chance.”

The rest of the ridiculously deep Patriots — who got Katie Loebker and Mallory Sanders back on Saturday but rested Laura Johnson — made sure of that.

“I was just thinking, ‘I need to do this for the team,’ ” said Conley, when asked what was going through her mind when she uncharacteristically passed Mundy around the midpoint of the race. “She was hurting, so I had to do it for us and what we’ve been working for.”

Conley’s determination enabled her to break the 19-minute mark for the first time and five other Patriots — freshmen Lindsay Welker and Anna Nagy, Loebker, Sanders and Erin Buckallew — also had personal bests.

“It was awesome,” Dason said of that showing. “We had four [runners] in the 19s, Jessi in the 18s … I’m pleased how this sets us up for everything. We had a great pack, and that helps us so much going into next week.”

“It’s going to be a fun run next week,” Conley predicted.

She’ll get no argument from coach Ed Jarvis of the South girls, who indicated a sense of vindication on Saturday.

“[Getting to the state finals] doesn’t get old,” he said of his team’s third consecutive trip back to Gibson — despite some pre-meet projections on websites suggesting the Braves wouldn’t advance, let alone finish as high as fourth.

Nikki Thiede and Katie Schmidt were South’s top two runners, as usual, but the keys on Saturday were the next two Braves, Jarvis said — senior Rachel Stephens and freshman Kirsten Peterson, who “came out of nowhere,” he added.

Thiede probably won’t be at 100 percent next week but, bad foot and all, she got a milestone of her own on Saturday and came up smiling afterward.

“It’s a little better,” she said of her injury. “I knew we had to get to state, so I had to block it out — and I got my season best.”

Some of the North boys — who were without Peter Davis, at one time their No. 2 runner — also had times their coach could appreciate despite a 16th-place team showing.

“We had a couple guys get their fastest times, so I was glad about that,” Tom Dever said, “but we’re not where we need to be.

“But we’re still a fairly young team. We’ll take this [semistate appearance] and build for the future.”

The future is now for the Braves, Walsh is hoping.

“Three in the top 15 [which the Braves achieved] was our goal,” Walsh said. “Logan Hambrock and Spencer Danielson had the fastest times of their lives, and at the right time of the year.

“We had lots of personal bests, and we’re very happy with our second-place finish. Last year we were hoping [to advance]; this year we wanted top two, and on a perfect day we could win.”

Maybe that perfect day, for all the runners moving on, will be next Saturday.

No Wabash Valley individuals will be running at the state finals. North’s Justin Clapp missed the top 15 by about 13 seconds and Northview’s Nic Yocom by not quite 18 seconds in the boys race, while Shakamak’s Savannah Turner  and Bloomfield’s Alli Workman placed 30th and 32nd respectively in the girls competition.

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