News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

January 16, 2014

Bertoli named Gatorade Indiana Runner of the Year

TERRE HAUTE — It’s to the point where major athletic awards aren’t even a surprise to Jackson Bertoli anymore.

The Terre Haute South senior was named the Gatorade Indiana Runner of the Year for boys high school cross country on Tuesday, but the reigning state champion almost knew it was coming.

“I knew I’d been nominated,” Bertoli said by telephone later Tuesday, “so I had a pretty good feeling when [South principal] Mr. [Chris] Mauk called me to the office.”

“I got an email about it at about 11 [Monday night],” coach Kyle Walsh said. “I’d heard Kelcy Welch [of Carmel] had won the girls award [on Monday] so I was afraid maybe [Bertoli] hadn’t won it … it’s a great honor for Jackson, to wrap up his senior cross country season, and he is well deserving of the award.

“To overcome the mental and physical stress, plus the uncertainty of day-to-day concerns about his health the way he did … this is icing on the cake for him.”

Bertoli needed crutches to get to Mauk’s office on Tuesday, in fact, although he expects to be off them shortly. A stress fracture in his leg prior to Foot Locker national championship race — which he was unable to complete — has been his second major health setback since the beginning of cross country season.

His high school cross country season was delayed by problems with an Achilles tendon, so he was nowhere near full strength going into postseason races — which was not enough to keep him from winning the state championship and leading the Braves to a podium finish as a team.

“I’ll never forget his face when I quietly told him that we placed fifth at the state meet,” Walsh said. “He could not contain the excitement and it meant more to him than the individual state title.”

A rigorous cross-training routine had kept Bertoli in good physical condition in the fall, and he’s ready to do some of the same exercises again as he prepares for the spring track season.

“I go back to the doctor next week,” he said Tuesday. “I can start swimming now, and I hope to be running again by the middle of February.

“It was probably good to have to take a breather [from running],” he philosophized, “and I think I’ll have a fun track season, even with the late start. I should be able to come on stronger and stronger, and by the time the big meets come I’ll be ready to roll. I’ll try to stay healthy and do something special.”

“I’ve never met a young man so dedicated to the task at hand,” said Walsh, who would be quick to agree that Bertoli has already accomplished many special things. “He’s in good company with the of the best runners in Indiana history, and I’m really happy for him.”

Bertoli is the first Vigo County boy, the second athlete from South and the third athlete from the county to receive a Gatorade state award. Previous winners were South volleyball player Katelyn Bishop in 2004 and North softball player Megan Ciolli in 2001.

A.J. Reed of South was named Mr. Baseball by the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association in 2011, but was not the Gatorade honoree.

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