TERRE HAUTE —
Before Saturday, the last time Indiana State served as host for a dual meet in college cross country, John McNichols was in his first season of coaching the Sycamores’ men and the opponent was Illinois State at Deming Park’s course.
Three decades later on a pleasant, sunny morning, Indiana State took on national power Wisconsin in a women’s 5-kilometer race and a men’s 8K race in the Sycamore Invitational at LaVern Gibson Championship Course. Although ISU’s women lost 50-15 and its men lost 25-36, both Sycamore coaches described the meet as a success.
The highlight for the host school was a first-place performance by sophomore John Mascari (24 minutes, 31.3 seconds) in the men’s race. He completed the course more than 43 seconds faster than Wisconsin’s top finisher, third-place Alex Brill.
ISU sophomore Taylor Head — like Mascari, from Terre Haute — pulled away from the Wisconsin lead pack during the final stretch to place second, about 38 1/2 seconds behind Mascari. After that, the balanced Badgers took third through ninth places to secure the victory.
“John [Mascari] is really, really fit,” McNichols told the Tribune-Star afterward. “With a great summer of training — I think he averaged 103 miles a week — he needed basically a time trial. He needed to open up and get a feel for where he really is. … and I think that was accomplished.
“So that was our intent up front. I didn’t know if a couple of the Wisconsin guys might run with him, but obviously their strategy was to run in a good, solid pack. That’s a great group of distance runners. That’s the seventh-ranked team in the United States — No. 1 in our region — just really an outstanding group of athletes. [Wisconsin director of cross country] Mick [Byrne] does a great job with them.
“With the rest of our guys, the plan going in was just to run in a strong pack, sitting behind [the top Wisconsin runners] and run with them as far as they possibly could. Then after the 6K mark, I said, ‘If you’re feeling it, go ahead and go.’ Taylor Head must have been feeling pretty good today because he ran out and he didn’t look strained, which I was pleased to see.”
Mascari, who led from start to finish, agreed with McNichols in describing the meet as a “time trial” for himself and the rest of the young Sycamores.
“Today, we wanted to go out and get the legs rolling, just to see what it’s like to compete again,” the Sycamores’ top runner mentioned. “It had been a while.”
Mascari mentioned that Wisconsin is unable to compete in the popular ISU Pre-National Invitational coming up Oct. 19 because of a scheduling conflict, so Saturday was the Badgers’ only opportunity to test the Gibson course before the NCAA Division I national championships here Nov. 23.
“They just wanted to experience the course again,” he added. “They’re a very disciplined team, very respected throughout the nation.”
From the women’s perspective, ISU coach John Gartland acknowledged that Wisconsin provided “very tough” competition. The Badgers had eight runners — led by winner Sarah Disanza (18:23.5) — cross the finish line before junior Nicole Lucas became the Sycamores’ first finisher in 18:44.9.
“We gave our women an almost impossible goal today and that was to beat Wisconsin,” Gartland said. “I think that [Wisconsin] coach [Jim] Stintzi ran probably two-thirds or three-quarters of what would be his ‘A’ team, so that was an awfully tough group, especially the way they finished.
“I thought Nicole and Jessica [Zangmeister] — maybe especially Nicole — kinda mixed it up, tried to compete with ’em as long as they could and as well as they could. And then our other women, unfortunately, were running by themselves because of the nature of a dual meet.”
Before the two above-mentioned varsity races, three open races took place on the Gibson course — a men’s 8K, a men’s 5K and a women’s 5K.
The top seven Rose-Hulman runners completed the men’s 5-kilometer event within a 26.7-second margin of each other. Senior Andrew Thompson led the individual performance with a time of 16:47.4 and a second-place finish. Junior Derek Heeger came home second among Engineers with a third-place finish (16:56.5).
“Today’s meet was good movement in the right direction,” first-year Rose coach Geoff Wayton said. “We showed great depth and I’m really encouraged by today’s meet.”
In the women’s 5K, senior Ryann-Rebecca Montgomery led the Rose-Hulman effort with a third-place finish in a time of 20:28. Freshman Emilie Hobbs added a mark of 22:09.8, with junior Anna Taylor just behind in 22:12.7.
“Three of our top five runners trimmed more than a minute off their time at the same meet of last season,” Wayton noted. “We showed that we have the personnel to be in the top half of the HCAC [Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference] in seven weeks.”
Next up for the Indiana State and Rose-Hulman teams are the Indiana Intercollegiates on Friday at Indiana University in Bloomington.
“We’ve had some good moments there over the years,” McNichols reflected. “We’ve also been kicked around pretty good in that race too. But it’s a great contest and it has a great history in our state.”
“We have a really young team,” Mascari assessed when asked about the potential of the male Sycamores, starting with Friday’s meet.
“I think the goal is to kinda regroup — we lost a few guys from last year — and just compete, maybe see what happens in the Intercollegiates against all the other Indiana teams.
“In the [Missouri Valley] conference, we’re ranked second this year. I think we want to contend for another title, although it’s going to be tough because Southern Illinois has all of its guys coming back. But we’ve got a new team. Taylor Head’s really been stepping up.”
Wisconsin 25, Indiana State 36
Wisconsin — 3. Alex Brill 25:15.0; 4. Michael Van Voorhis 25:15.0; 5. Jacob Naylor 25:15.0; 6. Jacob Ershen 25:15.1; 7. Neal Berman 25:15.2; 8. Malachy Schrobligen 25:15.2; 9. Alex Hatz 25:15.3.
Indiana State — 1. John Mascari 24:31.3; 2. Taylor Head 25:10.9; 10. Tristan Selby 25:21.5; 11. David Timlin 25:35.1; 12. Gabe Ocasio 25:59.7; 13. Andrew Kump 26:11.9; 14. Jimmy Charles 26:36.8.
Wisconsin 15, Indiana State 50
Wisconsin — 1. Sarah Disanza 18:23.5; 2. Theresa Selestow 18:23.5; 3. Kelly Whitley 18:23.5; 4. Molly Hansen 18:23.6; 5. Lavinia Jurkiewicz 18:23.6; 6. Sarah Heinemann 18:37.5; 7. Victoria Paulson 18:38.4.
Indiana State — 8. Nicole Lucas 18:44.9; Jessica Zangmeister 18:58.4; 10. Leeann Michl 19:33.6; 11. Kalli Dalton 19:37.8; 12. Sydney Dickerson 20:09.2; 13. Lindy Jones 20:11.2; 14. Natalie Nolting 20:22.7.
Top five — Alex Hess (unattached) 16:42.8; Andrew Thompson (Rose-Hulman) 16:47.4; Derek Heeger (RH) 16:56.5; Sam Sobczak (RH) 16:57.3; Brendon Mattiuz (RH) 17:01.8.
Top five — Blake Hale (un.) 26:04.1; Levi Taylor (un.) 26:41.1; Daniel Swem (un.) 27:16.3; Nathan Kump (un.) 27:47.9; Logan Hambrock (un.) 27:51.6.
Top five — Hanna Mercer (un.) 19:11.3; Taylor Austin (un.) 20:15.8; Ryann Montgomery (RH) 20:28.1; Valerie Burns (ISU) 20:48.1; Bridget Murphy (un.) 22:06.4.