Boys Cross Country Brings Home Grant 4 Title

Posted on September 20, 2017 in Boy's Cross Country, Fall Sports

BY SCOTT HUNT – shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

UPLAND — Brennan Butche has made the Taylor University cross country course his own personal playground over the past couple of years, while the Oak Hill boys team has long made a habit of winning Grant Four championships.
Both Butche and Oak Hill added to their long list accomplishments in Tuesday’s annual Grant Four.
Butche smoked the field, running the 5K race in 15:48, lowering his own personal course record in the process. There was some thought of resting Butche with a big New Haven Invitational race Saturday, but the Ole Miss junior who has won every Grant Four race he has competed in since his seventh grade season wasn’t having any of resting on Tuesday.
“I’m really pleased, every time I PR I’m always happy. Today was a good day,” said Butche, as he added the 2017 medal to the collection stored in his backpack. “It’s an honor to come out here and (win Grant Four). I have respect for all these guys. They all come out here and run their hardest and they all do good. This is one of my favorite races.”

Butche winning the individual race was as little of a surprise as Oak Hill taking home the team title.
The Golden Eagles placed four runners in the top-10 won their second straight championship and 18th in the last 19 years. Eastbrook finished second with 51 points edging Mississinewa’s 55 while Madison-Grant finished fourth with 93.
What may have been a bit of a surprise was Oak Hill’s standout sprinter Tahj Johnson outracing Eastbrook senior and 2016 cross country state qualifier Connor White to the finish for second place.
Johnson’s (16:48) time was a full minute off Butche’s pace, but after running side-by-side with White until the last 400 meters, he used his sprinter’s speed to kick to the finish.
“The main plan was to go out and see what was happening, if (White) would have gone out with Butche I would have hung out and just ran my race, but (Eastbrook was) trying to win,” said Johnson. “I just tried to stick with him and went where he went.”
Johnson finished 10th in the state in the 400 and beating White to the finish gave him a jolt of confidence with the cross country post season fast approaching.
“Connor is a dude that could possibly go to state, so me beating him gives me more motivation to do better and train harder because I’ve got something to shoot for now,” he said.

White wasn’t surprised by Johnson’s race but wasn’t satisfied with his own race.
“I was expecting Tahj to be there, really I was glad I had someone to run with,” said White. “Of course I still wasn’t happy with it, not because he beat me, but because of how I ran. I’m not happy.”
Oak Hill coach Paige Brunner ‘s top four runners were all sophomores with Raffi Fry finishing fifth, Danny Nally was sixth, Macallister Cheek finished ninth and junior Julian Garcia finished the Golden Eagles scoring in 11th.
Brunner believes Johnson and the rest of his young team might just be starting to scratch the surface on its potential.

“He’s very much like Margo (Hornocker) has been in the past in terms of I’m not quite sure Tahj understands how good he can be or how talented he is,” said Brunner. “Everybody knows how good he is in track. I’m thrilled for Tahj because I felt like he could have taken the easy way out this year (because of his state level sprinting ability).
“But he has been the absolute opposite of that. He’s been a leader for us and busted his tail for us on a daily basis,” he continued. “Today we wanted to see if he could run with Connor. Connor is a tremendous athlete, he’s a state qualifier. I know Connor probably didn’t have his best day but its good confidence-wise for Tahj to be that close and then obviously at the end make a move with his speed.”
Sophomores Ben Neideck and Zane Callison finished fourth and seventh, respectively for Eastbrook, but the Panthers number four runner, Jack Hammond was out nursing a foot injury. Nathan Brainer ended 15th for the Panthers.
MIssissienwa’s Jacob Ehmer was 11th and Jon Tucker ended 10th.
“It’s a night for place and county pride and I think he showed it and the rest of my boys did too,” said Mississinewa coach Ean Van Winkle of Butche and the Indians. “I was pleased with their effort. The boys wanted to compete for country pride and I thought they did.”
Madison-Grant was led by Mason Miller in 16th and had Cole Hasty (18th) and Zach Lakes (19th) finish inside the top 20.

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