Boys Cross Country Runs To Regional

Posted on October 8, 2017 in Boy's Cross Country, Fall Sports


There were few surprises in the Marion boys cross country sectional on Saturday, both the pre-race favorite team and individual ran to easy wins, but it was no easy time on the flat and fast course at Indiana Wesleyan.
Runners were met with warm temperatures and a stiff, southerly breeze that made the five kilometer trek for sectional titles a difficult one for all.
Even race winner, Mississinewa’s Brennan Butche, had a rough time in defending his individual sectional championship. Butche’s struggle was not so much with the field as it was with conditions.
Mother Nature didn’t deter him much, as Butche covered second place finisher Jacob Rust from Huntington North by more than 26 seconds, but the impact she had on the Mississinewa junior could be seen at the finish line.
Normally Butche crosses well ahead of the field, winded, but looking like he could run more. Not Saturday though, Butche crossed the finish line in 16:17.1 and exhaustedly went to the ground immediately.
“The wind for sure, but I always have a routine I follow the morning before a race and I didn’t have what I needed to eat so I think that really effected me too,” said Butche of his struggle. “When I came to the twomile, I was really hurting. Then when I crossed the finish line I just went down.”
Butche wasn’t the only Grant County runner to have a tough but good day on Saturday as both Oak Hill and Eastbrook earned top five finishes to advance to the Marion Regional while three Marion runners and Jon Tucker from Mississinewa all advanced to race next week.
Huntington North won the team race with 41 points as the Vikings placed their five scoring runners in the top 12. Wabash (72) finished a distant second, followed by Oak Hill (122), Eastbrook (125) and Southwood (129) as the advancing teams. Mississinewa (135) was sixth and just missed moving on, with Marion (155), Northfield (196), Madison-Grant (224) and Blackford rounding out the 10-team field.
While Oak Hill finishing third is not all that surprising, the way the Golden Eagles got there really is.
Oak Hill’s top runner all season, sophomore Tahj Johnson, who figured to be in the mix for the runner-up spot behind Butche pre-race, didn’t make it to the twomile mark before needing assistance off the course.
Sophomore Raffi Fry, the Golden Eagles No. 2 man, also struggled, and finished 34th and as his teams fifth score.
Danny Nally (17th, 17:43) and Julian Garcia (21st, 18:11) were Oak Hill’s top finishers, followed by Macallister Cheek (25th) and Colin Harts (29th) and it was good enough for a thirdplace finish.
“It shows how much our depth helps,” said Oak Hill coach Paige Brunner. “With Tahj it was just a freak occurence and with Raffi, we’re still not sure what he was dealing with. As a coach when your kid goes out, you want your kids to see that and step it up. I think a lot of times in high school it goes the other. I think once those kids saw Tahj down today, I think they’ll admit, panic set in.
“Instead of moving forward, we started falling back drastically. Fortunately that happened today and not next week,” he continued. “If that happens next week at regional we’re not advancing.. We’ve got to put ourselves in a situation where we lick our wounds and get Tahj and Raffi healthy and see if we can advance to the semistate.”
Senior 2016 state qualifier Connor White of Eastbrook was Grant County’s second best finisher on Saturday, crossing the line fifth in 16:44 to lead  the Panthers to regional for the eighth straight year.
Eastbrook also got a solid finish from Ben Neideck (15th, 17:32.8) and Zane Callison (27th, 18:26.5) while Nathan Brainer (35th) and Thayne Syswerda (49th) finished in scoring spots for the Panthers.
“The boys ran tough there was places where we could have been better, but we live to run another day,” said Eastbrook coach Ethan Evans.
Marion had hopes of claiming the fifth spot and the Giants were in the mix. Senior Jalen Springer ran with the lead pack behind Butche for most of the race with hopes of another topfive finish, but he fell a bit off the pace in the final K to finish seventh in 16:58.1. The Giants also place Joel Barnes (19th, 17:51.1) and Tyler Morgan (20th, 18:04) in the top 20 and both will advance to regional. 
“We ran our top three as well as anybody did, maybe besides Huntington,” said Marion coach Terry Lakes. “But it just wasn’t a great day for our top three, except for Tyler. Tyler Morgan had a tremendous race. It was hot, windy day.
“Jalen had a really good race through four K, but that was his worst finish all season,” he added. “He put a big move on at the two K, he and a kid from Huntington North, and they were gaining on Brennan. But that last K he was really running out of gas.”

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