Gamble Finishes State Meet In 19th and All-State Honors

Posted on October 28, 2018 in Fall Sports, Girl's Cross Country

BY SCOTT HUNT – shunt@chronicle-tribune.com
TERRE HAUTE — Through his high school cross country career, Mississinewa senior Brennan Butche has shown no quarter to his competition.

That wasn’t about to change on Saturday during the 73rd-annual boys state championship on the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.

Butche placed himself amongst the leaders from the start, and stalked heavy pre-race favorite Cole Hocker of Indianapolis Cathedral throughout the five kilometer event. Butche kept pace with Hocker, the eventual winner, for more than 4K but the latter pulled away late to finish in 15:25 and take the race.

Butche held off all but one runner, Gabriel Sanchez of Lowell, to finish in 15:42.7 and with a career-best third place just a second off second-place Sanchez.

Though Butche almost stole the show in the boys race, Grant County’s other representative in Terre Haute, Oak Hill junior Mollie Gamble also put together a stellar showing.

Gamble ran her typical race, letting the girls who wanted to go fast from the start go, then methodically started picking them off one-by-one working her way toward the front. By the time she reached the finish line, Gamble had taken 18:53 to get there and wound up with her best finish in state competition at 19th.

Gamble’s finish was good enough to land on the podium and earn first-team all state honors in the process.

Butche has never been satisfied with anything but winning, but against the other top runners from all across Indiana on Saturday, he left nothing behind in his pursuit of Hocker and a state championship.

“A lot of people had him (Hocker) favored coming into the race and I don’t blame them, he’s a really good runner, but I wasn’t going to let him have it easy,” Butche said, after posing for pictures with family and friends. “I’m not going to let him just walk away with a blue ribbon around his neck.

“I ran my race, and I ran my heart out because I knew it was my last one as a Mississinewa Indian,” he added. “I gave it my all today.”

There was still a brief moment of disappointment for Butche, especially after Sanchez slipped by him about 100 meters from the finish line to get second. But the feeling was brief, and he recognized all the work he’s put into earning his way into the elite class of high school runners in Indiana.

“Right when I crossed the finish line, I was upset yet relieved at the same time,” Butche said. “I was wanting a ring, but not many people can say they’re the third-place runner in the state of Indiana. I happy with it, and I’m thankful for it. It couldn’t have been better.”

Gamble stuck to her plan, the same plan she’s used to be a state qualifier in each of the last two seasons.

The first time Oak Hill coach Paige Brunner saw Gamble, her place was in the 60s. The next time it was in the 40s, but by the time she got to the long stretch run, Gamble was in the fight for a medal and she accomplished the goal she set after last year’s 32nd-finish.

“It went out fast, as normal, and it kind of scared me going out that fast too. But it was fine,” Gamble said. “I worked my way up and got into the top 20.

“The start is long, almost the first K is the full stretch (straightaway from the starting line),” she added. “The finish (stretch) is over 400 meters at least, and that’s a little bit rough because it feels like a long time. I’m super excited about (19th) and very happy.”

Brunner said he typically provides all his runners with a piece of tape to put in a shoe prior to a race. The tape serves as motivation and sometimes has some sort of saying.

He opted against giving tape to Gamble on Saturday.

“I said you don’t need one. You don’t need tape to motivate, you don’t need a catchy saying,” Brunner said. “You’ve put in all the work and you deserve to give yourself an opportunity. I’m beyond thrilled for her that she got it done.”

Brunner has also been privy to watching how Gamble runs her races over the past three seasons, so he was confident she would perform well with it again on Saturday. With the mass of over 200 runners all battling to get to the end ahead of one another, he wasn’t sure where exactly Gamble had finished.

He did know she was close enough to be fighting for a medal.

“I thought she ran brilliantly. She’s willing to put herself out there behind everybody,” Brunner said. The furthest up I ever saw her in the race was 18th, then it’s a crap shoot down the stretch.

“I saw some girls getting her, and I saw her battle,” he continued. “She fought, and down the stretch she really fought and that’s what got her a medal. “Top 25 would have been phenomenal, but you cant beat top 20 and getting a medal around your neck and being first team all state in a one class sport.”

While Gamble’s high school season officially ended on Saturday, she’ll have the opportunity to compete amongst the state’s best next fall when she starts her senior year.

Butche won’t compete again wearing the red and white of Ole Miss, but his high school career has at least three races to go.

He’ll compete in a Nike sponsored race on the same Gibson course in a couple weeks and a Foot Locker race in Kenosha, Wisconsin a couple weeks later. A top-10 finish in either of those races would earn Butche a trip to the national championship in Oregon in early December.

Sandwiched between those two races is the annual-four state all star race, and Butche’s third-place finish earned him a spot on the Indiana All Star team that will compete in Kettering, Ohio against the best seniors from Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. He gets the opportunity to represent not just Mississinewa and Grant County, but the entire state as he checked off one of his final goals for high school.

“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for my coaches. Coach (Ean) Van Winkle, my dad (Chris Butche), coach (Aaron Robinson and coach (Cody Turner),” Butche said. “I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.

“It’s a huge honor going to that race. I get to represent Indiana as a runner and that’s awesome,” he added. “I remember watching that race when I was a freshman … and I said I want to be there one day. Here I am and hard work does pay off.”

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