Gamble Runs To State Meet

Posted on October 23, 2018 in Fall Sports, Girl's Cross Country

BY SCOTT HUNT – shunt@chronicle-tribune.com
FORT WAYNE — Mollie Gamble learned the way to Terre Haute very early in her cross country career at Oak Hill. And since her first trip to the state championship as a freshman in 2016, Gamble just keeps getting faster in finding her way to the Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country course.

Gamble raced her way around The Plex Course in the New Haven Semistate on Saturday in 18:49 and crossed the finish line in seventh place, both bests for the junior in the 178-runner semistate race, and now she’ll look to do the same against more of the state’s best girls on Saturday at the state finals.

To try an avoid some of the congestion at the start of the biggest field most runners compete in all season, Gamble got out a little slowly, then began to carve her way towards the front.

“I’m not the kind of person that goes out fast anyway, but I don’t like the start (of semistate) ever,” Gamble said. “I’ve never liked the start of this race. There are so many people and you have a chance of falling, which has happened to me once. It’s a little nerve-racking

“I went out like normal, I went slower than I did last week at regional because I went out fast there,” she added. “I just moved my way up. I was a little nervous at the beginning because I was in like 50th or something when I came around for the woods part.”

And by the time she got into the heart of the woods, Gamble had crept back up to the tail-end of the top-10.

“She ran a really smart race. She tends to run really smart here,” said Oak Hill coach Paige Brunner of Gamble. “She lets the pack get out early in that gauntlet stretch and she gets moved up by the woods. In the woods she starts moving.

“The first time I counted her she was in the 20s or right around 30 and the next time I saw her she was in the top 10,” he added. “She got up as high as fifth and was moving. We’ve just got to work on her finish next week. That will be the difference of how high up of a medal she can go after, being able to, the (final) four or 500 meters get after it.”

The battle for the individual semistate champion was decided by barely over two seconds. Carroll’s Megan Hathaway (18:04.00) crossed just in front of Fort Wayne Dwenger’s Erin Strzelecki (18:06.20) to win the race.

Hathaway also led a dominant performance by Carroll in the team race. The Chargers had four runners in the top-10, their fifth was scored 19th, to finish with 44 points and easily dispatch Hamilton Southeastern (98), Fishers (117), Dwenger (123) and Homestead (150).

While Gamble’s day went well, it was a struggle for the rest of her young Golden Eagle teammates. Oak Hill had aspirations of a top-10 team finish, but it wasn’t to be on Saturday.

Sophomore Selah Jackson was the only other Oak Hill girl to crack the top-100, finishing 73rd (scored 58th) while sophomore Kinzie Robey (118th, scored 89th), sophomore Kate Hornocker (136th, scored 100th) and freshman Grace Geller (138th, scored 101st) rounded out the Eagles scorers. The result was 354 points and a 15th-place finish for Oak Hill.

“I thought we looked like a team that put our season on the line last week. Everybody but Mollie had to last week for us to win the regional,” Brunner said. “Based on conversations we had early in the week, we had to kind of re-light that fire and there’s too many good teams up here to not be motivated during the week. I didn’t think we competed well. I thought we looked flat. Kinzie did not have a good day…and that hurts us.

“They had a great year,” Brunner continued. “They did some things we didn’t think we’d be able to accomplish, but we’re a top 10 semistate team here and I wish we’d have had a better showing than that. Hopefully it makes the younger girls hungry for next year.”

Mississinewa juniors Aurora Fisher and Carli Fones had varying degrees of success on Saturday.

Fisher, who raced in her third-straight semistate, had her best race to date. She was more than 30 seconds faster than in either of her first two-trips to New Haven, and finished in 20:26 and in 57th place.

“I did better than I have the past two years here. I ran around 20:20 area and usually I ran 21s here,” Fisher said. “I improved a lot for it being an overwhelming meet. It’s very overwhelming but it’s a fun race.”

Fones was racing in her second semistate, and the queen of Grant County sprinters in track season, showed improvement from her first appearance. Fones finished in 21:25 and 111th place. She used her sprinters speed to pick up several spots coming to the finish line.

“It was hard in the beginning because everybody was going into this one little funnel and I took a girl’s shoe with me on accident,” said Fones, with a laugh, about the first 400 meters of the race.

“I feel like I did really good because the end is where I do my best,” Fones added. “I knew I needed to make it up because it was super-duper windy everywhere else and I had to make (up spots) somewhere. I got at least eight people going down the straightaway so I was a happy about that.”

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