Girls Cross Country and Mollie Gamble Sectional Champs; Boys Runners-Up

Posted on October 8, 2018 in Boy's Cross Country, Fall Sports, Girl's Cross Country

BY SCOTT HUNT – shunt@chronicle-tribune.com
Brennan Butche made it a perfect four-for-four on Saturday, finishing his four-years of cross country with just that many sectional championships.

However, when Butche toes the starting line and attempts to win his second-straight Marion Regional next Saturday, he’ll be surrounded by familiar company for the first time in his career at a regional as the Indians qualified as a team for the first time since 1988.

“That’s awesome,” Butche exclaimed. “I kept preaching to the guys the two weeks before, we can do it, we can do it…I told them you’ve just got to believe, you’ve just gotta keep working hard and trust each other. I told the seniors this is it, it’s either continue today or go home. They really brought it today and I’m proud of them.”

The Indians claimed the final of five qualifying spots with a 149 points, and joined runner-up Oak Hill (56) and fourth-place Eastbrook (133) as regional qualifying teams from Grant County. Wabash placed five runners between fourth and 11th and won its first cross country sectional championship since 1987 with 37 points. Perennial sectional contender Huntington North (80) was third.

In the girls race, Oak Hill junior Mollie Gamble (20:16) bested sophomore teammate and runner-up Kinzie Robey by 13 seconds to win her second sectional championship in her three years. Sophomore Selah Jackson was fifth, freshman Grace Geller finished 11th and junior Lauren Marsh crossed 14th as the Golden Eagles collected 32 points and won sectional for the second-straight year beating Huntington North (56), Northfield (93), Mississinewa (100) and Southern Wells (107).

Course and weather conditions on Saturday dictated to all runners that PRs probably weren’t going to be a part of the race equation. Hard rains on Friday made the usual fast track at Indiana Wesleyan much slower, and combined with a stiff southerly breeze, high humidity and a temperature in the mid 80s and race conditions were less than ideal.

All the runners that advanced to the regional had to endure the five-kilometer course, conditions and competition to get there.

Butche’s 16:07 was nearly 30 seconds slower than his time from the Central Indiana Conference championship on the same course on Sept. 29, but the key to the tournament trail is just to survive and continue on.

“I saw the girls ran slow so I figured it would probably be the same with the boys, but this is probably the toughest race I’ve had this whole year,” Butche said. “I really felt it. When I was at two-and-a-half miles I felt like I was four miles in. I was really feeling it but I battled through it.”

Gamble was also greatly effected by the conditions, running a winning time of 20:18 which was more than a minute slower than her CIC-winning effort. But Oak Hill’s girls were still able to battle their way to just their third sectional crown since 1993, and eighth overall.

“From a talent standpoint and from a work standpoint, I think we knew coming in that we have had a season to put us in the position to be the favorite and if we took care of business,” said Oak Hill coach Paige Brunner about his ladies. “We didn’t feel like there was anybody that could beat us today. But I also knew you’re dealing with Huntington, who’s won a lot more of these than we have, and we’re also dealing with homecoming week, which is my least favorite week of the season as a fall sport coach.

“The girls performed well in bad conditions with the heat and the ground,” he continued. “I thought they competed really, really well. Grace Geller and Lauren Marsh just continue to get better for us. Every one else is running well but those two have really improved and I thought that really helped us win with a pretty easy margin.”

Brunner knew Wabash and Huntington would be tough to beat in the boys race, and the Golden Eagles were able to clip the Vikings for second.

Raffi Fry (17:19) led Oak Hill with a sixth-place, Dillon Mitchell (17:22) was seventh while Macallister Cheek (12th), Sol O’Blenis (14th) and Julian Garcia (17th) all scored for Oak Hill.

“We knew it was three team race, probably with Wabash being 1A and Huntington North being 1B. For us to break those two up on a day we didn’t necessarily run well, we competed well late but we didn’t get out well,” Brunner said. “Dillon and Raffi weren’t where they needed to be but they moved up. Sol O’Blenis, a freshman, and Julian Garcia, a senior, kind of bailed us out. To come in here and get second, be a sectional runnerup and move on, we’ll take it.”

Eastbrook’s Ben Neideck led the boys, finishing in 17:45 for 10th. The Panthers also scored with Zane Callison (22nd), Nathan Brainer (30th), Jack Hammond (31st) and Logan Kennedy (40th).

Panther coach Ethan Evans said his team also struggled but accomplished its main goal for the race.

“I think if we ran really well, we were probably going to be fourth,” Evans said. “We ran a little off today and we were still fourth. At this time in the season, its just get to next week. We had a couple guys run off, but we’ll go on next week and try to do better.”

Eastbrook’s girls narrowly missed claiming an advancing spot, finishing with 129 points and in sixth place. The Panthers did claim individual advancement for five girls.

Laynie Craw (19th), Rebekah Hammond (24th), Rachel Manning (33rd), Jade Stuber (35th) and Elaina Manning (36th) will all race next week for the Panthers.

“We looked at the score and didn’t make it, which was the goal, but to have five (make it) that’s a good consolation for our season,” Evans said. “The last two years we’ve had two girls go. It’s definitely not the step we wanted to take but its a step in the right direction.”

Perhaps the happiest coach on the IWU course was Mississinewa’s Ean Van Winkle. Not only did the Ole Miss boys advance to regional for the first time in 30 years, the Indians’ girls and boys advanced together for the first time, believed to be in school history.

Along with Butche, Ole Miss got points from Jacob Ehmer (35th), Tony Parrish (36th), Jon Alsup (38th) and Collin Coffey (39th).

Van Winkle was overcome by emotion when asked about his teams’ accomplishments.

“I need somebody to punch me in the gut so I can get serious,” Van Winkle said after fighting back tears of pride and joy. “I’m happy. Three years of working for it and they finally got it. It’s awesome to have both.

“I told the boys today we’ve got to run and compete just like the girls do every week,” he added. “The boys were ready today. The looks on their faces, I felt like everybody was ready to go.”

Aurora Fisher didn’t have her best day, but she still topped a trio of girls in the top 10 for the Indians. Fisher’s time of 21:36 was good enough for eighth while Carli Fones (22:12) and Raegan Tippey (22:13) were ninth and 10th. Ole Miss also counted Lynnzey Young (39th) and Ashlyn Morrical (51st.)

“Aurora didn’t really have it today but Raegan and Carli pushed her and the other two got in there, really (more than) just enough, we got fourth for girls so it was awesome,” Van Winkle said. “I never have trouble getting them to compete, they always run in the big meets and they always run real hard.”

Marion had a pair of runners from its boys team earn a trip to regional with Tyler Morgan (18:22) crossing 16th and Joel Barnes (18:35) in 21st. The Marion boys scored 208 points and finished eighth in the team competition.

Carynna Aguila (26:57) led Marion’s girls finishing 37th, just 15 seconds and a single spot from advancing to next week.

Madison-Grant’s top finishers were Mary Mayfield (28:23) in 44th for the girls, while Cole Hasty (20:37) was 44th for the boys.

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