Girls Cross Country Wins Sectional

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

BY SCOTT HUNT
shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

With all her accomplishments in cross country to date, it’s hard to believe Oak Hill’s Margo Hornocker had never won a sectional championship.
A state qualifier the last two season’s, Hornocker, a senior, was fourth as a freshman and runner-up the last two seasons, including being nipped at the finish line by teammate Mollie Gamble in 2016.
It’s also hard to believe that in the 13-plus year tenure as boys and girls track and cross country at Oak Hill, the only team Paige Brunner hadn’t coached to a sectional crown was in girls cross country. Despite winning three regionals with his girls, Brunner had never hoisted a sectional championship trophy, until Saturday.
Hornocker endured the elements and ran away with a 21 second win over the runner-up, Gamble, and the Golden Eagles withstood another strong challenge from perennial nemesis Huntington North to win the school’s first girls cross country sectional championship since 1993.
It certainly wasn’t easy. Oak Hill placed each of its top-five runners in the top- 10 to score 26 points, while Huntington North’s top five finished were all spread from third through 11th to finish second with 31.
“We’ve had a couple of years here where Huntington nipped us in the sectional and we got them in the regional and that will be our focus next week,” said Brunner. “In my time here we’ve won sectionals in boys cross, boys track and girls track, but this has kind of been the one we haven’t got yet to complete the quad. I know it’s meant a lot to the girls.”
Especially to Hornocker. While the standout senior was pleased to be the individual champion, she was more excited to be holding the championship team trophy.
“Its awesome because we’ve been really trying for the last four years to get it and every year we’ve really had a good chance to get it, but we haven’t been able to put it all together,” she said. “Today we did. We all knew exactly what we had to do and we did it.”
Things were looking dicey early in the race for Oak Hill.
Hornocker and Gamble firmly entrenched themselves in the top two spots, but Huntington North runners marked the third and fourth positions.
While all of the top six runners for both teams were running in the top-20, the Vikings had the advantage at most spots. But Jenessa Hasty started to pull away from her two nearest Huntington pursuers, eventually crossing the line in fifth in 20:31. Savannah Hart did the same and ended 8th, but perhaps the most important move was from freshman Kinzie Robey. Robey worked her way to the 10th spot and kept a firm grasp to finish there and helped provide the winning points for Oak Hill.
“For me and Mollie on our places, its just a matter of a couple of points, but back with them they’re with a lot more girls and they really have to focus hard that every place matters and every point counts,” Hornocker said of her teammates. “I’m really proud of them for it. Just staying in it mentally and pushing.”
Brunner said he used a bit of encouragement with Robey early in the race.
“I thought our girls fought today and that probably was the difference, especially the second half,” Brunner said. “Kinzie Robey, the first half of the race, had me screaming at her  to stop messing with her hair and the second half she started racing and we won the meet probably because of it.
“We’ve got some young girls who are going to have to realize it’s not just Margo and Mollie,” he added. “We’ve got some good runners. You can throw the times out for everybody today. Our second half of the race was pretty good and that’s the reason we came out on top.”
Robey heeded her coach’s advice.
“When I was back in the fields I was running by Selah Jackson (19th), and I said we’ve gotta go,” said Robey.
“I just started passing people. Brunner was like you can either lose the race for us or win it, and I was like I really have to go now and pass people. So I did.”
Perhaps the most surprised person on the Indiana Wesleyan grounds Saturday was Mississinewa coach Ean Van Winkle. Disappointed after his boys team just missed qualifying as a team for the Marion Regional, Van Winkle and his girls team were able to earn that fifth spot and another chance to race against a step up in competition.
Carli Fones led the Indians by finishing 18th and Aurora Fisher, running her first race in three weeks because of some health issues, finished 25th as the Indians scored 159 points to finish just behind Souther Wells (107) and Northfield (114) in the top five. Eastbrook (174) finished 7th, followed by Marion (221) and Madison-Grant (234).
“I was running out there and telling the girls the last 300, ‘If you guys go you’ve got a chance to go on,” said Van Winkle. “I’m glad the girls made it, I’m pumped.”
Lynnzey Young finished 43rd, Chloe Saylor was 44th and Jordan Luedtke ended 45th in rounding out the Ole Miss scoring.
Fones and Fisher, both sophomores, qualified for semistate last season and all the Indians points came from either freshman or sophomores. That’s what most excited Van Winkle. 
“It gives them another chance. I’m shocked really,” he said. “They’re all young and they can feel like they have some confidence for next year and years to come. They can feel like this is worth it and they did something worthwhile and made it to another round of the state tournament that they’ve never been involved in. I’m proud of them.”
Eastbrook had two girls advance to regional, juniors Eleana Manning (26th) and Kaylene Cox (34th) while Marion senior Zoe Case ended 28th to also advance.

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