Hornocker and Girls XC Win Regional; Boys Advance

Posted on October 16, 2017 in Boy's Cross Country, Fall Sports, Girl's Cross Country

By CHUCK LANDIS – clandis@chronicle-tribune.com
Margo Hornocker and Brennen Butche continue to check off all the boxes in their quests for the greatest ever Grant County girls’ and boys’ cross country seasons.
The latest check marks came Saturday when the Oak Hill and Mississinewa runners won top individual honors with ease at the Marion Regional held on the Indiana Wesleyan University course. Hornocker also helped the Golden Eagles win the team championship for the third time in four years.
Oak Hill’s boys team also will make the trip to the New Haven Semistate on the Indiana-Purdue University-Fort Wayne course following a fourth place regional finish. Five other individuals advanced: Marion’s Jalen Springer and Joel Barnes, Eastbrook’s Connor White and Mississinewa’s Aurora Fisher.
Hornocker wasted no time moving to the front and the remainder of the 90-girl field lost sight of her just a half-mile into the 5-kilometer race. Teammate Mollie Gamble was runner-up despite running the final two miles with one shoe, and the Golden Eagles had five runners finish in the top 18 positions.
“My goal was to get out front and try to push the pace from there,” said Hornocker, who ran 18 minutes, 9.3 seconds and finished 30 seconds ahead of Gamble. “My time wasn’t as fast as I wanted it to be, but I was happy with it, especially this time of season.
“You want to worry about running your own race and doing what’s best for the team,” she added after winning her first regional title.
Butche achieved his goal of a sub-16-minute race by one-tenth seconds and finished nearly 30 seconds ahead of runner-up Brock Spahr of Huntington North to win his first regional championship. The junior was runner-up last year and third in his freshman season.
Just like Hornocker, Butche went straight to the front and never was challenged throughout the five kilometers. Warm weather, warmer than runners are accustomed to this time of year, and the added pressure of a postseason elimination race kept many runners from obtaining their optimum times.
“My coach (Ean Van Winkle) and I sat down and our goal today was to get under 16, and I accomplished that,” said Butche, who turned in a 15:26.3 Sept. 2 in the Marion Invitational. “My plan from the start was to go out and (Van Winkle) said ‘I don’t need you to let up, I need you to run as hard as you can the whole race’.
“The wind got to me a little bit at the end, but other than that it was a good day,” he added.
Van Winkle said he wanted Butche to push himself especially after his sectional race when he collapsed with exhaustion after battling high winds and humidity.
“Brennen did exactly what we wanted him to do – to feel tired and still win it, and getting under 16 was big,” Van Winkle said. “He did it by one-tenth of a second, and that helps his confidence a lot.
“He always gets mad when he doesn’t get (the times) he’s used to, but we tell him cross country doesn’t work that way and you just have to be strong at the end. I hate to say it, but I don’t think there was any doubt he was going to win today.”
Hornocker and Gamble both finished ahead of last year’s regional individual champion Sydney Lambert of Norwell, who finished third in 18:53.1 that was nearly 30 seconds slower than last year. And Gamble was able to hold off Lambert even after losing a shoe two kilometers into the race.
“(Lambert) had a really great season last year and I remember thinking how good she was at regional, and she’s still a really great runner,” said Hornocker, who shaved nearly 40 seconds off last year’s regional time. “It’s cool to see how much I was able to improve since last year.”
Gamble said she had just passed Lambert for second place when the shoe came off, and it did result in discomfort for the remainder of the race. Yet, she shaved 20 seconds off last year’s regional time when she finished in fifth place.
“I just wanted to finish and get it over with because I didn’t have my shoe on,” Gamble said. “I had almost two miles where I didn’t have it on, and it was not fun. I tried not to limp at all, but after the race (the leg) was hurting a lot.”
Lost in the 1-2 finish of Hornocker and Gamble, was the performance Jenessa Hasty who gave Oak Hill a third top 10 finisher with her seventh place finish (20:19.8). The Eagles also had Savannah Hart place 16th (20:55.3) and Kinzie Robey 18th (21:01.2).
“We get spoiled with what Mollie and Margo are doing and forget that Jenessa is as good as most teams ones, and when she’s running the three spot for us that makes you pretty special,” Oak Hill coach Paige Brunner said. “The seniors, Margo, Savannah and Camille Taylor, have won three regional titles, and for a small school and one class it speaks volumes for what they are able to do.”
Springer gets to make a third straight trip to semistate following a sixth place regional finish in 16:33.9, and the senior was running in second place late in the race.
“I was with the top pack throughout the race and when it got around 3k I started to make my move and by 4k I was (second),” Springer said. “Then they overtook me down by the finish (line). It seems to me nothing in this sport is a given and you have to bring it every week in order to advance. One thing I have to work on is my last part of the race.”
Tahj Johnson bounced back with an 11th place finish (16:55.1) one week after failing to finish the sectional race, and he encountered health issues earlier in the week that could have kept him out of the regional. The Eagles also had Raffi Fry place 35th overall (17:49.2), Danny Nally 41st (18:06.2), Colin Hearts 42nd (18:06.8) and Julian Garcia 49th (18:20.1).
White finished eighth (16:39.3) to punch his semistate ticket even as the rest of the Panthers faltered to a 10th place team finish. Barnes will give Marion a second semistate representative after finishing 26th over (17:32.3) and gain the 10th and final individual spot, and the Giants’ Tyler Morgan missed out by two places after placing 28th (17:40.8).
Then, there was Fisher making a comeback just two weeks after a serious health scare to place 26th (21:23.7) and earn an individual spot in the girls’ semistate race.
“We were worried she wasn’t going to make it back,” Van Winkle said of Fisher. “(Sectional) was a real struggle and this week she’s back to being Aurora again, and hopefully, she can get back to the time she had last year at the end or close to it (20:10.0).

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