BY GREG FLINT email@example.com
---- — OXFORD, Ind. — It was the first cold and rainy night for cross country this season as 13 teams met at Benton Central for sectional competition.
The weather drew mixed reviews as some runners such as Morgan Grubb of Fountain Central found it to her liking while others did not.
“It was really cold,” she said of her ninth-place finish in 20 minutes and 46 seconds, “and I got a PR [personal record] so I’m really happy. I’ve worked all year to break 21 [minutes] and I did it tonight and get to move on.”
Her entire girls’ team advanced to the West Lafayette Harrison Regional on Saturday with a third-place finish.
Joining them will be Seeger who took second, edged out of their second consecutive championship by only three points 27-30 to Twin Lakes.
“It was a good meet and I’m proud of my girls,” said Seeger coach Miles Stuckey. “It came down to their fourth and fifth runners - their fifth place girl ran her personal best by 30 seconds.”
Stuckey said that while it was disappointing not to win the title, his team still has goals.
“We want to advance to semi-state as a team and Cara [Fowler] wants to make state. Connor [Million] also wants to advance to semi-state for the boys.”
On the boys’ side, Seeger — with a fourth-place finish — was the lone area school to advance as team, but there was a change in the rules this year that allowed more local runners to advance as individuals than in past seasons.
Up until this year, only runners who finished in the top 15 and were not members of an advancing team would move on to the regional. This season, the top 10 runners regardless of position who were not affiliated with an advancing team moved on.
With the old rules in effect, no girls and only four boys would have advanced with only Kenny Little’s fifth place being good enough for area runners.
This year, Little is joined by teammates CJ Day and Andrew Mason as well as Clayton Corey of Fountain Central in reaching the regional.
Girls who advanced thanks to the change in rules were Carley Stoll, Jessica DeSutter, Ashley Brindle and Shay Day of Attica along with Sierra Grube and Gretchen Vicars of North Vermillion.
One person who likes the new rule is Fountain Central coach Clint Burney.
“This gives us something to work for,” he said. “I’ve got Morgan [Grubb] and Hannah Gayler who might get to semi-state but also Bailey Hoffa who only needs to drop 45 seconds to maybe make it.”
He continued, “As a coach, it gives me something to aim it, not just saying ‘Well, this is your last race.’”
North Vermillion coach Lorie Turchi said that with one exception, nobody on her team did anything spectacular.
“Most of my kids ran about as I expected,” she said, “Except for Kenzi Lamb, a freshman, who cut two-and-a-half minutes off her best time.”
Personal bests were common on the night with several runners saying the cool weather made it ideal running.
Little explained, “It was nice and cool and with a flat course, I was able to go out harder than I did [at the Wabash River Conference meet last week] and I think that helped me.”
His efforts were appreciated by Conner Million, whose fourth place finish was tops for area boys.
“I kept watching Kenny,” he said. “He kept getting closer and closer, but I felt good and kept ahead. I’m really happy with how I finished.”
All those who advanced will be running on Saturday at the Tippecanoe Amphitheater in West Lafayette with a start time of 10 a.m. Eastern.
Greg Flint is a freelance writer/photographer for the Commercial-News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org