Pushing through: Area runners advance to semistate

·4 min read

Oct. 16—MUNCIE — Saturday's cross country regional at the Muncie Sportsplex featured an elite field of runners who had to battle themselves, each other, and the elements following four consecutive weeks of heavy rain that gave the course a marsh-like feel.

And resembling children who had been playing in the mud against parent's orders, seven area individuals and one team managed to slog through in strong enough fashion to extend their seasons to next week's semistate in Huntington.

As they did at last week's sectional on their home turf, the Pendleton Heights girls placed third behind champion Hamilton Southeastern and runner-up Fishers to advance. The Royals scored 45 points to edge Fishers (51) for the title with PH (80) close behind. Delta—including individual girls champion Nicki Southerland—placed 4th with 141 points and Yorktown (163) claimed the fifth spot.

Shenandoah placed 10th as a team, led by Anna Buskirk in 47th place.

The Arabians were led by a trio of All-Regional athletes in the top 20 with Ava Jarrell running out front in 9th position. Laney Ricker was close behind in 11th and Hadley Walker was 15th. Berkeley Lord (25th) and Abigail Davidson (30th) rounded out the scoring for coach Melissa Hagerman's group, which seemed very comfortable on the wet, muddy, and sloppy track.

"I was very pleased, this was about strength and guts," Hagerman said. "We were pretty confident coming in with the conditions (after) running through all those puddles at Falls Park and through those trails at Mounds Park."

While the Arabians girls are regular participants at semistate, they will be joined by 2 area runners making their first appearance beyond regional in Daleville sophomore Faith Norris and Alexandria junior Lilly Thomas. Norris trudged home in 19th position to advance comfortably while Thomas (29th) took the final of ten individual transfer spots with Norris's teammate Olivia Covert just two spots—and 14 seconds—from advancement.

Locally, Hannah Combs of Lapel was next in 34th, followed by Reanna Stinson of Alex (44th), Katelyn Foor of Elwood (48th) and Brooklyn Denney of Anderson (52nd).

On the boys side, there was some disappointment for PH as the Arabians were denied a return trip to semistate by just 3 points, placing sixth behind Yorktown. The other 4 advancing teams were champion Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern, Monroe Central and Wapahani.

Frankton placed 9th in the boys team standings.

The Arabians will be well represented with 2 of the 5 area individuals to advance, including Andrew Blake in 13th and Avry Carpenter in 18th. Blake was the top individual to move on.

Liberty Christian junior Noah Price (14th) and Frankton sophomore Hunter Smith (19th) will return to semistate for the second straight season. Price, who placed 93rd a year ago at Huntington, says he will take a different approach this time around as he seeks to advance to the state finals.

"At Huntington, the biggest thing is pacing myself that first mile," Price said. "From what I remember, it starts with that really big downhill and everyone likes to go out really fast. I'm going to pace myself and go out in 5:15, maybe 5:30 and start picking off guys."

A first-time semistate qualifier on the boys side is Lapel's Cameron Smith, who moves on following a strong 17th place showing in Muncie. With speckles of mud on his cheeks surrounding the smile on his face, he remembers the hard work that went into reaching this goal.

"I can't explain it, I've trained since June first and I've been hoping for this moment," Smith said. "I've been listening to my coaches and everything they've had to say, knowing that they'll take me in the right direction, so I'm really happy."

Just missing out on advancement were PH's William Coggins (36th), Anderson's Spencer Proctor (39th), Kaleb Cage of Frankton (43rd), and Jason Lyst of PH (47th).

Elwood's Jayden Reese—advancing to regional despite battling a back injury all year—missed out on a second straight semistate trip after placing 51st.

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.

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