“I’m 50/50 with what I saw tonight, happy with the guys and a little disappointed with the girls,” Stoffel said. “The girls were a lot more spread out than I would have liked on the course. There were a few girls who raced well, but others not so much. The guys really wanted to race, they were into it. They got out front and really crushed it.”The Warrior boys grabbed five of the top seven places in the race, led by a multi-faceted race from Reid Stichter. The senior showed he could lead a race by setting the pace right out of the starting line, and maintained his lead. While Bremen and Fairfield aces tried to keep pace, Stichter seemed to get stronger as the course wound back to the finish line. With 300 yards to go, Stichter kicked hard and finished unopposed at 17:28 to claim the top time.
“I was really impressed with Reid’s kick, normally he isn’t known to have a great kick,” Stoffel said. “He felt the pressure and took that last corner and just barreled to the finish. I was happy with that. In the back of my mind, I was waiting for Bremen to catch him, but he showed some speed.”
Adam Doll was fourth at 18:13 and had teammate Troy Carolus right on his shoulder at 18:14. Wawasee also grabbed the next two places with Zach Cockrill at 18:27 and Austin Yoder at 18:33.
The girls did not have nearly the same level of output as its top five were scattered all over the race list. For much of the race, Wawasee were spread evenly throughout the 38 girls from the four schools.
Stepping forward for Wawasee was Jen Slabaugh, who begin her senior campaign with avery solid 21:24 finish, breaking away from a pack of about five runners with a mile to go. But from there, Wawasee’s runners sporadically came home. Courtney Linnemeier was eighth at 22:44, Madison Miller 14th at 23:46, Megan Rhodes 17th at 24:58 and Tessa Riley 24th at 25:40.
“Jen will be one of our leaders during races and in practice,” Stoffel stated. “Courtney and Madison just didn’t have good races today, but they will close the gap. We’ll also have Bre Robinson here in a couple weeks. So that will give us a very good top four. Tonight Jen stepped up and showed that leadership we want.”
The early season race was the first time in a decade that Wawasee has raced this early in August, and the first time in recent memory running at Fairfield. Stoffel offered the timeliness of the race wasn’t a major concern as to the finish of the girls, but he does want to see progress heading into the Prairie Heights Invite on Aug. 25.
“With it being the first day of school, that could have affected us a little bit, just with the routine,” Stoffel said. “It was a first day of racing, and you never know. I was surprised by the boys, but this is a good starting point overall.”
Editor’s Note: A reporting error had the Wawasee girls originally losing to NorthWood 30-27. The score should have been reversed. The story has since been updated.