Hot, muggy and downright blech was the atmosphere at the Wawasee cross country course, and with stars unaligned from the three schools, Northridge still ran away with four overall wins. The Raider boys beat Goshen, 24-31, and Wawasee, 18-39, while Goshen tripped up Wawasee, 19-37. The Lady Raiders nearly swept Goshen, 18-45, and got past Wawasee, 23-36, while the Lady Warriors claimed a win over Goshen, 26-31.
The girls worked up a sweat first, taking to the course missing its biggest star in Corinne Cominator, Northridge’s ace who is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in her foot.
Seizing the opportunity to shine was Northridge’s Jen Schrock, who did not lose any ground on the field after taking the lead after 500 meters. Schrock ran unopposed for most of the race, clocking a winning 19:40, well ahead of an emerging Jen Slabaugh of Wawasee at 20:21.
The race for third had Mandy Campbell of Northridge holding off Bre Robinson of Wawasee at the line, Campbell winning at 20:31 by one second over Robinson, running her first race of the season. Wawasee’s Courtney Linnemeier, who had run with Campbell and Robinson for much of the race, fell off the pace to finish eighth at 21:10.
Northridge claimed five of the top nine spots to bolster its lofty No. 8 ranking in the state despite the absence of Cominator.
Wawasee’s final scoring duo of Maddison Miller (21:59) and Morgan Eryman (23:26) were almost equidistant from each other on the course, which did cause a small amount of concern for Wawasee head coach Jerid Stoffel.
“I thought the girls had a really good meet, both of those teams we faced are really good,” Stoffel said. “We just don’t have the depth to keep up with a Northridge. Our top three were near the top, but our four and five, not so much.
“But if you look at it, we kept up and beat Goshen, which is a team in the tournament we will have to beat if we want to reach our team goals. So that was nice to get from the race. But we have to get our fourth and fifth runners near the front, not falling behind.”
On paper, the boys race looked as though it could be very close. In actuality, Northridge made its top half stand up while Goshen’s pack made its win over Wawasee hold up.
Blake O’Dell of Northridge, like Schrock in the girls race, jumped out to a decent lead and really never was challenged in the race. As O’Dell steamed around the course with a winning 16:09, it was about those chasing him that would determine Tuesday’s race fate.
Northridge’s James Bradberry and Goshen’s Luke Kaufman had quite a duel to the finish, with Bradberry adding just a touch of speed in the final 25 meters to outrun Kaufman at 16:21, one step ahead of Kaufman. Northridge’s Jacob Frost pulled away from Wawasee’s Reid Stichter late to claim fourth at 16:45 to Stichter’s 16:53.
Goshen’s pack would claim four of the next five places, while Wawasee’s two through six would vary from Troy Carolus in 11th at 17:39 to Adam Doll in 19th at 18:11. Stoffel eluded that Doll, who was the overall winner at the Marion Invite just three days ago, had been sick all weekend and probably should not have ran.
“Obviously, you could tell, there was something wrong with him,” Stoffel said of Doll. “But we still need to have guys step up and help when someone like Adam is sick. Even with a mile to go, there were evenly spaced Goshen guys. Then 10, 15 seconds later, here come four Wawasee guys.
“We have to make up that time, don’t let that gap happen right away. It’s doable. I hate to lose, hate to lose, but you have to take it for what it is, and learn from it for the tournaments.”
With the showings Tuesday, Wawasee forges ahead with a week between meets. Next up on the slate is a trip to Oxbow Park and a matchup with rivals Concord and NorthWood, the second time this season Wawasee has faced the Panthers. The Oxbow course experience will be valuable, as the NLC, Elkhart Central Sectional and Elkhart Central Regional will all take place on the park grounds.
“A lot of these girls, and some of the guys, are very inexperienced runners or have never run competitively like this,” Stoffel said. “We have a few juniors and seniors that this is the first time running. A couple of them, they get around that last corner and they still have a lot of gas left.
“They have plenty left, but doubted themselves in the middle. If they can find that competition, that is what we will need in October. It’s not a very good thing to get passed and not do anything about it.”