TERRE HAUTE – Jake Poyner found his place near the front of the pack Saturday.
Ellis Coon and Robert Murphy found their rightful places as All-State runners.
Brysten James and Daniel Messenger picked up their paces to notch key places.
Add it all together and the Warsaw boys cross country team found its fitting place on the podium at the end of the State Finals.
The No. 6 Tigers earned a spot on the awards stand at meet’s end Saturday with a team score of 157, good enough for a fourth-place finish.
No. 4 Carmel won the team championship with a score of 93, while Barr-Reeve senior Connor Sorrells won the individual state title in a time of 15:21 at a sun-drenched, but breezy LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course at the Wabash Valley Sports Center.
No. 1 Fort Wayne Carroll finished in second place with a team score of 116 with No. 2 Valparaiso placing third at 149.
Senior Poyner placed sixth overall, junior Coon eighth and senior Murphy 14 as the “Big Three” proved on the state’s biggest stage that no program has a better trio of runners.
Senior James and sophomore Messenger also came up clutch by finishing in 86th and 100th place overall among the field of 194 runners.
Among runners competing for the 24 teams in the field, Poyner was fourth, Coon sixth and Murphy ninth. James was 62nd and Messenger 76th to give Warsaw its team total of 157.
The Tigers’ goal all season was to finish in the top five and earn a spot on the podium at meet’s end Saturday. Warsaw had finished 15th at State a year ago.
“I couldn’t be happier for our guys,” said an emotional Jim Mills, coach of the Tigers. “We talked last night that if our top three ran their best and were on their game they all could be in the top 15. They showed it today, like they have all year. No other team had three runners in the top 15.
“Our four and five guys (Brysten and Daniel) did it again today like they did last week at semi state. They stepped up and did their jobs. But, I think Robert was the forgotten one for us. No one talked about him and today he showed them what he could do.
“When we came out here Friday to practice it was what a difference from last year when we were down here. To watch them having fun and their energy was special. We talked last night about what could happen if we ran well and the guys did just that today.”
It should never be uttered again that Poyner does not perform well in big meets.
The humble, thoughtful Division I talent stepped it up to lead his team on to the podium. Poyner covered the 5,000-meter course in a time of 15:37. A year ago at state, he ran a 16:30 to place 42nd.
“I’ve grown a lot in the span of one year and I’m just blessed to be here,” said the poignant Poyner following the race. “It hasn’t really it me yet, but I’m pretty happy. I did it. I can run to my potential in big meets.
“I’m just thrilled with how Ellis and Robert and the entire team did. I told myself with about a mile to go that this is it. To go now this is my senior year and that no one else was going to pass me. I’m improving and that’s the encouraging thing to me.”
Poyner ran his incredible race, despite not a lot of sleep the previous two nights.
“I struggled to sleep the last two nights and Friday night was awful,” related Poyner. “I laid there and things kept going through my head. But, I realized it was good for me to struggle with this. It’s a way to improve on who I am.”
Coon, the fiery competitor of the threesome, was eighth in a time of 15:41.
“I was gunning for fifth, but I can’t complain with eighth,” said Coon. “The course was so tough today and to even approach a PR is a good race. All of us did as well as we should have. I’m just really happy for all the guys.”
Murphy was just a couple of seconds behind Coon, in his familiar spot, as the dependable, consistent senior clocked across the finish line in 15:43.
“I’m quite happy with my race,” Murphy said. “It definitely feels great. I felt more confident here today and was in a good place. I went out and did all I could do.”
James clocked in at 16:40 with Messenger coming in at 16:47. Sophomore Michael Compton was 160th overall in 17:37 and freshman Owen Glogovsky 163rd in 17:40 to complete the Tiger lineup. Compton was 134th and Glogovsky 137th among runners representing teams.
Poyner, Coon, Murphy, James and Compton all ran for the Tigers at State in 2011.
Northridge earned an 11th place finish among the 24 teams with a score of 333. Junior Blake O’Dell led the Raiders, who had just one senior running Saturday, with a 30th place finish overall in a time of 16:01.
Goshen, led by senior Luke Kaufman, was 15th in the final team standings. Mishawaka placed 18th.
TEAM SCORES: Carmel 93, FW Carroll 116, Valparaiso 149, Warsaw 157, Hamilton Southeastern 182, Columbus North 187, Westfield 198, Terre Haute South 210, Indianapolis Cathedral 223, Lawrence Central 295, Northridge 333, Bloomington South 353, Franklin Central 391, FW Bishop Dwenger 405, Goshen 411, Lowell 427, West Lafayette 430, Mishawaka 443, Hobart 456, Bedford North Lawrence 465, McCutcheon 487, Homestead 502, Evansville North 524, Bloomington North 565.
TOP 15 INDIVIDUALS: 1. Connor Sorrells (Barr-Reeve) 15:21; 2. Zachery Panning (FW Concordia) 15:26; 3. Troy Reeder (Hamilton Southeastern) 15:28; 4. Jackson Bertoli (Terre Haute South) 15:34; 5. Kyle Eller (Lowell) 15:35; 6. Jake Poyner (Warsaw) 15:37; 7. Matt Dorsey (Lawrence Central) 15:39; 8. Ellis Coon (Warsaw) 15:41; 9. Kyle DuVall (Westfield) 15:41; 10. James Huffman (North Central/Indy) 15:42; 11. Alec Kostelnik (Morgan Township) 15:42; 12. Jonathan Reynolds (North Harrison) 15:43; 13. Jonathan Harper (FW Carroll) 15:43; 14. Robert Murphy (Warsaw) 15:43; 15. Ari Coulopoulos (Valparaiso) 15:45.
4. Jake Poyner 15:37; 6. Ellis Coon 15:41; 9. Robert Murphy 15:43; 62. Brysten James 16:40; 76. Daniel Messenger 16:47; 134. Michael Compton 17:37; 137. Owen Glogovsky 17:40.
20. Blake O’Dell 16:01; 52. James Bradberry 16:30; 73. Neel Patel 16:47; 87. Jacob Frost 16:56; 101. Conner Sandt 17:08; 125. Luke Riffell 17:25; 158. Phil Kilmer 18:15.
28. Luke Kaufman 16:10; 92. Reid Zimmerman 17:01; 93. Adam Weeden 17:01; 95. Josh Abbs 17:02; 103. Shawn Graves 17:09; 107. Gerardo Abad 17:10; 133. Alfonso Torres 17:36.
49. Austin Ganger 16:30; 61. Patrick Wagner 16:40; 64. Jordan Annis 16:42; 129. Troy Bradley 17:29; 140. Jacob McKesson 17:42; 141. A.J. Glick 17:43; 164. Andrew Collins 18:40.
NOTE: Runners places are where they finished among competitors in the team standings.