SYRACUSE – Just five days ahead of the Northern Lakes Conference cross country tournament, Wawasee intended to cruise into the weekend on a high. With celebrations of seniors and veteran coaches in tow, Tuesday night’s triangular with NorthWood and Goshen should have been a grand time. After losing both boys and girls races to Goshen, the girls on a sixth-runner score, it wasn’t the absolutely festive mood the kids from Syracuse had envisioned.
Wawasee’s girls and Goshen tied at 28, but the 22:11 of sixth runner Bethany Pollock bested the 22:27 of Elizabeth Zorn to break the tie. Goshen’s boys would edge Wawasee 27-30. Wawasee would gain wins, beating NorthWood 17-42 on the boys side and 19-42 on the girls side while Goshen bested NorthWood 18-39 in boys and 19-42 in girls.
The Lady Warriors, already knowing it would be without ace Bre Robinson – out with a foot injury – would need to rely on its depth. Wawasee looked poised to cash in by taking second through fourth in the time charts led by Bridgette Yoder’s 20:30, followed by Courtney Linnemeier (20:38) and Molly Swartz (20:46). But Goshen, fueled by a big race from winner Tricia Place at 19:51, brought home its next four runners within the top 11 spots while Wawasee had Delaine Bame in 10th (21:32) and Bailey Schroeder 13th (22:22).
Zorn, who was in a group with Schroeder, Pollock and Goshen’s Adrienne Henke all sprinting to the finish, was not to blame, according to Wawasee head coach Doug Slabaugh.
“It’s not Elizabeth (Zorn)’s fault we lost, you can point to several reasons where a point was lost here or there,” Slabaugh said after a lengthy meeting with meet officials and coaches after the match to make sure the scores were accurate. “Obviously, we weren’t a complete team with Bre out. But we can’t make excuses. We needed kids to step up and we just didn’t get the job completely done.”
Samantha Stump would lead NorthWood with a time of 21:08, finishing sixth overall.
Wawasee’s split leaves the girls team 4-3 in the conference round robin heading into the tournament Saturday morning at Ox Bow Park.
On the boys side, Wawasee was hoping to move to 5-2 on the conference season, but instead settled for 4-3 overall after being edged by the Redskins. Gerardo Abad did not command the race for Goshen, but found himself at or near the front of the race for just about the entire run. As Abad and Adam Doll of Wawasee charged away from the pack, Abad had just enough juice to beat Doll to the line at 16:33, four seconds clear of Doll.
Shawn Graves (third, 16:43), Ricardo Castillo (fifth, 16:50) and Lane Graves (sixth, 16:55) gave Goshen a huge boost in points, while Wawasee’s Zach Cockrill (fourth, 16:48) and Austin Yoder (seventh, 17:02) broke up the Goshen party at the finish line. But a 17:53 run from Abe Medellin was enough to keep Wawasee from escaping the home meet despite ninth and tenth place runs from Austin Krizman (17:17) and Jacob Tucco (17:20).
Caleb Darr posted the top NorthWood boys time at 17:03, but was just eighth overall in the race.
“The focus for the rest of the week for us is getting someone to step up and pull someone else along,” Slabaugh said of his boys team. “We have to get someone willing to step up, fight through the pain and make a difference. I didn’t think we ran all that bad tonight, we just needed more kids up near the front and didn’t get it.”
With the regular season now complete, Slabaugh’s attention now points to the NLC race Saturday, and ultimately the Elkhart Central Sectional on Oct. 15, also at Ox Bow Park as will be the regional on Oct. 19. Giving credit to Goshen for doing what they needed to do Tuesday night, Slabaugh still feels his teams have something to prove.
“As we transition into tournament training, some teams have already transitioned and we haven’t,” Slabaugh said. “There are little things we are getting over with like illness and a couple injuries. That should only help us get healthy as we get closer to the conference meet and the sectional. I thought we had a lot of good races from kids tonight. Our top three girls ran really well. I saw some good things from our guys, and we had quite a few PRs. We should be fine for the weekend.”
The racing at Ox Bow Park this Saturday will be spread out. The combined JV boys race with Northern Lakes and Northern Indiana conference teams will begin at 9 a.m., followed by the JV girls race. The NIC boys varsity race will start around 10 a.m., then the NLC boys, NIC girls and NLC girls to follow. The awards ceremonies will take place at roughly noon in one giant day of conference racing.
The festivities at Wawasee Tuesday began with Wawasee honoring its five senior boys in Doll, Krizman, Tucco, Yoder and Joey Bornman. A short ceremony was also made for longtime Wawasee cross country coach Dave Stookey, who is in his 50th year of coaching in the Wawasee School Corporation. A video of the modest ceremony for Stookey is below.