ELKHART – Simply put, conditions were ugly for the first round of a hopefully deep postseason run for Wawasee’s boys’ and girls’ cross country teams.
Rainy weather led to a muddy course to help set the scene Tuesday night at Ox Bow County Park in Elkhart for the IHSAA Sectional Championships. As ugly as the weather was, both Warrior squads did enough to look good and advance to Saturday’s regional with the girls’ team claiming second place and the boys’ taking third in the team’s respective races.
While the ladies did not have to worry too much about whether or not they would advance following their race, the boys did not have the same luxury.
The Warrior boys ran a race that was commonly described by players and coaches as an “ugly” one. The underwhelming performance left the boys’ future up in the air when the final scores were announced as the team needed to be in the top five in order to advance.
When the time came for Wawasee to find out its fate, the Warriors ended up being well in the clear with a team score of 109. The finish was good enough for third place behind Northern Lakes Conference foes Goshen (71) and sectional champion Northridge (24).
Warrior head coach Doug Slabaugh was one of many in the Wawasee camp to breathe a sigh of relief after hearing the results, “It was nice to see that we still got third and avoided having another team slip by and beat us. This was really an off day for us for whatever reason.
“We will have to do some talking with the guys and figure out what happened out there. We were missing two guys out there today with Jaxon (Bame) and Jacob (Tucco) being gone, so that was part of it. Hopefully both of those guys will be back for Saturday though. Jaxon is still a question mark but Jacob will be ready to go. We will just have to bring our ‘A’ game on Saturday. Last year we finished sixth and South Bend Riley was fifth so we have to watch out for them and of course teams like Penn that will also be there.”
Adam Doll and Zach Cockrill led the pack for Wawasee today with Doll finishing fifth (16:38) and Cockrill coming in twelfth (17:16).
Cockrill was fired up after the race and is looking forward to the regional opportunity on Saturday, “Today I was surprised we finished in third because we really did not do that well. That excites me because I know we will do a lot better next week. I think we have a real chance at getting out of the regional now.”
Austin Yoder and Austin Krizman finished within seconds of each other to be the third and fourth Warriors to cross the finish line. Yoder finished with a 17:40 as Krizman came in right behind him with a 17:45. Troy Carolus took the team’s fifth score with a time of 18:14.
The boys had a few minutes of doubt before the scores came in but the ladies made sure to avoid that scenario in the second race of the day at Ox Bow.
Wawasee’s girls solidified themselves near the top of the pack with a team score of 76 to place second in the meet, placing behind Northridge’s 37 as the Raiders placed four runners in the top 10.
It was an all around good day for the girls on the course as Bre Robinson led the team finishing in seventh place with a time of 20:17. Wawasee had two more cross the finish shortly after Robinson as Bridgette Yoder (20:46.2) and Courtney Linnemeier (20:46.8) sandwiched Concord’s Anna Nisen (20:46.6) at the finish line. The fourth score for Wawasee was Molly Swartz who was the last top 20 runner for Wawasee with a time of 21:11.
Slabaugh was impressed with his girls’ day on the course, seeing a lot of good things from more than just his usual suspects at the top, “The girls are a real solid team and they just raced better today. I’m not sure why, the course is the same and our teams usually run the same.
“But either way they had a really good day and we had a strong day from Delanie Bame. She had a really good race and really moved up well today. We will need her and the rest of the team to keep running well because the regional will be tough. Basically the girls’ regional beings the same challenges that the boys’ regional does with Penn and the South Bend schools, in addition to the teams we saw here today.”
Wawasee beat out Concord by 18 points to take second place on Tuesday and Bame’s finish at 21:30 is a big reason why. Bame was the fifth score for Wawasee but beat out both Concord’s fourth and fifth place runners in McKenah D’Arcy (21:46) and Mackenzie Porter (22:01).
Bame, a freshman, was happy about her finish but was more excited about the day her team had, “We all had good races today which I think came from working together. We are all out there encouraging each other and that makes it easier on the course. I tried to stay focused on watching other runners and working my way up towards my other teammates and that led to a good finish.”
Both the boys’ and girls’ teams will return to Ox Bow on Saturday morning for the regional championship. The boys’ race will start at approximately 10 a.m. with the girls race to immediately follow.
Boys Team Scores (Top five advance to regional)
1. Northridge 24
2. Goshen 71
3. Wawasee 109
5. Elkhart Central 130
6. Fairfield 141
7. Concord 175
8. Elkhart Memorial 179
9. Jimtown 240
10. Elkhart Christian 257
Girls Team Scores
1. Northridge 37
2. Wawasee 76
3. Concord 94
4. Elkhart Memorial 132
5. Goshen 133
6. Fairfield 135
7. Elkhart Christian 156
8. NorthWood 226
9. Elkhart Central 230
10. Jimtown 261