ELKHART – It wasn’t an ideal night for the Wawasee cross country teams, but Tuesday’s triangular with Plymouth and host Elkhart Memorial gave great looks as the Northern Lakes Conference season opened for the three schools.
On the boys side, the Chargers picked up a sweep by using a big pack to overwhelm Plymouth, 15-49, and Wawasee, 24-35, while Wawasee earned the split by clipping Plymouth 18-39.
The Lady Warriors were the dominant side Tuesday, crushing Memorial, 20-43, and Plymouth, 22-36, while Plymouth edged Memorial, 26-31, to earn its split.
Wawasee’s girls visually had the better night of the two sides, and the results would back the sentiment. No one was going to catch Memorial’s Brooke Moore, the defending sectional champion and state finalist. After taking 15th at the state finals last October, Moore was just as sharp in her senior hurrah, running 19:43 without chase from anyone.
Wawasee wasn’t too concerned about that, taking eight of the next 11 places. Courtney Linnemeier led the charge at 20:58, with teammate Aubrey Kuhn fourth at 21:28 and Sarah Harden right behind at 21:36. Yanelly Pizana crossed the line at 21:42 and Molly Swartz rounded out the scoring places with a 22:05.
With a banged up lineup, including two runners in walking boots and a roster with holes on it from off the field decisions, Wawasee head coach Doug Slabaugh’s team has had to do more than just shuffle kids around.
“People are just working hard and want the spots,” Slabaugh said. “Tonight was fun and fun to see kids step up and want to help out the team.”
Slabaugh was impressed with his girl’s team pack work, that had three more runners just behind Swartz, and his point scorers all making moves on Plymouth runners as the boxy course unfolded.
“It was just a team effort,” Slabaugh said of his girls. “I not only saw it, but heard it. I saw the effort of the kids helping each other on the course. Nice to see.”
The Wawasee boys, with its own issues as illness and injury worked through the mix, were less than sharp. Slabaugh noted immediately No. 1 runner Zach Cockrill had a cast put on his injured wrist only three hours before race time, and several of his runners ailing from illness.
“Today Zach just came in with a controlled effort,” Slabaugh said. “We weren’t coming out to fully race and weren’t even sure if he was going to race, just getting the cast three hours ago. He was a question mark.”
Whether the sidebar things affected his team in totality, Memorial looked the fittest side Tuesday. Cockrill would take the win, pacing with Memorial’s Spencer Dibley the entire way before pulling away in the final 400 meters for a 17:11 win to Dibley’s 17:15. Troy Carolus gave Wawasee an impressive No. 2 scorer with his 17:31 after running in fifth for much of the meet.
Memorial, however, would claim the next five finishers to put the clamp on any hope Wawasee had to outpoint the Chargers at the line. Wawasee’s Jaxon Bame, who fell way off the pace about halfway through the race, landed tenth at 18:28 with teammate Erik Diaz next in at 18:44. Brady Robinson needed a wind sprint at the line to beat Plymouth’s Jordan Morrow at 19:03.
“Troy ran the best race of his life at Indiana Wesleyan,” Slabaugh said. “He kept moving up, found his marks and finished well. Today he got in position and finished well. He made progress and is making a name for himself. That’s super exciting.”
Slabaugh was optimistic Tuesday meets were early indicators, but with Warsaw coming to Syracuse next Tuesday, he wasn’t overly confident the issues were completely resolved.
Stated Slabaugh, “We’re going to come out to compete. We’ll go out and look to run good times and push ourselves and push them. I expect a good effort from us.”