ELKHART – It’s hard to tab something an upset when an undefeated team wins a title. But when that team knocks off a perennial powerhouse, there’s room to be impressed.
Goshen, which won the Northern Lakes Conference boys cross country regular season title with a 7-0 record, backed up its claim for an outright title Saturday by winning the NLC Boys Cross Country Championship with a team total of 54 points, two better than defending champion Warsaw’s 56 points.
The way to which Goshen pulled off the ‘upset’ was of championship quality. With aces Shawn Graves and Gerardo Abad running up front the entire race, the two finished second and third, respectively, at 16:52 and 16:55. While there was still work to be done, maybe the most important moment for Goshen came about 30 seconds later.
As runners from the conference schools were filtering in, Lane Graves found himself neck-and-neck-and-neck with Warsaw’s Jon Beres and Lucas Howett with about 200 yards to go. Graves found a little more pep in his step as the finish line became more clear and got the lean on Beres at 17:27.4 to Beres’ 17:27.9 while Howett faded at 17:29.
It didn’t look like much at the time, but the two places wound up costly for Warsaw which had another head scratcher just moments later.
Owen Glogovsky, who ran with race winner Conner Sandt of Northridge for a good portion of the first half of the race, fell way off the pace as the final 2,000 meters unfolded. Glogovsky, who suffered from illness all week including the Goshen dual Tuesday, dropped all the way to 17th at 17:43 and the final scoring piece for Warsaw. Tiger head coach Jim Mills was flabbergasted at the developments.
“There is no way Owen is the 17th best runner in this conference,” Mills said. “Even on a bad day, he is better than that. We think he is still feeling the effects of a sinus infection he was dealing with last week. That’s really the only explanation I can come up with.”
Daniel Messenger led the Tigers with a 17:09, fifth-place run. Jacob DeBoest was 15th overall at 17:41 to round out the Warsaw scoring.
Goshen’s Juan Perez was 19th at 17:48 and Jason Barahona 22nd at 17:49.
Sandt pulled away from the Goshen duo and everyone else to win the conference title at 16:38, and had teammate Nolan Rhodes not far behind at 17:11 in sixth place. The Raiders would take third overall in the team standings with 68 points.
After years of Northridge dominance in the conference, and Warsaw aiming to defend its title, Goshen thumbed its noses at both with full grip of the trophy.
“Tuesday I think we felt like we could just coast, but today, we had great races,” Mills said, referring to the dual loss to Goshen five days ago. “What killed us was Owen. It’s not his fault, but that place was the killer. We thought we won today, even with Owen finishing 17th. I’m happy as heck with our three-four-five guys, they really came to race.”
Wawasee didn’t put much dent in the NLC race Saturday.
Zach Cockrill took one last crack at a conference championship and nearly got it, finishing fourth at 17:00. Cockrill never really kept pace with Sandt or the two Goshen runners ahead of him past the halfway mark, instead achieving his best-ever NLC finish in terms of placing.
The Warriors, which dropped all the way to sixth place as a team with 121 points, had Troy Carolus in 25th (17:54), Jaxon Bame 26th (17:57), Brady Robinson 32nd (18:17) and Erik Diaz 34th (18:24).
“Troy did a good job all year for us getting up front, but today was probably his toughest day getting out with the leaders,” Wawasee head coach Doug Slabaugh said. “Not being up there hurt him. He moved up maybe 10 to 12 places at the end, but it was too late. Jaxon got wedged behind some kids. If they can run together a little longer, it’s probably a different outcome for us.”
Warsaw will look to regroup ahead of the Culver Academy Sectional, but should be more than prepared for a return to the top of a very weak sectional field, where only Culver Academy and Plymouth are even 3A-sized schools. Plymouth, to put in perspective, finished dead last at the NLC, 76 points shy of seventh place Concord. The Culver Regional should be equally sparse, with the Logansport Sectional also feeding in with a less-than-impressive arsenal of competition.
Wawasee, on the other hand, have their hands full with the Elkhart Central Sectional next Saturday. With four teams from the sectional – Goshen, Northridge, NorthWood and Elkhart Memorial – all finishing ahead of Wawasee Saturday returning as well as the additions of potential contenders Jimtown and Fairfield, Slabaugh’s crew will need to tighten the screws before its return to Ox Bow.
“Next Saturday we have to come out with a lot of fire in the belly,” Slabaugh said. “You’ve got to want it. That’s what it comes down to, you gotta want it. You can taper all you want, but a lot of it comes from within.”
Northern Lakes Conference Girls Cross Country Championships – Ox Bow Park
1. Goshen 52 (7-0)
2. Warsaw 54 (6-1)
3. Northridge 68 (4-3)
4. Elkhart Memorial 109 (5-2)
5. NorthWood 107 (3-4)
6. Wawasee 121 (2-5)
7. Concord 164 (1-6)
8. Plymouth 240 (0-7)