SYRACUSE — With only two home meets scheduled this season, the Wawasee girls and boys cross country teams were looking forward to making the most of Tuesday’s meet. The Warriors held their home opener by welcoming in NorthWood and conference power Northridge and gladly split with their two conference foes. Both Wawasee’s boys and girls earned wins over NorthWood and took a loss to Northridge.
The story line for the day came from the girls race as Elizabeth Zorn (Wawasee) and Erica Stutsman (NorthWood) were both held out due to injury. Both girls are the top runners for their respective teams. The absence of the two left and opening, and an opportunity, at the front of the pack. An opportunity that Wawasee’s Kenzie Smith was more than willing to capitalize on.
“I wasn’t going to let anybody beat me,” an exhausted Smith shared following her finish
Smith was impressive on Tuesday. She led the entire race with Northridge’s Jenna Miller and Mariah King in close pursuit along the way. Smith ran a personal best 20:12, holding off Miller (20:13) near the finish line. It was Smith’s first win in high school and she felt good about it from start to finish.
“I started off well and I knew I was feeling good,” explained Smith. “I knew I could do it. I led the whole race. At the end I could see her (Miller’s) shadow on the grass. I knew I had to stride out with my arms so I could hold her off.
“It’s my first high school win and it feels pretty good.”
Smith earned the top spot, followed by six Raiders. After that it was Aubrey Kuhn clocking in at 21:34 to take eighth for Wawasee. Bailey Schroeder took 14th with a 22:37 while Katie Haines finished strong for 17th and a 22:49.
“It equaled out tonight with both NorthWood and us not having our top runners,” Wawasee girls coach Doug Slabaugh stated. “I told the girls it was going to come down to our pack versus their pack. The big finish by Katie Haines helped seal the deal for us. We’ve go to continue to work on our pack. NorthWood’s was much closer than ours. We’ve got to continue to develop our third through eighth runners. We ran a lot of season bests tonight, but we still have to get further up in finishes.”
other top 25 finishers for Wawasee were Lila Gregory (23:09), Valeria Pizana (23:30) and Reagan Atwood (23:32), who all finished 21st through 23rd, respectively.
In the boys race it was the same results in terms of team results, but a much different look from the individual side of things. Wawasee took second and third overall in the race and four spots in the top 20.
Spencer Hare led the Warriors with a 17:01 to finished second. Noah Detwiler won the race for Northridge with a 16:53. Luke Griner ran close to hare for much of the event and finished third at 17:05.
“We’re trying to learn that it’s better to run with somebody than to run by yourself,” said Wawasee boys coach Chad Hoffert. “We’re at our best when our top two guys stick together and the same for our three and four. A week ago it didn’t happen that way, tonight it did and I think you can see the difference in the results when it works that way.
“It’s just more added energy to your performance when you’re pushing another teammate and he’s pushing you. When you start to feel like you can’t go, you have to because you’ve got to keep up with your teammate. That kind of mental discipline is what we’ve been working on and I saw some of that tonight, which was good.”
Bennett Hoffert took ninth overall for the Warriors as he ran a flat 18:00. Sam Griner clocked an 18:13 to finish 12th overall. Thomas Conley took 21st with a time of 19:26.
Emanuel Olivera led NorthWood with a 17:09, good enough for fourth overall. Northridge took first, fifth through eighth, 11th and 13th through 17th to earn the sweep.
Wawasee’s boys team is now 4-5 overall and 1-5 in the Northern Lakes Conference. The girls improve to 6-3 overall and 3-3 in NLC competition. The boys and girls return home next Tuesday for a 5:30 p.m. start again Elkhart Memorial.