By TIM CREASON
NEW CARLISLE – If it’s true that every cloud has a silver lining, then Lucas Howett is a precious metal for the Warsaw boys cross country team.
Howett finished 13th Saturday at the New Prairie semistate, thus earning a trip to the IHSAA state finals next weekend.
For the third straight season, however, the Tiger boys team missed out by a narrow margin, this time finishing eighth in the 20-team meet at New Prairie High School.
Only the top six teams advance from a semistate to state, along with the top 10 individuals who are not members of a qualifying team.
“If we had run as well as we did at the (Northern Lakes Conference) meet, then maybe we’re right there,” said Warsaw coach Jim Mills. “But you have to show up on the race day, and we didn’t quite do that.”
No. 7-ranked Lowell upset No. 5 Valparaiso, 80-91, to claim the boys semistate championship. The Red Devils were led by senior Alec Fleming, who won the 5,000-meter race in 15 minutes, 25.6 seconds.
Warsaw scored 249. The Tigers finished eighth for a second straight year, after placing seventh the season before that.
“Except for Lucas, everybody ran flat,” said Mills, who is starting to feel snake bit. “I can’t really explain it.”
Obviously, the loss of No. 1 runner Zeb Hernandez to a disciplinary suspension midway through the season was a huge blow to the Tiger hopes. “We all were in shock for three or four days, and then we just decided the other guys had to step up,” said Mills.
“They all worked hard and coming in today, we thought we had as good a shot as anybody.”
Howett isn’t always mentioned among northern Indiana’s elite runners, but he ran a gutsier race than probably 90 percent of them as he worked his way up to 13th place.
“I was a little excited today. I just felt good. I knew it could be our last race, and I just wanted to run for our team and enjoy it,” said Howett. “But honestly, I was scared the whole way through. I was holding on for dear life at the end.
“A lot of these guys in this semistate, they’re ruthless,” said Howett, who finished in 16:02.6. “When I heard I was 13th, I was like, ‘Oh, man, I had a good day.’”
Howett simply established himself among the leaders and stayed there.
“That kid runs with heart,” said Mills of his senior leader. “I can’t take credit for it. There’s something about him, when the gun goes off, he lets it all out.”
Following Lucas, a full minute passed before the Tiger No. 2 runner finished. Taylor Mills was 51st in 17:02.4.
Then came Justin Fleming, 73rd in 17:09.6; Nathaniel Gottschalk, 75th in 17:12.3; and Xavi Ramirez, 79th in 17:17.2.
It was a good pack, but didn’t finish as far up as necessary.
“At the start of the season, I think we were confident with a good frontrunner and a really good group of pack runners, we didn’t think we’d have any problems,” said Mills. “But when everything blew up for us, we had to become a really good pack team. We had over a minute gap, and that killed us today.”
Next Saturday’s state finals, to be run at the Wabash Valley Sports Center in Terre Haute, begins at 1 p.m.
IHSAA SEMISTATE CROSS COUNTRY TOURNAMENT
At New Prairie
TEAM SCORES: Lowell 80, Valparaiso 91, West Lafayette 126, Crown Point 140, McCutcheon 172, Chesterton 194, Morgan Township 170, Warsaw 249, Harrison (Lafayette) 257, Lake Central 263, New Prairie 264, Highland 300, Hobart 309, Culver Academies 336, Portage 350, Fountain Central 412, Crawfordsville 434, Caston 455, Plymouth 479, Manchester 578.
TOP 20 FINISHERS: 1, Alec Fleming (Lowell) 15:25.6. 2, Jacob Kintzele (Chesterton) 15:31.2. 3, William Persin (McCutcheon) 15:43.3. 4, Collin Huber (Valparaiso) 15:46.5. 5, Mitchell Rans (Caston) 15:50.8. 6, Gabriel Sanchez (Lowell) 15:52.7. 7, Isaiah Robyne (West Lafayette) 15:53.6. 8, William White (Harrison-Lafayette) 15:54.6. 9, Aaron Kamstra (Crown Pt) 15:58.2. 10, Thomas Rohr (Rochester) 15:59.3. 11, Trevor Braden (Morgan Twp) 15:59.7. 12, Kevin Paszko (Hanover Central) 16:00.2. 13, Lucas Howett (Warsaw) 16:02.6. 14, Loukas Karallas (Michigan City) 16:03.6. 15, William Duszynski (Lake Central) 16:03.8. 16, Nathaniel Smith (Valparaiso) 16:04.6. 17, Isaac Sytsma (Highland) 16:06.2. 18, Caleb Chapman (Lowell) 16:11.8. 19, Joey Copeland (Lake Central) 16:12.7. 20, Geno Christofanelli (Crown Pt) 16:14.4.
OTHER WARSAW FINISHERS: 51, Taylor Mills 17:02.4 … 73, Justin Fleming 17:09.6 … 75, Nathaniel Gottschalk 17:12.3 … 79, Francisco (Xavi) Ramirez 17:17.2 … 93, Samuel Lechlitner 17:26.8 … 107, Tanner Stiver 17:37.3.
NOTE: Top six teams in each race advance to IHSAA state finals in Terre Haute on Saturday, Oct. 28. Also advancing are the Top 10 individuals who are not members of qualifying teams.
IHSAA officials: Ted Noffsinger, Curt Parrish, Steve Caswell.