BY TRIBUNE SPORTS STAFF
---- — Howard County will be well represented at next weekend’s IHSAA cross country state finals, as four runners performed well enough in Saturday’s New Prairie Semistate to punch their tickets to state.
On the boys side, Eastern’s Lewis Duke, Western’s Matt Grider and Kokomo’s Jeremy Breedlove finished in the top 12 to take spots at next Saturday’s state meet at Terre Haute.
In the girls race, Northwestern senior Taryn Thor finished in sixth place in 18:41.6 to earn the trip to state. LaPorte’s Elena Lancioni was the race winner in 18:11.3.
“She cut 36 seconds off her course best up there,” NW coach Dave Stevens said. “She ran just an outstanding race. I was very proud of how she positioned herself so she made sure she was up in that top group right from the start. She’s accomplished her goal of getting to state, we just have one more week of getting her ready and see what she can do down there.”
The top six teams and top 10 individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to state. This marks Thor’s first trip to state, and the first time Stevens has sent a girl to the state meet.
Eastern’s Carly Jones finished 25th in 19:44, while Western’s Nicole Hampshire took 45th in 20:14.2. Eastern’s Jessie Sprinkles followed closely behind in 46th at 20:15.4. The Comets’ Avery Ewing followed in 55th at 20:24.9, and Erin Knepley finished 65th in 20:39 as Western finished 15th as a team. Also for Western, Samantha Luginbuhl was 117th (21:22.4), Emma Nixon was 121st (21:28.8) and Jama Claxton was 163rd (22:41.5). Eastern’s Elyssa DeAngulo was 152nd in a time of 22:21.1.
“It was a little bit disappointing that we didn’t get any of the girls individually to state,” Eastern coach Brandon Mink said. “Eighteenth was the last cut for making it on and it was just a real fast day, a lot of girls stepped up. We ran OK but it was just a really fast day for some folks that we hadn’t expected to be there. Overall, I’m just glad to have a great season. Everybody comes back next year that ran [Saturday].
“I’m proud of the girls for how they came through after we had all those girls graduate last year. I’m looking forward to building on that.”
Cass’ Gabi Carney took 106th in 21:15.5, and Taylor’s Cami Hansen was 108th at 21:16.5.
On the boys side, three runners will run on to state, led by Eastern’s Duke, who took seventh in 16:09. Warsaw’s Ellis Coon took top honors in 15:45.5.
“It was really an awesome race,” Eastern’s Mink said. “Lewis, he’s just rock sold and the way he’s run this year has been so smart. he got back at the 800-meter mark and he was probably in the 40s, and I was a little worried but knowing Lewis, not too worried. He just kept picking people off. By the time I saw him at two miles, he was down to 16th or 17th and then he was at 12th at 400 meters left and he kicked by five guys and took seventh place. He’s such a strong runner at seventh place. It’s a real joy to have him advance.
Western’s Grider was next across the finish line in eighth at 16:11.6 as the Panthers finished 14th as a team.
Riley Carter (69th, 17:24.1), Josh Everetts (114th, 17:47.6), Auston Davenport (123rd, 17:53.3) and Mark Boss (134th, 18:02.7) rounded out Western’s lineup.
“Matt ran a typical Matt race, which is he ran very consistently through the first four K and then he finished with a fast last K,” Western coach Gary Jewell said. “I was standing at 3K and he was about 20th place. He just kept moving through the pack. He told me after the [regional] race that neither his breathing nor his legs felt good. This week his breathing is back, his legs are a little off. He thinks by next week both will be where they should be.
“Team-wise, by and large we ran better than we did the last time we were up there, which was at the New Prairie Invitational in September. But we didn’t run as well as we did at sectional. The guys have to understand that while running at semistate is a worthy goal for the season, the real goal is running at the state meet the following week. We did have one guy who PRed, Mark Boss, who is one of our seniors.”
Kokomo’s Breedlove also advanced to state after finishing 12th in 16:19.0. The Wildkats took 17th in the team standings.
Ethan Sharp (93rd, 17:36.2), Jordan Fivecoate (96th, 17:36.6), Colten Pearce (149th, 18:19.2), and Max McHaney (158th, 18:36.3) rounded out Kokomo’s lineup.
Long-time Kokomo coach Ricke Stucker couldn’t remember the last time Howard County had three individuals make state out of the boys semistate.
“That’s quite a feat to have Duke, Grider and Breedlove all make it as individuals to state in cross country,” he said.
“Jeremy ran a really smart race. The toughest part, ‘Agony Hill,’ mile No. 2, he ran better than about anybody there. He really attacked the second mile and came out in about 13th place and picked up another spot in the lat mile and ran a very, very smart race.
“My No 7 [Logan Hawk] set a season record, which is unbelievable on that course, by 12 seconds.”
Maconaquah’s Zach Duranto finished 109th in 17:46.9, while Carroll’s Cameron Conn took 121st in 17:51.5 and Maconaquah’s Quinn Reinhardt was 148th in 18:18.8.