LOGANSPORT — It must have been the ’do — hairdo, that is.
Corey Scott arrived here Tuesday sporting a spiked Mohawk to complement his usual headband attire, and the Western senior backed up the rather outrageous fashion statement by capturing the boys race in style, leading the Panthers to the Logansport Cross Country Sectional championship.
Scott blistered the Berry Patch course in 15 minutes, 59.47 seconds, 7.3 seconds faster than defending champion Cameron Balser of Oak Hill — the first time Scott has beaten the outstanding junior.
It was also the first sectional championship for the Western boys since 1985, and it scripted perfectly with the title the girls won about 30 minutes earlier. Tuesday was the Panther girls’ sixth straight sectional title.
“I went sub-16 here earlier [this season] and I felt I could do that again,” a jubilant Scott said. “After about one mile we were together the whole way. He’d pull ahead, I’d pull ahead; it was just whoever could hold it.”
Western won with 39 points to easily wrestle the title away from the Golden Eagles (78). Kokomo put aside its ailments to finish third with 109 points, followed by other regional qualifiers Maconaquah (120) and Logansport (155).
The top five teams and top 15 individuals in both races advance to Saturday’s Culver Academies Regional, where Oak Hill is also the defending champion. Scott and classmate Zac Martinez have their sights set higher than just Tuesday’s win.
“I feel stronger and stronger every race,” said Scott. He helped the Panthers reach the New Prairie Semistate last season, where they failed to qualify for the state finals — something neither Western team has ever done.
“Hopefully we can win [regional] too and go on to semistate and get past a barrier we’ve never gotten past before.”
Martinez said the team won’t take a lot of time to celebrate.
“I’m proud of my teammates,” said Martinez. “We’ll have to celebrate for the 24-hour rule, you know, and then get back to work.”
Martinez was eighth Tuesday, three spots teammate Austin Young and one ahead of Kody Harmon while Chris Love was 16th. John Capps, Western’s sixth runner, came to the line ahead of Oak Hill’s fourth man, Jacob Miller.
“Austin Young ran well for the last mile,” Panthers coach Joe Orr said. “He had a nice kick and Kody Harmon had a nice kick at the finish. Even Zac moved up two positions from the two-mile mark. Everybody ran good races.”
Orr coached Western when they won six titles from 1977 to ’85 but was out of coaching for a while before coming back last season. He said he’s been invigorated by this squad.
“It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long,” Orr said. “This is a special group and it’s been enjoyable. I thought it might be kind of tiring but I’ve gotten new energy.”
Kokomo coach Ricke Stucker wasn’t satisfied with the third-place finish, mostly because his team isn’t as healthy or as strong as years past. The Kats won the Marion Sectional two years ago.
“Most of it is because they’re hurt or sick,” Stucker said of his boys, “and that just doesn’t happen to Kokomo. We have this reputation of doing well at sectional, and yet we knew the best we could probably do would be third.
“The kids just aren’t strong enough to handle our workouts in 2008. They just can’t handle what we did in the ’70s and ’80s. We’ve got a lot of training to do. Hopefully we’ll be healthier on Saturday.”
Ian Holtson led Kokomo with a 12th-place finish in 17:07.84. Jordan Lee was 13th, Drew Simon was 26th, Dylan Walker was 27th and Matt Wyss was 31st. Kyle Wysong ran a personal-best time to finish 38th.
“Jordan Lee just keeps getting better and better,” said Stucker. “Kyle Wysong, who has improved more than two minutes over last year, is one tough kid.”
Northwestern senior Kory Kennedy will make his fourth regional appearance, still in search of a semistate berth. Kennedy, who is legally blind and has difficulty on wooded courses like the Berry Patch, placed sixth Tuesday in 16:51.02.
“[Kennedy] has done well with all the things we do to help him understand courses a little better — memorize things, visualization on the course so he knows where the turns are, where a turn is supposed to be. That has really paid off,” coach Dave Stevens said. “His start now is under control and I’ve really appreciated his efforts.”
Peru’s Aaron Garretson was third overall in 16:31.95. Bryce Comp of Maconaquah was seventh and teammate Jacob Bingham was 11th.
Lady Panthers keep rolling
Winning sectional championships never gets old for Jenn Elliott. This is her fourth at Western during the six consecutive titles won by the Panthers, who equaled the boys’ total of 39.
Northwestern was second with 81 points, with Oak Hill (109) third, Maconaquah (120) fourth and Pioneer (121) fifth.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Elliott said. “I’m proud of everybody. This sectional championship goes to everyone of us. We’ve worked hard and everyone of us is what makes us sectional champs.”
Elliott remembers her freshman year, led by then-seniors Annina Gruber and Cassie Myer. Myer’s sister Lacey was also a freshman that year and is another senior on this team, which also includes sophomore sister Corianne Myer.
“It feels a lot different,” said Elliott of being the senior. She finished sixth in 20:55.15. “I’m the leader now and I’m trying to get them ready to go before races, whereas I had Annina and Cassie to help me get ready. I’m trying my best to do what they did for me.”
Ashley Gaskins led Western with a fourth-place finish in 20:48.81. Kayla Gaskins, her twin sister, was eighth, Corianne Myer was 10th and freshman Krissy Durr was 11th.
“It’s neat to see the seniors pass [the tradition] on to the younger ones,” assistant coach Bo Britton said. “They take ’em under their wings and do a great job of leading this team.
“Krissy Durr hasn’t been running like a freshman and a lot of that is due to Jenn and Lacey and the influence they have.”
The Tigers put five runners among the top 30, led by Hannah Ault and her third-place finish in 20:28.14, about 20 seconds behind winner Jenna Norris of Oak Hill.
Nicki Hendricks was fifth for Northwestern, followed by Gretchen Catron 20th, Lauren Dewhurst 23rd and Morgan Hullinger 30th.
“We’ve worked really hard and the girls have improved every week,” said Stevens. “We want to shoot higher but we’ll take [second place].
“Nicki was really waiting for this [race]. She’s been a good leader for us as a senior and she was really excited for herself. All of our top five did really well.”
Kokomo freshman Annika Taber grabbed second place Tuesday with a time of 20:17.97. She led the early stages of the race before Norris, a sophomore took control.
“She is a smart girl,” Stucker said of Taber. “If she trains, then she has a great future.”
Ashley Baber finished ninth for Lewis Cass in 21:01.42 and teammate Hannah Johnson was 15th in 21:56.50. Peru’s Jessica Parkman was 13th in 21:35.11.
LOGANSPORT — It must have been the ’do — hairdo, that is.