Advancing Wildcats chase down more success

Joe Ullrich/Special to The Herald
Jasper’s Cale Kilian, front, and Kyle Knies led a pack of runners, including Northeast Dubois’ Justin Kahle (24), at Saturday’s cross country regional at Crawford County. Kilian finished 10th and Knies was 15th, guiding the Wildcats to a fourth-place finish that qualified them for Saturday’s semistate at Brown County. The girls teams from Jasper, Forest Park and Northeast Dubois also advanced to semistate. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

MARENGO — Those footsteps you hear? Could be the Jasper cross country teams, sneaking up from behind to stalk better finishes and pick off teams they haven’t beaten in a while.

It’s been that sort of season for both the Wildcat boys and girls, who both galloped to semistate-qualifying efforts in Saturday’s soggy regional at Marengo. The Wildcat girls (51 points) were second behind Floyd Central (35) while North Harrison (101), fourth-place Northeast Dubois (115) and fifth-place Forest Park (133) all pushed through to this Saturday’s semistate at Brown County while Southridge (184) was eighth. The top five teams from the regional all advanced, and Jasper (133) was the lone squad to extend its season on the boys side as the Cats placed behind North Harrison, Tell City and Floyd Central (104) while Northeast Dubois (162) took eighth and Forest Park (179) was ninth.

While Jasper’s girls snagged a semistate bid as expected, they’ll have company from their male compatriots who ascended in the derby for the last few qualifying slots.

“To get fourth, and it’s been a while since we’ve been to semistate, is a great honor,” said Jasper coach Kevin Schipp, whose boys team reached the semistate for the first time since 2006.

“I think definitely we surprised people with our performance today, but that’s what we’re capable of. It’s just a matter of everybody having their good day.”

Brake


The best, Schipp said, may have belonged to sophomore Chris Brake (37th, 18:15), who ran seventh for the Wildcats at Tuesday’s sectional but sped to the team’s third-best time Saturday. Schipp said Donald Bough (18:26) and Clayton Traylor (18:28) also provided the Cats a nudge. And Cale Kilian and Kyle Knies, who were 10th and 11th, respectively, at the sectional — were 10th and 15th Saturday in a tougher field with 40 more runners.

The Cats left behind Perry Central, the sixth-place team which finished ahead of Jasper in two recent meets, and also topped fifth-place Borden, which had clipped the Cats in an earlier outing this fall, too.

“It’s a good comeback from last year; we trained hard over the summer, hard practices, finally pays off,” said Knies, whose team didn’t advance beyond the sectional last year.

“It felt good, because we faced Perry Central twice, and they beat us by four, five points each time. We finally came out hard today and just get to prove ourselves, because it was our last chance.”

Jasper’s girls have reveled in a bountiful fall with conference and sectional titles, and they’re gaining notice on a wider scope, too.

A website that ranks and predicts teams tabbed the Cats as the 15th-best team in their semistate field earlier this season, and Jasper is now up to fifth. The Cats will wait until this weekend to prove how accurate that is, and it won’t hurt to have Hannah Welsh and Tara Cassidy assuming their usual spots up front.

Saturday, Welsh (19:55) was third and Cassidy was right behind two seconds and eight steps later. Sydney Berger ran 16th for the Cats, who’ve risen thanks to their adjoining depth with first-year runners Noelle Weyer (13th), Rachael Welsh (15th) and Grace Mehringer (30th).

“It’s really exciting,” Weyer said. “We had five freshmen on the varsity team, and it was very surprising because at the beginning of the year we thought that we only had one spot open.”

Six other runners extended their season on an individual scope, including Forest Park’s Trey Dooley (seventh, 17:13) and Cody Flamion (14th) and Northeast Dubois junior Luke Kerstiens (ninth, 17:20).

Three Southridge girls pocketed semistate berths, as Aubrey Main jetted to a 20:34, seventh-place effort, Casey Lamb churned to 25th and Lauren Meyer was 33rd to snatch the last of 10 semistate-qualifying spots among runners from nonadvancing teams.

“It was good to see,” Raider coach Leslie Denu said. “I hope it’s a growing year and we can bring both teams back here next year.”

There was still contentment to be found in the end of the line for Southridge’s top male finisher. While usual leader Chase Bland sustained two falls on a muddy course as driving rain invaded during the race, senior Louis Dubon clocked in at 19:10, which was 45 seconds ahead of his pace when the Raiders ran the same course a month earlier.

Dubon


“Beginning of the season I ran a 22:00, and then I ran my fastest is like an 18 now. I’ve worked very hard during practice and I’m proud of that,” Dubon said. “For my senior year, last race, I just gave it my all, just see what I had left in the tank.”

Forest Park’s Flamion conserved at least a few vapors. After zipping through 3.1 miles in 17:31, he wobbled over to the adjacent softball field, gathered his oxygen again, then trotted straight to the car to dash to Fort Branch, where he started on defense to help the Ranger soccer team claim the regional title a few hours later.

After the race, Forest Park coach Philip Wolf held onto a pair of 14th-place ribbons — one for Flamion, the other for Ranger freshman Amy Troesch who also pulled a quick getaway to make the regional band competition. Nicole Rahman and Savanna Haas, the seniors from Forest Park’s girls team, had also slipped out by the awards ceremony to support their classmates at the boys soccer regional, which left the youngsters to accept the spoils.

To freshman Sarah Pund, the aim was to return the team’s seniors to semistate, where they reached their freshman season. Mission accomplished, as Forest Park slinked past New Albany by nine points and the Rangers who remained kept their teammates updated via phone.

“(The seniors) just wanted us to have fun, they didn’t really care how far we got, but if we got this far they were going to be really happy. That probably just made their day,” said Pund, who placed 19th.

“I was hoping we’d make it to regional, but I didn’t think we’d make it this far, and I really can’t wait for semistate.”

The Northeast Dubois girls also marched forward, and Jeep coach Vic Betz was just as impressed by his frontrunners (Latesha Merkel in eighth and Rachel Breitwieser in 23rd) as he was with his next few runners. In finishing 26th, Aubrey Knies ran an “incredibly good race, she beat some people she never should have been running with,” said Betz, who also praised freshman Jessica Kahle (27th) for blazing past about five runners at the finish.

Knies
Kerstiens


Kahle’s brother, Justin, encountered breathing problems in the preceding boys race, but Betz liked the jolt he received from Noah Schepers, who logged the team’s fifth-best time as a reserve runner summoned to varsity action. Kerstiens, meanwhile, assumed his place at the front of the Jeep flock after Kahle edged him out at sectional. And the prospect of at least one more week of racing at semistate certainly invigorated the frigid and mud-spattered runner who wrapped himself in a beach towel after the race.

“Cold,” Kerstiens said, “and happy at the same time.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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