Pair of Patriots end season with all-state finishesOctober 29, 2012
From Herald Staff Reports
Each runner offered a different reason, but for the three local athletes who competed in Saturday’s cross country state finals at Terre Haute, the event will be remembered as an unforgettable experience.
Heritage Hills boasted a pair of all-state finishers, as both sophomore Sienna Crews (18th, 18:41) and senior Ben Woolems (20th, 15:53) finished in the top 25. Jasper freshman Hannah Welsh placed 62nd (19:39).
Carmel claimed state titles in both the boys and girls meets, as Barr-Reeve’s Connor Sorrells (15:21) won the boys race and Mishawaka’s Anna Rohrer (17:13) topped the girls field in a state finals record time.
Crews had been told she’d been ranked 23rd at the beginning of the season by Indianarunner.com, but fell out of the top 25 by the time of the state finals. Crews doesn’t eagerly anticipate each new set of rankings. She doesn’t even look at them. But that she completed an all-state run when she wasn’t predicted to do so made what she said next all the more true.
“I didn’t really like to think about it because my ranking doesn’t mean anything,” Crews said. “It’s not what other people think you can do, it’s what you think you can do.”
The weekend wasn’t void of some playful high jinks. Heritage Hills junior Devon Merder accompanied Woolems to Terre Haute. The two played the “NBA 2K13” video game in their hotel room the night before the race, which set the stage for an outburst when Woolems hit a last-second jumper to take the lead.
“I was jumping up and down inside the hotel room,” Woolems said. “I’m pretty sure we woke up the people below us — I’m glad we didn’t get a call from the front desk. It was a fun weekend.”
But Woolems didn’t spend his entire weekend creating a ruckus. Saturday, he paced himself and also ducked behind a few runners in front of him during stretches of the race when competitors faced a strong headwind. Doing that allowed Woolems to not tire out, he said, especially on a day when the senior knew he wouldn’t have the opportunity to do it over again.
“I was pretty happy with my performance,” Woolems said. “I was really happy that I was able to run a smart race and not really kill myself at the beginning, which I heard from my coaches that was a common thing for people to do on that course.”
Crews and Welsh also saw plenty of familiar faces Saturday. Crews’ teammate Nikki Welch and Southridge graduate and Indiana State senior Andrea Prusz both made the trip to support Crews, who called Welch “a really good friend and a good a teammate.” Of Prusz, Crews said: “She was great. She helped me a lot because she knew what she was doing.”
For Welsh, her teammates stood out as they cheered her: Jasper’s Luci Hulsman and Lauren Rennie both wore tutu outfits.
“It was kind of really nice having all my friends there from cross country; I didn’t want to go by myself, that was kind of my biggest fear,” Welsh said. “I’m glad they came to support me.”
Of the overall atmosphere, Welsh added: “I thought it was breathtaking. It was really neat to be a part of it, honestly. I loved it. I really want to make it next year.”
Welsh and Jasper eighth-grader Tara Cassidy, who is expected to run on next year’s varsity team, both competed in a Junior Olympics race Sunday in Valparaiso. Welsh also plans to swim for Jasper in the offseason as well as to run twice a week with Cassidy. That news shouldn’t surprise Jasper coach Kevin Schipp, who figures Welsh’s results can only get better.
“I knew Hannah coming in was going to be a good runner, but what really impressed me was her work ethic,” Schipp said. “Every day in practice I could count on her giving her best and it shows how she performs in her races. She improved a ton throughout the season and I know that’s going to continue.”
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