Beyond another Crews cuise, balance reigns

Photos By Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Heritage Hills’ Sienna Crews led Jasper’s Hannah Welsh through the woods during Tuesday’s girls cross country sectional at Vincennes University Jasper Campus. Welsh placed third to steer the Wildcats to a runner-up finish to team champion Perry Central. Crews shined once again, finishing first by 11 seconds to win her second straight individual title. For a gallery of photos from both the girls and boys races, click here.

Herald Sports Editor

JASPER — By now, it’s pretty much been accepted that outrunning Sienna Crews requires a head start, a tank of oxygen and perhaps a jetpack.


But as the Heritage Hills sophomore continues striding out front all by her lonesome, the other three local girls cross country teams advancing out of Tuesday’s sectional at Vincennes University Jasper Campus got there by thriving on a little competition.

Sometimes, of the intrasquad variety.

No one could track down Crews, who defended her sectional title by breezing through the hills and occasional muddy patches of the VUJC course in 20:04, while Perry Central skipped out of town with its second team title in three years. The Commodores (55) grabbed first while Jasper (65), Heritage Hills (78), Forest Park (84) and Northeast Dubois (118) filled the next four places as all advanced to Saturday’s regional at Crawford County.

Perry Central’s Catherine Peter loitered behind Crews most of the race, and Jasper’s Hannah Welsh (third, 20:37) ran her usual front-running pace and was also in the neighborhood. But Crews shaved 24 seconds off her winning time from last season and finished 11 seconds clear of Peter.

Bad news for everyone attempting to chase down Crews in the coming years: The biggest difference from last year to this year is she’s able to run the tougher courses better. And Tuesday, Crews was comfortably ahead on one of those trickier layouts as others faced land mines — a Northeast Dubois runner suffered a fall on an uphill climb, one of Southridge’s top performers had to pull out, and a Jasper athlete couldn’t finish because of shin problems.

The more others give chase, the more settled Crews feels.

“Probably I’m prepared for the competition (compared to last season) and there’s more competition, because I run better whenever I have someone pushing me,” said Crews, adding she was more nervous last year for her first sectional but this year’s jitters stemmed from the pressure of defending her title. “This year I was still pretty nervous because I had that to live up to.”

After Crews and the first four runners, the footraces began. And in a few cases, runners wearing identical jerseys were the ones huffing side by side in a bold dash to the finish.

Forest Park’s top two finishers (Sabrina Becher and Emma Fraze) and Jasper’s second and third finishers (Sydney Berger and Luci Hulsman) finished within three-tenths of a second of each other. Berger grabbed 10th place and Hulsman was 11th after leading her teammate much of the race. Still, Hulsman, a freshman who admitted she couldn’t think about much of anything during the school day Tuesday except how nervous she was for the race, said any awkwardness of racing a teammate to the finish was easy to cast aside.

“It’s kind of tough, but I really do like it, because (your teammate) is doing as well as you, and you know you’re finishing together and you’re keeping your team tight,” Hulsman said. “It’s better to have your team together than to spread out through the whole race. I kind of like having my teammate with me, then they help push you through the race.”

The same applied to Becher and Fraze, Forest Park’s freshmen who alternated in the lead and ended up eighth and ninth, respectively.

“It’s scary, because you want to get first for your team,” said Becher, who was happier with the second loop of her race after a first lap she deemed too slow. “But it’s a good thing, because I’m happy that she’s right there with me, and I’m really happy that that’s going to help our team out in the end.”

Nicole Epple (18th), Sarah Brosmer (20th) and Braylee Graman (34th) completed Forest Park’s leading pack, and Northeast Dubois likewise was reliant on its depth in clutching a regional qualifying slot that was an unforeseen bonus.

Forest Park’s Sarah Brosmer claimed the final spot in the top 20 and helped the Rangers finish fourth, an upgrade of one spot from their finish a year ago.

The Jeeps didn’t have a runner in the top 10, but Lauren Betz (24th) recovered from a midrace tumble and Shyann Seng battled to 30th place despite not feeling well.

Continued strides by Rachel Breitwieser (26th) and Aubrey Knies (31st), two girls who’d never run cross country until this year, tipped Northeast Dubois to an extension of its season.

“You like to see those things, and that was really what saved us tonight,” coach Vic Betz said.

The Jeeps responded by beaming for photos after the awards ceremony with everyone in their roaring “T-rex” pose — an inside joke among the teammates and their usual way of mugging for photos.

“We’re a really young team this year, we have no seniors, so (Coach) was thinking we were more of like a two-year project,” said junior Latesha Merkel, who paced the Jeeps in 12th place. “This is actually really amazing to be moving on at all. We’re so excited.”

Southridge found itself on the emotional flip side. A week and a half after claiming the program’s first Pocket Athletic Conference title, the Raiders (131) finished sixth Tuesday, one spot shy of advancing. Aubrey Main, who ran fifth at last year’s sectional, pulled out of the race after becoming dizzy and blacking out around the 2-mile mark. Raider coach Leslie Denu called it “just one of those days, and it happened to most of our runners, and not just one.”


Nonetheless, the Raiders will still be represented at the regional by Casey Lamb (13th) and Jayme Lindauer (15th). Lindauer swiped the final individual berth for the regional — and she knew it for much of the tail end of the race. Her older sister Lacey and about four teammates fed Jayme some intelligence near the end of the race, revealing she was in 15th and shouting encouragement to maintain that post with others gaining. Three other runners finished within four seconds of Lindauer.

“At PAC I missed it by one spot for first-team all-conference, and I wasn’t going to miss it here by one again,” Lindauer said. “Toward the end I ran straight through a big puddle, but I just went for it because there was a girl right on me, and I knew I was in 15th, so I gave it everything I had left.”

Heritage Hills, meanwhile, didn’t defend last year’s team title, but beyond Crews’ finish, the Patriots uncovered two more individual results that “you’ve got to be tickled to death with,” coach Kurt Denning said. Annastacia Sumbles (fifth, 22:18) seized her second straight top-10 finish, and Clara Laughlin ran 14th.

Jasper had two more runners finish consecutively, with Jasper coach Kevin Schipp lauding Madison Dorsam (22nd) and Lauren Rennie (23rd) for solid races. Schipp knew catching Perry Central might be a chore. The Cats couldn’t pull off the deed Tuesday. But Saturday’s regional will present another prime chance.

“It’s just moving up a few spots and trading places, and it makes up that (10 points),” Schipp said. “We run really well at Crawford County; the girls really like that course, and we ran well earlier in the season when we ran there. Our girls are definitely looking forward to it.”

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