Cats eye improvement after 24th-place showing

Jim Avelis/Terre Haute Tribune-Star
Jasper’s Noelle Weyer churned toward the finish in Saturday’s girls cross country state finals in Terre Haute. Weyer clocked a time of 20:40 and was one of four freshmen who competed in the lineup for the Wildcats, who finished last in a field of 24 teams as Jasper made its first state finals trip since 2006.

From Herald Staff Reports

Though the final results were far from ideal, Jasper girls cross country coach Kevin Schipp emphasized an often ignored idea after Saturday’s state finals meet in Terre Haute.

Keep perspective.

The Wildcats (528) finished in last place in the 24-team field at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course, but Schipp wanted his girls to look beyond the field of top contenders.

“We were 24th but we were 24th out of every team in the state. You’re talking 350, 400 schools. That’s a lot to be proud of,” Schipp said. “We might not have had our best day, but we have to think about the overall (picture), what we’ve achieved and that we’ve definitely earned it.”

Perennial power Carmel (76 points) cruised past Hamilton Southeastern (122) and Columbus North (141) to collar its fourth straight state title, placing three runners in the top 11 including top overall finisher Kelcy Welch (17:54). West Lafayette (150) and Avon (152) rounded out the top five. Jasper finished five points behind the 23rd-place squad, Huntington North (523).

The Greyhounds (64 points) also bagged the boys crown, upending Columbus East (78) and Carroll (Fort Wayne) (192). Terre Haute South’s Jackson Bertoli (15:32) nabbed the top overall time.

For Schipp’s crew, the day brought a mixed bag of results by the coach’s assessment. Freshman Tara Cassidy (19:46) finished in 96th place and secured the Cats’ fastest time for the second straight week while sophomore Hannah Welsh finished in 20:11 despite battling a foot injury that Schipp said worsened Saturday.

Grace Mehringer tied her personal best on the season, scooting through at 21:00, just 20 seconds behind teammate Noelle Weyer (20:40). Sophomore Rachael Welsh (21:08), senior Sydney Berger (21:31) and freshman Abby Simone (22:21) rounded out the Wildcat marks.

The race marked the end of high school competition for Berger, who ran this year with classmates Emily Uebelhor, Lydia Fleck and Brittany Dick. Schipp reflected on Berger’s early years when an iron deficiency contributed to times in the 29- and 30-minute range. The improvement points to perseverance, he said.

“She’s one of those runners that has gotten everything out of herself,” Schipp said. “She’s worked so hard to improve. You always know you’re getting her best in training and racing.”

Saturday marked the first time competing in the state finals for each Wildcat besides Hannah Welsh, who qualified last season as an individual. The results could have been scripted better for Jasper, but Schipp’s hope was that the exposure to such heightened competition should ignite a team comprised of four freshmen and two sophomores.

“We talked about just improving from here, the things we need to do to get better. We need to get stronger, get some more muscle strength, definitely keep running but hit the weights and just strengthen our bodies so we can be better runners and stay healthy,” Schipp said. “But definitely (we have) a goal to improve on what we did this year, because you can’t just come in next year and expect things are going to be the same. It’s not that easy. You have to train hard and you have to get better, because everybody’s always working toward that.”

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