First a fine feeling for leading Ranger

Photos by Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Forest Park’s Cody Flamion, center, led a pack that included Northeast Dubois’ Justin Kahle, left, and Luke Kerstiens in Tuesday’s Jasper Invitational at Vincennes University Jasper Campus. Flamion swiped the top time in the boys meet, while Hannah Welsh placed first to pace Jasper’s girls to the title. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

JASPER — Before Tuesday, Forest Park’s Cody Flamion had never won a cross country race. And, for the last 500 yards, he ran as though it might never happen again.

“That was all I had right there. I thought somebody was going to pass me and I just kept going as fast as I could,” said Flamion, who splits his fall season between cross country and soccer, as he panted between words. “You’re just kind of on your own (in first) and you don’t know who’s going to come or anything. You’re just like, ”˜Whoa, this is different.”

Different, but better.

Flamion stole first place in 17:34, but Perry Central (55) took the Jasper Invitational title as Jasper (59) just missed a win against the seven-time defending sectional champion Commodores. Northeast Dubois (86), Forest Park (87) and Heritage Hills (162) took the next three spots and Southridge (197) finished eighth in the 10-team field at Vincennes University Jasper Campus.

But for all the surprises in the boys race, the girls meet went pretty much according to plan as Jasper’s Hannah Welsh took first by a full 38 seconds, leading the Wildcats (36) to a first-place finish. Northeast Dubois (75) placed second, Southridge (99) took fourth and Forest Park (128) finished sixth. Heritage Hills, which ran only four girls, did not register a team score.

Welsh has been consistently fast this season, winning eight of the 11 races the Cats have competed in. Even at the end of the course, almost a minute ahead, she pounded out the final leg, distancing herself from teammate and second-place finisher Tara Cassidy (21:14).

H. Welsh

“I usually think, ”˜Oh, my gosh, I’m almost there,’” she said on how she closes races. “I just try to get there as fast as I can. I’m usually really in pain.”

Tuesday, she had some extra motivation.

“Today is my mom’s birthday so I wanted to do well for her,” she said. “I just try to shoot for the best time for my team.”

Four other Wildcats finished in the top 15 as Sydney Berger (eighth), Noelle Weyer (12th), Grace Mehringer (14th) and Rachael Welsh (15th) all finished within 26 seconds of each other.

For Jasper’s boys, Cale Kilian (18:33) placed the highest at seventh and Kyle Knies (18:40) finished just behind at ninth. A strong second wave of Wildcat runners anchored the second-place finish for Jasper as Donald Bough (11th), Nolan Kiefer (17th), Clayton Traylor (18th), Chris Brake (22nd) and Jason Buechlein (24th) all finished in the top 25.

For Welsh, all that space ahead allowed her to miss a hectic scene at the finish line. Girls poured across the line, pain stretched across their faces, falling down in exhaustion. A few had to be carried by their coaches as teammates and friends ran for water.


“Welcome to cross country,” Southridge’s Aubrey Main said.

Main was among a pack of runners who finished with a flourish and paid the immediate consequences. Although for Main, just reaching the end line was an accomplishment after an iron deficiency caused her to black out midway through the course at last year’s sectional. There were no such problems Tuesday, and Main paced the Raiders with a fourth-place finish in 21:55.

“I don’t know if I could pick one person,” Southridge coach Leslie Denu said. “It was definitely a team effort today. All the way from the back, they pulled it up. ... Aubrey Main was not feeling well, but she had a great race. She led them and everyone just went with her.”

For Main, the final stretch is all about looking forward to the eventual end of the race, and maybe some treats back home.

“You have to keep thinking positive and thinking, ”˜I can do this, I can do this,’” she said. “(At the end of the race), I think, ”˜Only six or seven more minutes and then I can go home, sleep, relax. Maybe have some ice cream.’”

Southridge’s Lindsey Meyer, right, churned her way uphill with Jasper’s Noelle Weyer close behind during Tuesday’s Jasper Invitational. Meyer finished 10th while Weyer seized 12th place.

Main was followed by teammates Lauren Meyer (10th) and Casey Lamb (11th). Sophomore Chase Bland (19:03) finished with the fastest time for the Raider boys and finished 12th while Louis Dubon was next at 34th.

For Heritage Hills, coach Kurt Denning had a lukewarm response to his team’s finish, but was confident it can improve in the next two weeks, when the Patriots and all four other area teams will return to VUJC for the sectional. Until then, a sixth-place performance to do as Denning tries to implement some changes.

“There are some things we need to talk about and, mentally, some things we need to get in our kids’ heads,” he said. “It’s like any other sport. I’d say it’s 95 percent (mental). Every athlete you see out here, they’re putting in the miles. ... All those that are putting in quality miles, it comes down to mental. ... It’s going to be from start to the finish because if they lose you early, you’re not going to catch them.”

At this course, filled with sharp turns and hills, some runners learned the hard way about pacing in the beginning of the race. The course starts with a long flat stretch and then immediately shoots up for a lengthy climb. Northeast Dubois coach Vic Betz said his boys team was slowed by running too aggressively early.

“They came out too fast,” Betz said. “All our boys did. If you get out too hard, your heart rate gets to about 200 beats per minute or so and it’s just tough to do. I think that’s a mistake our boys did and our girls ran a smart race.”

Luke Kerstiens led the Jeep boys with a fifth-place finish (18:16) and Justin and Jace Kahle finished within a second of each other for 15th and 16th, respectively.

The Jeep girls were paced by Latesha Merkel (22:19) at seventh but used depth from runners Lauren Betz (16th), Rachel Breitwie-ser, (17th), Jessica Kahle (19th), Aubrey Knies (20th) and Ashton Knies (21st), who all finished within 42 seconds of one another, to secure second place.

“Our girls probably looked the strongest they have,” Vic Betz said. “We’ve really been running well the last two, three meets and today was another one. We’ve got some bugs going through the team right now. ... We’ve got to get rid of those, but it’s just a big primer for the sectional.”

Amy Troesch, who stormed to the finish line after passing two runners in the final stretch, paced Forest Park with a sixth-place finish (22:08). Emma Fraze was the next-best Ranger at 27th and Gabby Hasenour and Savanna Haas finished 35th and 36th, respectively.

Back at the finish line, Flamion was high-fived by his teammates. Trey Dooley was Forest Park’s other top-10 finisher at fourth (17:58) and Sean Verkamp finished with a strong 19:08 for 13th, but Flamion was the man of the hour.

“I never knew what was going to happen or anything, like how it would feel to be in first place and it’s a whole different world up there,” Flamion said.

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