Jasper’s Welsh joins pair of Pats in state finals run

From Herald Staff Reports

Two Dubois County teams and individual qualifiers from Heritage Hills displayed impressive strides at Saturday’s cross country semistate at Brown County. And while neither Jasper’s girls nor Forest Park’s boys team advanced to this weekend’s state finals in Terre Haute, Heritage Hills senior Ben Woolems (15:51) advanced with his 10th-place finish, as did Patriot sophomore Sienna Crews (18:23) and Jasper freshman Hannah Welsh (19:04), who placed fourth and 13th, respectively, in the girls race.

Crews and Welsh both registered personal-best times, with Crews shaving eight seconds off her time from last weekend’s regional and Welsh buzzing almost a minute from her regional time.

The Rangers (319 points) finished 11th in the boys race, anchored by Trey Dooley (16:50, 50th place), Cody Flamion (17:06, 66th) and senior Keith Hurst (17:10, 70th). Clayton Meyer (17:29, 97th) also placed, while senior Ben Kitten ran a personal-best 17:38, shaving about 45 seconds off his previous best mark.

Columbus North (62) topped the boys field, followed by Terre Haute South (78), Bloomington South (129), Bedford North Lawrence (175) and Evansville North (191) as the top five teams advanced to state.

Ranger coach Philip Wolf found solace in his team’s success throughout the season, and in the fact that four of his top runners will return next season.

“This is one of the stronger Forest Park teams that we’ve had in a long time. It is one of the strongest that I’ve had in coaching, one through five,” Wolf said. “We’re just going to keep building.”

Guided by Welsh, the Wildcat girls (360) secured 15th place and had three other runners register personal-bests as well: Luci Hulsman (21:28, 90th), Lauren Rennie (22:01) and senior Madison Dorsam (22:11). Sydney Berger (94th) cruised in at 21:31 and senior Jennifer Lynn clocked in at 22:39.

Columbus North (47) also claimed first in the girls meet, with Terre Haute North (84), Bloomington South (132), Terre Haute South (192) and Evansville Memorial also punching tickets to this weekend’s finals. The Wildcats (360) beat 16th-place New Albany (381) and 18th-place North Harrison (428), both of whom upended Jasper in last weekend’s regional.

Given the stress that sometimes arises with a race of the magnitude, Wildcat coach Kevin Schipp lauded his girls’ times, as well as their demeanor.

“Sometimes when you go to a race like that, it can be intimidating with so many good runners all in one race. It’s unlike any other race we’ve run all year. So I was really proud of how the girls responded,” said Schipp, who also noted his top runner’s cool in particular. “(Welsh) was more relaxed and definitely ready to compete and prove that she could make it to state.”

For Wolf, who went on a final run with his team following Saturday’s race, his best memory of the season will be the boys’ colorful personalities, illustrated by the wacky jean shorts and flannel shirts they wore all postseason. They progressed, and had fun doing it.

“This team, they saw themselves getting better and better in each race,” Wolf said. “And they enjoyed the excitement that they entire team brought. It might be wearing jorts, it might be just cutting loose by calling me names, or whatever. We all pick on each other and that’s what makes this group so tight-knit.”

Putting in the hours, even on off days, defined the Wildcat squad in Schipp’s mind. Without questions or complaints, the girls got the job done.

“What I was really proud of was their work ethic. They do anything you ask of them. Long runs on Saturdays when we didn’t have meets, or Sundays on their own. Anything you asked them to do, they did it,” Schipp said. “And they ran with a lot of pride. They were really hard runners and that’s what I look for. And it makes it a lot more fun when you have kids that go out there and practice every day and work hard to reach their goals.”

As for next weekend, Patriot coach Kurt Denning remains optimistic about the chances of both his individuals.

“I know I’ve got (my expectations) set after I looked at the times from the other semistates,” he said. “If you look at the times everybody else posted from the other semistates, there’s only a handful on each side, the boys and the girls, that ran a time faster than them. I think legitimately a top-25, top-30 position for both of them is something definitely within their reach. It all depends on how the day goes.”

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