Jeeps a small team with big goalsOctober 11, 2017
By COLIN LIKAS
There’s quite a bit to talk about when it comes to last week’s boys cross country sectional at the Vincennes University Jasper Campus.
No. 14 Tell City, which cruised to a 61-point team victory, is clearly at the forefront. Host Jasper placing second and heading into Saturday’s Crawford County Regional in search of its fourth semistate bid in as many years is another point of interest.
Don’t forget about the Heritage Hills duo of senior Noah Hufnagel and junior Mitchell Hopf, which went 1-2 in the sectional to place the Patriots just a point back of the Wildcats in the team chase.
And then there’s the squad from Northeast Dubois. Perhaps overlooked in an bustling sectional field, the Jeeps finished just 16 points behind Heritage Hills for third place.
The trio of senior Jeb Knies (sixth, 17:29), senior Jaydon Arnold (eighth, 17:42) and sophomore Nathan Schnell (ninth, 17:43) knows exactly what it and the rest of the Jeeps are up against, though.
“It’s difficult coming from a small school like this. We’ve got 10 guys on our team,” said Knies, a two-time individual semistate qualifier in 2015 and 2016. “I think for what we’ve done already, I think we’ve done well. But I think it’d be really, really cool to beat Jasper and Heritage Hills both.”
“Yeah, that’d be great,” Schnell added.
“It’d definitely be cool to beat Jasper,” Arnold chimed in.
Still, it’s one step at a time for Northeast Dubois, which has not moved on to semistate as a team since Knies and Arnold became high-schoolers. The closest the Jeeps got was a sixth-place showing in 2014, though neither athlete competed in that regional.
Second-year Jeep coach Ben Gessner is feeling upbeat about his squad after it came within striking distance of the Patriots and Wildcats at the sectional, heaping praise on his leading set specifically.
“The top three guys really came on strong and ran well,” Gessner said. “You always like to see that and have three in the top 10. That was awesome and quite a surprise.”
Gessner said pack mentality is not something his team spends a great deal of time talking about, but Schnell admitted “it was nice” that he, Knies and Arnold were never far apart on the hilly, wooded sectional course.
That’s not a new venture for Northeast Dubois, as Knies, Arnold and Schnell placed ninth, 11th and 15th, respectively, in leading their team at the 2016 sectional.
Knies gives a good reason for the Jeeps seemingly stepping up their game as the season nears its end.
“Really, the whole regular season doesn’t matter. It doesn’t count for anything,” he said. “This past weekend is when it gets real, so to speak. We all had great races (Saturday), so that adds even more motivation for what we want to do for the rest of the season.”
Of course, when Knies says the regular season doesn’t matter, he refers to the results not counting toward postseason advancement. The Jeeps care plenty for what happens in August in September as well, especially having a team that barely reaches double digits in size.
A week before their first meet, the Northeast Dubois runners spend a Friday overnight at the Patoka Lake Campgrounds, bonding and getting to know one another.
“It’s really important,” Gessner said of the experience. “A lot of times, that can be the icebreaker for a lot of them. Sometimes seniors seem intimidating (to underclassmen).”
At practices, the Jeeps tend to stick together and frequently make each other break out in laughter — “We’ve got several interesting people on our team that definitely keep it interesting,” Knies said in that regard.
The runners don’t necessarily agree on a favorite workout — Schnell prefers long-distance jaunts, while Arnold is in favor of repeats — but togetherness is a constant.
“It’s nice we all come together on a running level and jive together through that,” Gessner said. “It definitely helps as far as the team aspect, everybody getting the same positive attitude.”
That can only aid the Jeeps as they compete with nine teams from two sectionals — Tell City, Jasper and Heritage Hills among them — at Saturday’s regional. Northeast Dubois took a trip to the course in Marengo on Tuesday to become more familiar with the layout.
The team’s top three runners all seek a semistate berth — preferably as a team versus as individuals.
“I think we know we’re within reaching distance,” Knies said. “I think the team knows that as a whole. It’s going to take a solid effort from everyone. I think it’s definitely achievable.”
Gessner said it would likely take an “A-plus race” from all seven of his guys for the team to roll forward in the postseason. Given what he’s seen his athletes put themselves through to achieve their goals, it’s something he hopes can transpire.
“That would be awesome (to advance as a team),” Gessner said. “They all love it. Just the way they’ve been working hard the last couple weeks, I think that’d mean a lot to see them get out, show that their hard work really paid off.”
Boys regional glance
Crawford County Regional — Saturday, 11/11:45 a.m.
What’s at stake — Top five teams and top 10 individuals not on advancing teams move on to semistate on Oct. 21
Last year’s team standings — 1. Tell City, 2. Christian Academy, 3. Jasper, 4. Floyd Central, 5. New Albany, 6. North Harrison, 7. Heritage Hills, 8. Jeffersonville, 9. Northeast Dubois, 10. Forest Park
This year’s team qualifiers — Christian Academy, Corydon Central, Floyd Central, Heritage Hills, Jasper, Jeffersonville, New Albany, Northeast Dubois, Southridge, Tell City
Returning top 10 finishers — 1. Noah Hufnagel (HH) 16:07, 3. Skylar Stidam (CA) 16:13, 4. Caleb Futter (CA) 16:17, 5. Leo Simpson (TC) 16:29, 7. Thomas Simpson (TC) 16:43, 8. Nate Kaiser (TC) 16:49, 10. Jeb Knies (NED) 16:59, 15. Dustin Luebbehusen (FP) 17:14*, 17. Noah Rothrock (NH) 17:15*, 18. Elliot Reed (TC) 17:21
* qualified as an individual
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