Local runners excel on new course

Photos by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Jasper senior Abe Eckman won the Jasper Invite Tuesday at the Jasper Youth Sports Complex with a time of 16:35.96. Eckman and his fellow Wildcats also finished first as a team.


JASPER — Tuesday saw the establishment of new course records on the boys and girls sides at the Jasper Invitational.

That’s because the meet moved from the Vincennes University Jasper Campus to the Jasper Youth Sports Complex for the first-ever cross country meet at the venue, with host Jasper having another banner night. The Wildcats teams finished first in both events by comfortable margins — with the boys having 18 points, followed by the girls team finishing with a score of 24.

Local coaches and runners alike found the new course to be better than the old one.

“There’s not as many hills, and it’s just easier to run on,” said Jasper senior Abe Eckman, who won the boys race with a time of 16:35.96. “It’s a faster course.”

“The footing is a whole lot better,” Heritage Hills coach Kurt Denning said. “I walked the entire course with the kids — grass-wise, there’s good cushion everywhere. I think they made a great decision.”

Wildcats coach Kevin Schipp told The Herald different options in the city were being explored, and he lauded the facility for the event.

“Byron Jarboe and his crew take great care up here and do a great job,” Schipp said. “We’ve had a bunch of volunteers that have helped us get to this point. So, that’s kind of the process how we got here. It’s been about since last cross country season we’ve been working on it.”

“You don’t have so many banks — running up the side of hills and you don’t have to worry about roots, you don’t have to worry about transitions as much,” Southridge coach Chase Bland said. “There’s still a lot of pavement crossing here, which isn’t ideal, but it’s better than some of the big divots and stuff they had at VUJC.”

Bland’s Raiders came in fifth and last place in the team score with 115 points on the boys side, but sophomore Calib Sherman rounded out the top 15 with a time of 20:29.83 to lead Southridge’s boys. The second-year coach noted that Sherman was hurt earlier in the year and had a slow start to the season as he tried to get in shape.

“I knew he would come on better as the season went on,” he said. “And I think that will just continue to happen.”

Jasper juniors Jaryn Weinel and Harrison Hulsman finished in second and third, respectively, in the boys race. The highest non-Jasper place on the boys side was Heritage Hills junior Pierce Lashley, who came in fourth with a time of 17:57 even.

“I wouldn’t say he’s had a bad race all year,” Patriots coach Kurt Denning said of Lashley. “He goes out and he competes every time. Of course, he’s got the competitive nature in him. He wants to be better every time out and he keeps working practice and staying positive. And we’re looking forward to the next few weeks.”

Freshman Linzi VanMeter came in first place on the girls side with a time of 20:15.11. Her senior sister, Andi, has had to deal with an injury and has not competed since earlier this month. Andi is expected to be back sometime in the postseason.

Freshman Linzi VanMeter finished first on the girls side with a time of 20:15.11 on Tuesday at the Jasper Youth Sports Complex. VanMeter and her fellow Wildcats also posted the best team score.

But on this night, Linzi carried the family name and finished first overall. The two sisters embraced after her triumph.

“I was really upset whenever I found out she was injured,” Linzi said. “I started crying because she’s my sister — it’s her last year on the team.”

Still, Jasper’s optimistic about its chances to win Saturday’s Southern Indiana Athletic Conference meet on the girls side, with Linzi, junior Ally Wigand and the rest of the Wildcats trying to capture the crown.

“I expect just our depth to come into play,” Schipp said of his girls. “I think we still have a good shot at winning SIAC, and hopefully, just getting stronger as the weeks go on.”

Schipp thinks his boys have a good shot of winning the conference as well, though he knows Castle is looking strong, and added that Evansville Reitz has some good runners.

Northeast Dubois will partake in the Blue Chip Conference meet, and the Jeeps saw some strong individual performances on both sides Tuesday. Junior Brandon Schnell led the boys side with a sixth place time of 18:24.11, while fellow junior Sara Livingston came in third overall for the girls by running a time of 21:15.63.

Jeeps coach Ben Gessner is hoping for his girls team to finish in third place, and his boys to finish higher than that.

“If (the boys) run smart and run strong, I think we might have a chance at second,” Gessner said. “But things got to play out just how we want them to.”

The only local program not to participate in Tuesday’s race was Forest Park, though this course will also be home to the Oct. 9 Jasper sectional, but the Rangers, Patriots and Raiders are all part of the Pocket Athletic Conference, with that meet being on Saturday.

“We’re a very young team,” Bland said of his boys. “We knew we were going to take our hits this year, and really, like I told the boys the last couple of weeks, ‘We’re just going to really focus on trying to improve upon for next year, and let’s end the season with some type of momentum for next season.”

The girls will be able to field a full team, with sophomore Addison Bradley being the fifth female runner for the Raiders. Sophomore Kelsey Wibbeler’s fourth place finish of 21:45.47 led both Southridge teams on Tuesday. The Raider girls came in third place with 86 team points.

“I think at conference, hopefully we can finish in the top half,” Bland said. “And then obviously for sectional, we’re going to fight for that fifth spot — see what can happen.”

Heritage Hills finished in second on both sides with 64 team points for the boys and 67 for the girls — but Denning was honest about his team’s chances for Saturday.

“We cannot go down there and win the conference on either side — that’s not going to happen,” he said. “We want to go down and run the best race we can run.”

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