Runners race to win at Forest Park Invite

Photos by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Forest Park junior Spenser Wolf won the boys race of the Forest Park Invite on Thursday.


BRETZVILLE — That's two races, two wins in for Spenser Wolf.

The Forest Park junior won the boys race on his home turf Thursday night with a time of 16:11, adding to his Saturday win at Borden. He didn't get to run his track season as a sophomore, so it really meant a lot to get this win in his home meet at Cedar Crest Intermediate.

"My coach (Father Philip Wolf) and my teammates were always pushing me to do my best and keep me going when I start slacking off," Spenser said.

Spenser led the way for a Rangers team that scored 83 points and finished in third place out of seven teams. Philip said pacing was the main thing on Thursday, and he wanted Spenser to match that pace and pick it up when other runners close in on him.

"Tonight, (Jasper junior) Abe Eckman (who finished second at 16:19) did a really nice job and pushed him the entire race," Philip said. "That's where his improvement came from. He was actually really pushed hard by a really good runner."

Eckman may not have been the first individual to cross the finish line Thursday, but he paced a Wildcats squad that finished first overall in the team standings. with a score of 36. Sophomores Jaryn Weinel finished sixth at 17:24, Harrison Hulsman eighth at 17:55 and Will Gubbins came in ninth place with a time of 18:02.

"Our gap was close, and I thought (sophomore) Kyler Wehr (11th place, 18:36) really closed the gap, and number six tonight was Wylee KIppenbrock (20th, 19:08) is a freshman who really stepped up from what he did Saturday (at Terre Haute South) and all throughout our training so far," Wildcats coach Kevin Schipp said. "So, I look forward to more from him."

The Wildcats put their stamp on things on the girls side, too. Jasper ran away with this eight-team race with a score of 26, besting second place Pike Central's score of 65. Junior Andi VanMeter also won the individual race, improving from her third place finish on Saturday.

"She's done a great job," Schipp said. "She puts tons of time in, she's dedicated and it's paying off. She's a strong athlete, but also a very hard worker, which is more important. So, (I'm) proud of her."

Jasper wore T-shirts on Thursday before the race to honor former runner Eli Anderson, a 2020 graduate who passed away in June. Schipp told the Herald it was the team's idea to get shirts made in his honor. The front said, "Jasper Cross Country" with "Eli" depicted on the left sleeve.

Schipp noted Anderson was a competitor, who didn't have a lot of size, but had a lot of fight.

"Eli was a great kid," he said. "He was a big part of the team. He had a lot of spirit, he had a great personality, fun loving, a lot of friends - just close with his teammates, knew how to talk to people. That's definitely the things we miss."

Both the Wildcats and Rangers had prior experience before Thursday, but Southridge, Northeast Dubois and Heritage Hills all had its 2020 debuts at this meet.

The Raiders did not field enough runners for a team score on either side, but leading the way were senior Cameron Giles with time of 18:34.6 to take 11th on the boys side, and freshman Emma Blessinger got 15th on the girls side with a time of 23:26.3.

"There weren't very many expectations coming into this," Raiders coach Chase Bland said. "I honestly just kind of wanted to get out here, get this first race over with and put it behind us and move on from that. So, honestly, we all have expectations in our head, but I felt like they all performed how I kind of wanted them to, and as long as they give their best effort, that's all I could really ask."

The Jeeps came in third on the girls side with 92 points, led by Sara Livingston's seventh place finish of 22:04. The boys scored a 102 and finished in fifth place. Senior Pierce Brinkman led the boys and also came in seventh place, running a time of 17:38.

Jasper junior Andi VanMeter won the girls race Thursday at the Forest Park Invite. Jasper finished first overall as a team on both the boys and girls side.

"They actually had a much better start to the season than I was anticipating," Jeeps coach Ben Gessner said.

Gessner noted how well Brinkman and Livingston ran, but added sophomore Brandon Schnell, who came in second on the team with an 18:41.1 time was a "good surprise" and added he all of his female runners impressed him.

The Patriots came in fourth on the boys side with 88 points, led by senior Elliott Buechlein, who finished third overall with a time of 17:06. The girls finished fifth, with senior Katie Winkler being second only to VanMeter on the individual side with a time of 20:31.3.

Pats coach Kurt Denning praised the two of them for not only running well, but being farther than he thought they'd be at this time of year.

Denning has been pleased with the workouts and effort his runners have given so far, but didn't know what to expect with the kind of teams that programs like Jasper and Castle have.

"We got a lot of work if we're going to finish high in the conference or finish high in the sectional; and just share that info with our kids and they're going to have to work for that and have that in their mind every day at practice," Denning said.

Jasper will get a layoff and is next scheduled to run Sept. 3 at North Harrison. Forest Park is next set to run Saturday at the Southwestern Small School Invite, while Heritage Hills is scheduled to travel to Boonville. Southridge is set to compete Tuesday at its own Raider Invitational, while on the same day, Northeast Dubois is set to host Paoli.

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