Mehling, Forest Park win second straight title

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Forest Park's Claire Mehling races to the finish line during Saturday's cross country sectional at Vincennes University Jasper Campus. The Rangers girls team won their second straight sectional title by defeating Jasper 42 to 48 while Mehling won her second consecutive individual title with a time of 20:41. For more photos from the meet, click here.


JASPER — Forest Park senior Claire Mehling knew that she was going to be in for a busy Saturday.

As a member of both the Rangers girls soccer team as well as the marching band, she knew she had to prepare for the soccer sectional championship against Vincennes Rivet and the district band tournament at Jasper. But first, she had to make a quick stop at the Vincennes University Jasper Campus for the IHSAA Cross Country sectional meet.

Just like last year, Mehling cruised to the individual victory on the girls side with a time of 20:41 while the Ranger girls team as a whole won their second straight sectional championship with a total of 42 points, beating second place Jasper by six points (48) – the first time the Ranger girls defeated the Wildcats this season.

“Our whole team has just been working hard all season since we began on June 2,” said Mehling. “We knew today that we had a shot even though we hadn’t beat Jasper all year. We wanted to just come out and attack the course and I mean, it just feels great — I was just so nervous at first but now it just feels great.”

Forest Park had four finishers in the top 10 as Ellie Hall placed fourth (21:42), Josie Berg finished seventh (22:26) and Magda Alvis placed tenth (22:36).

Jasper, who finished second overall in the team score, had two runners in the top five as Andi VanMeter placed second with a time of 20:59 and Alyssa Skorge was third with a time of 21:19. In addition to Forest Park and Jasper, Heritage Hills also advanced to regional by placing third with 107 total team points. The Patriots had two top ten finishers as Caitlin Lueken finished sixth (22:12) and Katie Winkler placed eighth (22:29). Southridge and Northeast Dubois didn’t advance as teams but both sent individuals on to the regionals as four Raider runners (Brooklyn Tretter, Evie Hasenour, Kaelynn Luker and Cheyanne Motteler) and one Jeep (Shelby Livingston) will be competing at Crawford County next weekend.

Forest Park head coach Phillip Wolf said the main reason the Rangers were able to knock off the Wildcats was due to their depth. The Rangers three, four and five runners accumulated just 37 points while Jasper’s totaled 43.

“I told our team that the three and four spots are very critical,” Wolf said. “They knew exactly what they needed to do today and they did it. I was proud of every one of the girls.”

On the boys side, Tell City won their fifth straight sectional championship by posting a total team score of 47 points while Jasper placed second with 62 points. Heritage Hills (89 points), Southridge (116 points) and Forest Park (129 points) all advanced as teams while Northeast Dubois will be sending three individuals to the regional tournament next Saturday (Nathan Schnell, Pierce Brinkman and Ethan Breitweiser).

Heritage Hills’ Mitchell Hopf took the overall individual trophy as he placed first overall with a time of 17:07, just narrowly defeating Tell City’s Nate Kaiser who finished with a time of 17:11.

Hopf took first place honors this year after finishing as a runner-up to his teammate Noah Hufnagel last season who graduated and is now running cross country at Indiana State University. After battling with Hufnagel last year, this time it was Hopf and Kaiser who had a friendly battle going back and forth on the course.

Jasper's Drew O'Neil, left, Heritage Hills' Mitchell Hopf and Tell City's Nate Kaiser lead the pack through the woods during Saturday's cross country sectional at Vincennes University Jasper Campus. Hopf won the individual title on the boys side with a time of 17:07 while Tell City took home the overall sectional championship with a score of 47. Jasper placed second with 62 points and Heritage Hills was third with 89 points. For more photos from the meet, click here.

“Nate and I are really good friends and it’s funny because two weeks ago I beat him but then last week he beat me at (the PAC tournament) so it’s kind of went back and forth for these past few weeks,” Hopf said. “But at the end of the day, we’re just friends and it’s nothing personal or anything — we’re both just big time jokesters.”

Jasper had three runners finish in the top 10 on Saturday morning as Jackson Miller placed third (17:25), Drew O’Neil finished fourth (17:31) and Abe Eckman rounded out the top ten (18:43).

Miller thought he had a solid day himself and was happy to see Jasper perform so well as a team despite missing a few runners.

“I think I myself ran very well today and I also think our team ran pretty good,” Miller said. “We were missing five guys today for this race so the next three came in and stepped it up — we were pretty close to winning this race.”

It was also a solid outing for the Southridge boys cross country team as they advanced to their second straight regional tournament. Dylan Bland placed in the top ten for the Raiders as he came home eighth with at time of 18:36 while Cam Giles (14th, 19:03) and Jaffet Cruz (22nd, 19:45) both placed in the top 25.

Southridge head coach Steve Sturgeon was happy with the Raiders solid performance but he says next week is where the real challenges will meet the runners head-on at the regional tournament at Crawford County this Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

“I told the guys that the most important thing today was that we have to get out of here but now we just have to go and get ready for next week,” Sturgeon said. “That’s what we train for all year — it’s what we set our goal as at the beginning of the season and if the good Lord is on our side, then we’ll be there.”

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