Patriot senior back where he belongsOctober 10, 2012
By JOHN PATISHNOCK
Herald Sports Writer
JASPER — Catching his breath, tugging on a sweatshirt and accepting congratulations after a first-place run: That’s more like it for Ben Woolems.
Woolems, who topped the field in Tuesday’s boys cross country sectional at Vincennes University Jasper Campus, helping Heritage Hills finish fourth and advance to Saturday’s regional, didn’t win last year’s race. He couldn’t, because the Patriot senior didn’t even compete. A fractured fibula held him out a year ago, which is why he entered Tuesday with a first-place-or-bust mentality.
“I’d be feeling terrible right now if I didn’t win,” Woolems said. “So it feels good.”
Perry Central (34 points) won its seventh consecutive sectional title, finishing ahead of Forest Park (66), Tell City (73), Heritage Hills (103) and Northeast Dubois (125) — all advanced to regional. Jasper (144) finished sixth, followed by Loogootee (200) and Southridge (211).
Individually, Woolems (16:53) battled Perry Central’s Alex Newton (17:02), who won last year and who held the lead after two-thirds of the race Tuesday. Heritage Hills coach Kurt Denning estimated Newton was ahead by as much as 100 yards, trying to force Woolems to mentally fold. It didn’t happen.
Upon traversing a portion of the course that featured hills on the second lap, Woolems figured he finally had a chance.
“I looked back up and I gained a bunch of ground on him and I realized I could get him,” said Woolems, who passed Newton on the last downhill portion.
“To see him come back and mentally stay with it after getting that far behind in a race of this caliber and do what he did is tremendous,” added Denning, whose team featured another top-10 runner: Devon Merder (sixth, 17:55).
“Devon ran one heck of a race, as well,” Denning said.
Woolems said anything other than a first-place finish would have been disappointing, prompting him to conclude, “great race, great day.”
Both Forest Park coach Philip Wolf and Cody Flamion, who finished eighth overall, spoke confidently of expecting to legitimately compete with Perry Central for first place. Instead, the Rangers settled for runner-up as Wolf said Trey Dooley (17:37, fourth) and Flamion (17:59) ran great races. He thinks others are capable of more, and that’s what Saturday’s regional at Crawford County is for. The boys race is scheduled to start at approximately 11:15 a.m. after the girls run at 10:30.
Flamion, especially, met expectations, even if he wasn’t allotted as much practice time as his teammates. Flamion has balanced his running responsibilities with starting for the Ranger boys soccer team, which claimed the sectional title last Wednesday. Flamion missed soccer practice Tuesday, but will be in the lineup during Thursday’s regional at Gibson Southern. If the Rangers win Thursday and advance to Saturday’s championship, Flamion isn’t sure which way he’ll go. For now, he’s just grateful to Wolf and soccer coach Brent Sicard for allowing him to do both.
As for how he’s able to excel in both arenas, Wolf credited Flamion’s competitive edge.
“He knows what it takes to win and he doesn’t let that losing mentality ever enter his mind,” Wolf said. “He doesn’t know how to give up and that’s what it takes.”
Flamion’s apparent hurdle, trying to play two sports, actually turned into a boost as the seasons wore on.
“I think it helped a lot, because I was playing a lot of minutes — more than I did last year — so I was getting more minutes and more strength with sprints,” Flamion said.
“In a regular game, sometimes I would play 80 minutes.”
Northeast Dubois placed a pair of runners in the top 15, in Luke Kerstiens (13th, 18:16) and Justin Kahle (15th, 18:24). Jace Kahle finished 28th, and the Jeeps’ other top-five runners finished close behind, with the team’s lone senior, Jalen Seger, placing 34th and Dylan Arnold taking 36th.
“Dylan Arnold and Jalen Seger came alive tonight and that was our salvation,” Northeast Dubois coach Vic Betz said. “Our front two guys, Luke and Justin, ran well, Jace had a good race. Those other two were the big difference tonight and they just did what they had to do.”
“I had a pretty good mindset in the beginning, that was key,” Seger added. “I was able to have a pretty good start, being on the end there, and kept it strong throughout.”
Jasper, meanwhile, overcame obstacles in meeting expectations, results notwithstanding. The Cats competed without top runner Kyle Knies, with Clayton Traylor leading Jasper with a 22nd-place showing. Traylor did this despite continuing to run with Osgood-Schlatter disease, which causes painful lumps below the knee and forced him out of the lineup for most of the last month. Senior Austin Doersam added a 26th-place finish for Jasper, Nolan Kiefer “really stepped up,” and Zach Foote and Jaron Herbig also ran great races, Schipp said.
“I was proud of them, I really was,” the Wildcat coach added. “We ran our guts out, and that’s what I asked of them.”
“Unfortunately it is my last race, but I know that me and the team, we came out running hard,” Doersam added.
Chase Bland topped Southridge by finishing 25th. Raider coach Leslie Denu said Bland was a bit disappointed, but that he still competed “really well.”
The good news is the Raiders’ top two finishes were both freshmen, and four of their top five finishers return next season. Combine that with an up-and-coming class, and Denu figures next year’s prospects should improve.
“We know that we’re going to have some (kids) coming back and some come up from middle school,” Denu said. “So that is promising.”
Contact John Patishnock at email@example.com.
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