Rangers, Raiders sweat out victories

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper’s Hannah Welsh, left, Forest Park’s Nicole Rahman and Southridge’s Aubrey Main led the field during the Tri-County Invitational on a steamy Tuesday afternoon at Huntingburg. Welsh sped to the top individual time with Rahman second, but Main and the Raiders grabbed the team title, clipping runner-up Jasper by two points. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

HUNTINGBURG — From Philip Wolf’s perspective, the recipe for success can — no, should — hurt.

“You’re not going to win unless you’re willing to put yourself through (pain),” the Forest Park cross country coach said.

In two races largely characterized by dazed faces and gasping runners persevering through wicked heat and humidity, Wolf’s words rang true. And the results followed.

Though conditions somewhat hindered overall times, the Forest Park boys managed to place four runners in the top seven positions, including Trey Dooley’s second-place finish at 18:41, to seize a 30-point victory in the Tri-County Invitational on Tuesday evening in Huntingburg.

The Ranger boys (32 points) pulled away convincingly in the eight-team field, with Northeast Dubois (62), Jasper (79) and Southridge (146) following in second, third and sixth, respectively. The preceding girls meet proved more dramatic, as Southridge narrowly edged Jasper by two points for the crown.

The sweltering, thick afternoon air left runners and noncompetitors alike perspiring and in search of hydration, an oppressive reminder that more than two weeks of summer still remain.

Still scarier so was the weather’s effect on the body, Dooley said.

“Once I got around two miles, it really hit you,” he said. “You’ve got sweat pouring off you … and then you start slowing down. It’s really bad. … Your whole body just starts slowing down.”

Though Crawford County’s Cody Carlton (18:11) breezed to the top spot, Dubois County runners controlled the top 10, with eight making the list — Northeast Dubois’ Justin Kahle (18:45) and Luke Kerstiens (18:54) came in third and fourth, respectively, followed in order by Forest Park’s Clayton Meyer, Keith Hurst and Connor Bolte. Southridge’s Chase Bland glided in eighth while Jasper’s Austin Doersam capped off the top 10.

Dooley said he feels that its been the team depth that’s made the difference, with Ben Kitten, Sean Verkamp and Carson Haake all continuing to improve.

Specifically, Dooley sees himself in Haake, a freshman who is collecting times similar to what Dooley was running his freshman year last year. Dooley eventually reached the sub-18 minute realm by the end of his first varsity season and believes Haake can drop under 19 minutes by the end of his first season.

Despite the fevered climate, the race was special in that it provided opportunity for area runners to size themselves up against county rivals, and oftentimes, friends and off-season running partners, Jasper coach Kevin Schipp said.

“Any time you go against county rivals, the kids get a little bit fired up,” said Schipp, who applauded Lauren Rennie on placing fifth on the Wildcats team in her first varsity race, as well as Luci Hulsman, Sydney Berger and Madison Dorsam, who has “stepped up as a senior,” he said.

“It gets your spirits up and you’re ready to run,” Schipp said. “A lot of these kids know each other, they run out-of-season together, which is great. It’s just the running community that I think is really building around here.”

Case in point were the girls individual winner, Jasper’s Hannah Welsh (21:39), and fifth-place finisher Casey Lamb of Southridge, two freshmen who have been good friends for a few years and run together during the summer with Jasper eighth-grader Tara Cassidy and Southridge eighth-grader Laura Meyer.

“It’s kind of cool,” Welsh said of running alongside familiar faces from other schools.
Yet Welsh and Lamb represent something else, as well: a youth movement.

Half of the girls top-10 finishers were underclassmen, including Welsh, Southridge’s Aubrey Main (third place, 22:31), Lamb (sixth), Jasper’s Hulsman (eighth) and Forest Park’s Sabrina Becher (ninth).

“It is scary to see the talent that we and other schools have going forward,” said Southridge coach Leslie Denu, whose Raiders (48 points) outlasted Jasper (50), while Northeast Dubois (68) and Forest Park (70) filled out the top four positions. “And it’s awesome to know that cross country is still going forward. We’ll still have competition county wide in the next few years.”

Forest Park’s Nicole Rahman (22:01) finished second overall, with Northeast Dubois’ Latesha Merkel crossing fourth, Wildcat Sydney Berger fifth and Raider Jayme Lindauer capping off the top 10.

The chance to compete against the local faces was something to be cherished, said Southridge’s Main.

“You take it in because there are a lot of girls who are really good here,” she said.

“These next few years, with more talent and more freshman coming in, I’m going to have to step it up, even if my freshman year I was one of those top girls. It’s just one of those things. New people come in and you’ve got to adapt.”

As for the Jeeps, they achieved second and third place team finishes in the girls and boys races, respectively, in what coach Vic Betz called the team’s best races of the season. In addition to Kahle and Kersteins crossed the line consecutively, Jace Kahle had “a real nice race” by Betz’s assessment and finished 14th while lone senior Jalen Seger placed 21st in the boys meet. Behind Merkel’s fourth-place finish, Lauren Betz (11th), Ashton Knies (16th), Shyann Seng (19th) and Abby Merkley (20th) all provided depth for the Northeast Dubois girls.

“These was certainly the best meet of the season for us,” Betz said. We’re starting to look better. ... And if we continue that process over the next five or six weeks, things could happen at the end of the season for us.”

As teams departed an hour or so following the races, Southridge runners hung around to celebrate the girls win by eating cake and dousing an innocently unaware Denu with a tub of ice water.

Though upset that no one alerted her to the approaching culprits, the chill wasn’t all that bad, she admitted.

“That felt pretty good, though,” said a soaked Denu. “I’m not going to lie.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.

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