Runners brave heat at Forest Park Invite

Photos by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Jasper senior Andi VanMeter (left) and junior Ally Wigand finished in first and second place, respectively, in Thursday’s Forest Park Invite. The two of them helped Jasper finish in first place as a team.


BRETZVILLE — It was a hot one Thursday night at the Forest Park Invite held at Cedar Crest Intermediate. The sun made its presence felt, and some local coaches said afterward the heat impacted their teams.

“The heat tonight really affected all the runners,” Jasper coach Kevin Schipp said. “We ran Tuesday night in Owensboro and this was a lot more strenuous.”

“It was hot out here for everybody,” Heritage Hills coach Kurt Denning said. “It seems like that’s typical of this race that we can’t get away from the heat just for a day, but overall pleased with the races on both sides.”

It was a busy night for Forest Park senior Spenser Wolf, who was racing in the heat and had to go play soccer upon finishing the race. But above all else, he was trying to run under 16 minutes on this course. Only one other person, Barr-Reeve’s Connor Sorrells, did such a thing. Wolf didn’t get the time he was shooting for, but at 16:13.1, he won the boys race by 21 seconds over Jasper senior Abe Eckman, who came in second.

“We came up short, but hey, he still ran hard, and that’s all we can ask from him,” Spenser’s father, Forest Park coach Philip Wolf said.

Eckman had won the Valley Cross Kick-Off Aug. 14 in Terre Haute and Tuesday’s Kentucky/Indiana Border Clash. Therefore, Thursday was more of running in a pack with junior teammates Jaryn Weinel (fourth place) and Harrison Hulsman (fifth), having the brakes on some for this meet. Eckman, Weinel and Hulsman contributed to Jasper’s 38 team points for first place at the meet.

Jasper showed its depth on the boys side, but it was really prevalent on the girls side. The Wildcat girls were running as a team with the pack mentality early on in the race, with all five runners leading the rest of the field. Senior Andi VanMeter and junior Ally Wigand were running side-by-side for first and second place at one point before VanMeter kicked it into gear to attain her second win in three days, having also won in Owensboro. Her time was 19:56.8. This was her third top-two finish, as she also came in second place at Terre Haute.

“I’m feeling pretty good right now,” VanMeter said. “Today, since it was our third meet in just six days, we kind of just wanted to run as a pack, as you might’ve saw at the beginning part of the race — didn’t want to do too many hard races right in a row.”

The Wildcats finished with a score of 19 on the girls side, giving Jasper the sweep. Jasper had girls occupy each of the top three spots — Andi, Wigand and freshman Linzi VanMeter. Freshman Monica Lorey rounded the top five, and junior Jordan Schweikarth also got into the top 10 by finishing eighth.

“The girls are a deep team,” Schipp said. “They’re strong and they’ve worked really hard. I mean, that’s the thing. They’re so consistent in their work and Ally’s improved a ton since last year — this being her second year in cross country, and she’s been a lot tighter with Andi.

“And just running up front at first, they held together and Linzi was with them — and she held on for long,” he continued. “Her body was feeling the stress after today, and part of that was the heat, but she pushed early those other two. So, that’s only going to make her better.”

The only non-Jasper runner to finish top five in the girls race was Forest Park senior Ellie Hall, who came in fourth place with a time of 21:17.6.

“Ellie’s setting herself up for a great postseason, I think,” Philip said. “We’re just taking it one race at a time, and we’re working on little things each race.”

Forest Park senior Spenser Wolf was in clear command on Thursday, winning his race by 21 seconds.

This was the season debut for the other local schools: Southridge, Northeast Dubois and Heritage Hills. The Raiders did not field a team in either race. The highest placer on the girls side was sophomore Kelsey Wibbeler, who came in 12th. Junior Makayla Cox and sophomore Emma Blessinger rounded out the top 20 at 19th and 20th, respectively.

Junior Ian Allen was the highest finisher on the boys side, coming in at 43.

“We’ll have a meeting afterwards with the boys,” Raiders coach Chase Bland told The Herald. “I just kind of let them go out and do what they thought they needed to do today and I think the best way learn for them is to go out firsthand experience. So, we’ll talk about what they did, what they did bad and move on from there.”

Bland thought the girls ran well, though they took a conservative approach, given the heat and it being the first meet of the season.

Junior Pierce Lashley and freshman Aiden Mattingly occupied the final two spots in the top 10 of the boys race. Denning was looking to see how close Mattingly was going to be to Lashley, and he lauded him for his freshman for a gutsy performance and hanging in there. Meanwhile, junior Bridget Flannagan led the way for the girls by finishing in 27th place.

“Bridget established herself for tonight No. 1, and we’ll see what comes from that down the road,” Denning said.

Northeast Dubois ran closely with one another on the boys side, with senior Preston Brinkman being the team’s No. 1 in 21st place. Fellow senior Austin Breitweiser came in 23rd, sophomore Trey Wiseman 25h, and juniors Ty Verkamp and Peyton Betz clocked in at 29 and 30, respectively.

The Jeeps had one top 10 finish on the girls side, in which junior Sara Livington took seventh place.

“I was very happy to see that,” Northeast Dubois coach Ben Gessner said. “I anticipated she would be up there, but you never know where they’re going to start out at (in) the beginning of the season.”

Some of these teams will soon be right back to it. The Rangers are scheduled to compete in Saturday’s meet at Southwestern, and the same goes for the Patriots when they’ll run at the Boonville Invite.

Other teams will get a few days before returning to action on Tuesday. The Jeeps are set to run at Paoli, while the Raiders are gearing for the Raider Invitational that they’re hosting.

“Anytime you’re at home, you want to have a really good performance and defend your home course,” Bland said. “Tuesday will be a really good opportunity to really get after it and just race and see kind of where we’re at.”

The Wildcats, meanwhile, are getting a break. They’re done for the month and are next scheduled to race Sept. 2 at the North Harrison Invitational.

“This week, we probably were a little less on our mileage, and we’ll just kick it back up the next two weeks — just working toward the end of the season,” Schipp said.

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