Several local teams, runners advance to regionals

Photos by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Forest Park's Spenser Wolf (Center) and Jasper's Abe Eckman (Right) came in first and second place, respectively, in Saturday's cross country sectional at the Vincennes University Jasper Campus.

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

JASPER — Fall sports have persevered this year, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, but it’s still affected local teams, who have had many athletes quarantined in different sports, and Saturday’s cross country sectional at the Vincennes University Jasper Campus was no different.

Both Jasper and Forest Park had runners who were quarantined on Saturday. Runners such as Blake Danzer and Wylee Kippenbrock had to fill in for some Jasper quarantine runners, but they finished in 13th and 15th place, respectively. Danzer ran an 18:40.45 time, while Kippenbrock ran an 18:49.08.

The Rangers dealt with quarantined runners on both sides, with Forest Park having both a top three boys runner and two runners in the top three for the girls. Yet, Jasper and Forest Park both showed resolve on Saturday.

All five local teams are going to the Oct. 17 Crawford County girls, with Jasper’s 36 team points leading to a sectional championship. The Wildcats also won the boys sectional with a score of 39, and Forest Park rounded out the top five in both the boys and girls races to advance.

“When we started this season — the first race — we told them to race like it was their last because we didn’t know what was going to happen this season with COVID-19 and all that,” Jasper coach Kevin Schipp said. “So, we told them everybody has to be prepared, because when a quarantine happens, someone needs to step in.

“You would say next man up no matter what sport you’re in, but it really happened this year,” Schipp continued. “Like I said, it made us better, and it made everybody have to be ready to run.”

Rangers coach Philip Wolf said both his boys and girls teams advancing to regionals means a lot to him, but it means even more to the quarantined runners that couldn’t run the race. Wolf told the Herald that all three will be able to run at regionals.

“They do have it in them, but they got to believe in themselves,” he said. “That’s what I tell them, ‘You got to believe in yourselves, and what each other’s doing every day at practice.’”

Forest Park's Spenser Wolf heads for the home stretch. Wolf won the boys race with a time of 16:10.56.

Southridge’s boys team was the only local team on either side not to qualify for regionals as a team, as they finished in eighth, with the top five teams and top 10 individuals from non-qualifying teams advancing. Therefore, their season isn’t completely done just yet.

Dylan Bland ran a 17:11.21 time to finish in fourth place, while Cameron Giles also placed in the overall top 10, as he was the eighth-fastest at 18:09.64. Calib Sherman finished 34th with a 20:05.26 time for the Raiders. Bland, Giles and Sherman all advanced to regionals as individual runners.

“For (Bland and Giles), it was just about running smart, to get out, do what you had to do and move on,” Southridge coach Chase Bland said.

Chase was very proud of his female runners for all the preparation they put in during the summer and these last few weeks. Kelsey Wibbeler finished in eighth place, just like she did at the Sept. 29 Jasper Invite, but one runner girls runner who showed improvement from that time was Evie Hasenour, who went from 12th place overall Sept. 29 to ninth place on Saturday.

“Evie, I think that’s just being a senior — last time out here, never letting anything to chance and doing the best you can,” Chase said. “She definitely helped Kelsey, I think, as a freshman, just being in the sectional environment — it’s just different. So, Evie knowing what to expect, being a senior leader, and I think that’s why she ran so well today.”

Jasper’s Andi VanMeter won another individual race on Saturday, and this time, it was by a larger margin than when she Sept. 29 Jasper Invite. VanMeter took the Jasper Invite by almost 14 seconds, but she took Saturday’s sectional by nearly 40 seconds.

The sectional win meant a lot to VanMeter, because she a lot of people she knew came out to cheer everybody on, and she wanted to perform well. Running the Jasper Invite previously helped her drive up and down the hills, and where to run on the turns.

VanMeter added she usually has trouble with speed during the second half of a race, but she really wanted to pick it up to prepare for regionals.

“She went out there today — it was a nice morning,” Schipp said. “The course was in good shape, the weather was good and it’s sectional, and kids get excited for the postseason — and she went after it.”

The boys side featured a horse race between Forest Park’s Spenser Wolf and Jasper’s Abe Eckman. Spenser and Eckman were neck-and-neck, with the latter having a slight lead out of the gate. Spenser held a slight lead with Eckman right behind him after the first turn.

Jasper's Andi VanMeter dominated the girls race, running a winning time of 19:33.57 — a near 40 seconds ahead of everybody else. Jasper won the team sectional championships on the boys and girls sides.

However, Spenser, who didn’t run at the Jasper Invite, found another gear towards the latter part of the race, and he separated himself to take the boys sectional with a time of 16:10.56. Eckman, who won the Jasper Invite, finished second at sectionals at 16:22.63.

Spenser called Saturday an evenly-matched race, but it felt great to be a sectional champion. Eckman, meanwhile, felt he gave it his best during the race.

“Up the big hill on the second lap, he just put in a surge and got me, pretty much,” Eckman said of Spenser.

Philip preaches to his runners that they have to have heart if they want to be a champion, and he knows his son has a lot of heart.

“He wants to win for his teammates, and he knew getting second place would put us one place closer to that sixth place team today,” Philip said. “So, he did his part to help his team advance.”

Northeast Dubois finished runner-up on the girls side with a score of 68, while it came in third place in the boys race after Jasper’s 39 and Tell City’s 88.

“That’s pretty awesome,” Jeeps coach Ben Gessner said of everybody going to regionals. “The team has really worked pretty hard this whole season, especially these last three weeks. So, I’m really glad the hard work paid off, and kind of a nice reward for them.”

Heritage Hills, meanwhile, came in fourth place in both races. The girls finished with 89 team points, and Katie Winkler ran a time of 20:12.50 to finish in second place overall. The Patriots had their second through fifth runners in a pack, with all five finishing in the top 30.

“I thought our girls ran a nice race,” Pats coach Kurt Denning said. “We had some really step up, some maybe not run to their fullest potential, but we survived and moved on. So, that was the plan.”

Pierce Lashley came in 11th place, the highest finisher among the boys, at 18:25.30. In fact, the Pats finished with a score of 108, just behind the third place score of 107 that the Jeeps posted.

“I’m not going to put anything out unrealistic,” Denning said of regionals. “I try to stay realistic all the time. I’ll break down what we did here today, I’ll break down the other sectional and I’ll come up with a game plan and talk to the kids about it on Monday.”

Other local coaches also discussed what it would take for a good showing at regionals. Schipp knows his Wildcats will running against a highly-ranked opponent in both the boys and girls races in Floyd Central.

“They’re always a great opponent, great competition, so just be ready to run and lead out on the course each week,” he said. “It’s all about advancing to the next week.”

Paige Wildman runs at the start for Northeast Dubois. Wildcman rounded out the top 15 with a time of 23:16.28 to help the Jeeps finish as the sectional runner-up.

Gessner knows that teamwork and pack running will be key to a strong showing for his Jeeps at regionals.

“They just got to be determined, have confidence in themselves and bring a positive attitude,” Gessner said.

Philip said his Rangers have to show a whole lot more at the Crawford County regional than they did at the Jasper sectional.

“They do have it in them, but they got to believe in themselves,” he said. “That’s what I tell in themselves, ‘You got to believe in yourselves, and what each other’s doing every day in practice.’”

 

 




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