Thrower, swimmer now in it for the long run

Herald file photos
Donald Bough and Rachel Welsh admit the transition to cross country did not come easily, but both are now integral parts of Jasper's semistate qualifying teams.

Herald Sports Writer

Donald Bough looks right at home on the cross country course.

He’s a tall, lanky guy with good running form who smiles constantly and laughs easily with his teammates. He’ll compete with the rest of his team, as well as the Wildcat girls cross country squad, at Saturday’s semistate at Brown County. The girls squads from Forest Park and Northeast Dubois will also compete, along with Southridge’s trio of Aubrey Main, Casey Lamb and Lauren Meyer plus two individual competitors from boys teams: Trey Dooley of Forest Park and Luke Kerstiens of Northeast Dubois.  

But Bough’s path to running started in a place atypical for most cross country athletes. He’s also a discus thrower on the Wildcat track and field team.

Bough is one of two Wildcat runners on the boys and girls teams who have picked up running in recent years. Rachael Welsh, a member of Jasper’s swimming state-qualifying 200 freestyle relay last winter, joined the team this season and, while the pair will admit the transition did not come easily, both are now integral parts of two youthful, deep rosters making significant strides this postseason.

Bough began throwing in middle school. His father, Troy, was a talented discus thrower during high school and urged him into the sport. The results were OK, but Bough didn’t match the typical discus thrower build. He said he has earned maybe one or two ribbons in his two high school seasons. His transition to running, though, started as simple exercise.

“I ran a mile or two and then I’m like, ”˜Hey, you know, I kind of like it,’” Bough explained. “I kept putting on more and more (miles), eventually I’m doing like 3, 4 miles, I’m like, ”˜Hey, this isn’t too bad.’ I found that cross country does that sort of thing.”

Bough joined the team last fall, and coach Kevin Schipp said he was “an average runner” as he spent the year on the JV team. When he returned this season, something was different.

“This summer he just got hungry,” Schipp said. “He came in ready, did a lot of work on his own. A lot of improvement.”

“When it was getting close to the season, maybe two months before, I hit it real hard,” Bough added. “That’s probably whenever I started boosting it up and getting into varsity.”

Bough spent the summer splitting time between morning workouts and his job at Holiday World. At that point, he said, he loved running so much he didn’t even mind the sometimes grueling days, spending hours running with the team before a full day of work.

Since he’s started cross country, he’s lost 20 pounds, shedding some weight and adding muscle as well. He said he feels better than ever, and that feeling has translated onto the cross country course where he consistently has finished as one of the Cats’ five best runners. Schipp said Bough also has evolved into one of the team’s best leaders, and his success has been contagious.

“He’s just a real determined kid. A real team leader for us,” Schipp said. “Just setting an example of how to work and having a good attitude about it.”

“You see somebody working hard and then it pays off, and that’s the best leadership you can have and the best example you can have for the other kids to put that work in.”

Welsh joined the team for slightly more familial reasons.

Her twin sister, Hannah, has been blazing the cross country trails for Jasper since her freshman year, but Rachael has witnessed her running for even longer.

“I’ve been watching her since sixth grade and I just got tired of watching,” she said. “I kind of needed a break from swimming anyway, so I was nice and fresh.”

Rachael ran track in the spring, but had a harder transition initially into cross country. As a swimmer, she’s built up strong lungs, but the extra miles on her legs created injuries and she missed portions of the season with ankle injuries. Welsh is finally starting to come on, and in a big way.

Schipp immediately noticed that Rachael possessed competitiveness and drive, and that was evident at the sectional when she finished 15th, dropping two minutes off her last time at the Vincennes University Jasper Campus course and helping the Wildcats to their first title since 2004.

“She was coming out of the woods on her second lap and there’s a little hill and she just zoomed up it like the Road Runner,” Schipp said. “You could just see the fire in her eyes and I even told the kids about it. I said, ”˜I’ve never seen somebody come out of the woods and run that hard, that aggressive up the hill. ... And she had a great day that day. So that was definitely one of those breakout races.”

Rachael’s late-season revival has helped bolster an already speedy group of Wildcat runners. It’s an addition Schipp expected, saying that he pegged Rachael to be in his top seven runners before she even started, but still, he’s more than happy to take the extra help.

“It really makes all the difference in the world,” Schipp explained. “There are teams that have the No. 1 runner, like Borden at regional. They had the (top) finisher, but if you don’t have the rest of them to go with it, you’re not going to have the success as a team that you want. And that’s ultimately our goal. It’s always the team first.”

There’s another reason Welsh has come to appreciate cross country, as she mused that it’s easier to talk to  teammates when you’re not face down in the water. And she’s learning to take some tips from her sister, even if she’s not as enthused about it.

“She pushes me to set my own goals and then she tweaks them to make it harder. And she makes me run on the weekends, which is not fun,” Rachael added with a laugh.

Welsh and the rest of the Wildcat girls will start around 11 a.m. Saturday, 30 minutes after the boys race begins. With teams from Terre Haute, Bloomington and Evansville descending on Brown County, Schipp is predicting a crowd unlike any his runners have seen at a typical meet.

“These kids are working hard, that’s why we are where we are,” Schipp said. “It’s hard work. We weren’t in this position at all last year. These kids have just been really hungry this year, boys and girls, that’s the biggest difference. A team full of kids that want it and believe they can do it and understand that hard work pays off.”

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