Wildcat runners sweep Jasper InvitationalSeptember 29, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — Andi VanMeter did more than just win Tuesday’s Jasper’s Invitational at Vincennes University — she ran away with it.
The Jasper junior established a firm lead during the girls’ race, and was all smiles as she crossed the finish line and put on her medal after finishing with a first place time of 20:09.98. VanMeter was more than 13 seconds ahead of Heritage Hills senior Katie Winkler, who came in second at 20:23.32. She finished nearly a full minute ahead her teammate, senior Kelsea Skorge, who finished third with a time of 21:03.64.
VanMeter finished at least a minute ahead of everybody else.
“I really just try to get ahead in the beginning of the race because I like to distance myself a little bit, so I have some room,” VanMeter said. “If I slow down a little bit, I can speed up any time.”
VanMeter and Skorge finishing in the top three helped propel the Wildcats to a first place finish with 30 team points on Tuesday. VanMeter found the course to be an advantage for her, since Jasper sometimes practices there.
Jasper coach Kevin Schipp lauded the training and the work VanMeter has put in, and credited that for her big win.
“We dialed her back a little bit tonight, running more of a tempo pace, but she still ran a great time for this course,” Schipp said. “We really like where she’s at and definitely heading in the right direction for the postseason.
Northeast Dubois came in second on the girls side with 45 team points. Sophomores Jordan Schweikarth, Sara Livingston and Paige Wildman finished in fourth, fifth and sixth place, respectively.
“I love to see them packing up tight like that,” Northeast Dubois coach Ben Gessner said. “Our times are getting down, time gap’s getting down, it’s awesome. I just hope it’s really boosting some confidence for the girls.”
Heritage Hills and Southridge were neck-and-neck for third and fourth place at 75 and 78 points, respectively. The four local schools that competed on Tuesday were the only ones to field team scores on the girls side. Southridge previously got the better of Heritage Hills at the Sept. 26 Tell City Invitational.
“It’s going to be nip-and-tuck the rest of the year with us and Southridge,” Heritage Hills coach Kurt Denning said. “They’ve come on really strong…We’ll see them again at conference, we’ll see them at sectional. It’s going to be a fun race.”
Denning said team score results would hinge on Heritage Hills’ second through fifth place runners. Winkler came in second overall Tuesday. However, Heritage Hills did not field another runner in the top 15. It did have three additional in the top 20, though. Denning thinks his other girl runners must move forward if the team score gap is going to close.
Southridge’s girls could not beat any team scores Tuesday, but freshman Kelsey Wibbeler came in eighth place with a time of 22:36. Joining her in the top 15 were senior Evie Hasenour, who finished 12th with a 23:24.25 time, and fellow freshman Emma Blessinger, who finished in 14th place at 23:26.04.
“We’ve gotten better pretty much every single week of September,” Southridge coach Chase Bland said. “We take away what we did today, and we’re just really going to try to go with the confidence we gained from Saturday. Honestly, they’ve ran really, really well all year, and like I’ve said, they’ve just gotten better and better.”
The boys was more competitive, however. Jasper junior Abe Eckman and sophomore teammate Harrison Hulsman were very close as they paced the field during the race. In the end, however, Eckman reigned supreme, with his time of 17:10.89 being a winner. He distinguished himself closer towards the end past Hulsman’s second place time of 17:19.03.
Those two led the way as Jasper finished first overall with 33 team points.
“Really, just the last half-mile, I kind of pushed on that gradual downhill,” Eckman said. “Then last turn, I just kicked it in.”
Schipp said that pack running is very important in good cross country running and added that was what the team wanted to do Tuesday — close the gap and see improvement.
“I thought the boys had a really strong performance,” he said.
Heritage Hills finished second with 49 team points on the boys side, with four runners in the top 15. Senior Elliott Buechlein led his team with a fourth place time of 18:01.65. Sophomore Kurt Denning placed seventh with a time of 18:43.18. Seniors Wyatt Koenig and Owen Rahman came in eighth and 13th place, respectively. Koenig finished with a time of 18:47.45, while Rahman ran a time of 19:09.09.
Northeast Dubois placed third with a team score of 65 points, and it all started senior Pierce Brinkman rounding out the top three with a time of 17:33.16. Sophomore Brandon Schnell finished 12th with a time of 19:06.05, while senior Trevor Buechler capped the top 15 with a time of 19:29.69.
“Pierce ran well tonight,” Gessner said. “He got out there with the lead pack and hung on, so it was good to see that out of him. The rest of the squad, we’re packing up a little more. (Junior) Preston Brinkman is really coming on. He’s moving up to Trevor (and) Brandon. The closer we can get with those guys and actually (sophomore) Peyton (Betz), all our guys, they’re getting closer (with) what we want, and that’s what I like to see right now.”
Southridge, however, did not field a team on the boys side. Only freshman Calib Sherman and sophomore Cameron Tooley competed for Southridge. Sherman finished 24th with a 20:25.72 time, while Tooley placed 32nd at 21:34.71.
“Calib and Cameron both ran really strong,” Bland said. “Cameron’s been hurt…so, he’s just trying to get some races under his belt, and Calib, being a freshman, just really wanting to get out here and see the sectional course. That way, he knows what to expect.”
Jasper, Southridge, Northeast Dubois and Heritage Hills now turn their attention to the conference meets this weekend. Southridge and Heritage Hills will see each other at the Pocket Athletic Conference race in Petersburg. Northeast Dubois is set to be at the Blue Chip Conference meet at Barr-Reeve, while Jasper is set to run in Evansville.
Each coach discussed their respective upcoming conference meets
“I think we’re fairly ready,” Denning said. “We got a few little things we need to take care of yet this in practice and just discussing some things. We’ll go down and hopefully run well.”
Bland said some of his male runners were banged up on Tuesday. He figured Southridge could’ve ran as a team at Jasper, but he figured it’s better to be rested for conference, as opposed to running at 50 percent on Tuesday and still being banged up at the conference run.
“For the girls, we definitely are a top five PAC team,” Bland said. “Obviously, Heritage Hills is going to be somebody we’re going to battle with, Gibson Southern as well, and Pike. Princeton’s probably going to run away with it, but from second to fifth, it’ll be a really, really good battle. So, as long as we can just compete with those schools, and every point will matter.”
Gessner is hoping Pierce can win the individual boys race on Saturday, while he hopes his best female runners can place in the top five.
“Team wise, we’re always out to win it, but we’ll see what we come out with,” Gessner said. “I feel pretty confident in a second place finish for both sides, I think.”
Both Jasper’s boys and girls teams have quarantined runners, but Schipp thinks both sides still have good chances.
“We just have to go out and we have to have people step up like we did tonight,” Schipp said. “It’s not going to be easy, there’s no doubt about that, but we have the opportunity, and that’s how we need to take it. It’s unfortunate that we’re missing people, but it gives a great opportunity for people to step up and prove themselves.”
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