RUSHVILLE — Four Hancock County teams consisting of 28 runners took to a 3.1-mile course at the Rushville cross country regional Saturday morning and battled for the opportunity to run at the semistate meet.
Nearly all of those local runners earned the right to continue their seasons at the Carmel Semistate, this Saturday.
The top five teams and top 15 individuals qualified for the semistate, and Seth Eagleson was never in danger of missing the cut. In fact, the New Palestine junior nearly won the race.
Eagleson, last week’s sectional champ at New Palestine, crossed the finish line in 16 minutes, 45 seconds. But Franklin Central’s Shane Wright earned the regional title in 16:30, cutting 28 seconds off his sectional time. In the sectional, Wright (16:58) was runner-up to Eagleson (16:44).
“It means a lot (to finish 1-2 in sectionals and regionals), a lot of really good runners have done that, it is an honor to be among them,” Eagleson said. “Shane is a great runner and did really good today. It’s disappointing, but we have semistates.”
Eagleson, who will run in his second semistate meet, said he is calmer this year after what he called a “nerve-racking” meet last year when he finished 53rd in 16:47.
The New Palestine boys failed to earn enough points to crack the top five as a team and they finished in sixth. Despite the team standing, New Palestine senior Austin Dodd (ninth, 17:13) will join Eagleston to give the Dragons multiple representatives in Carmel.
“I am very excited (about Eagleson and Dodd),” New Palestine coach Dan Weimer said. “Both those guys did the job for us, they were up top for us but we (the boys’ team) came up a shade short.”
The Dragons finished 13 points behind fifth-place Rushville in the battle for the final team semistate qualification.
Franklin Central won the title with 53 points, followed by Warren Central (65), Roncalli (81) and Greenfield-Central (141), the host Lions (149) and New Palestine (162).
G-C will advance to semistate despite not having a runner in the top-20. Syrus Fletcher (21st), Zach Bishop (30th), Taylor Wright (31st), Scott Prewitt (38th) and Jason LaFord (39th) were the Cougars’ top five runners (each team fielded seven runners, with the top five earning points based on their finish).
“The team dynamics this year is much different than last year,” G-C coach Hunter White said. “Last year we had two front runners and then three, four, five, six and seven were farther back. This year we have a tight pack 1-5.”
G-C’s solid, balanced performance earned the program a third straight trip to semistate, a feat they have not accomplished before.
“I like to think of it as the start of a distance running dynasty,” White said.
The Eastern Hancock girls’ team also accomplished a first — the first semistate team qualification in school history.
Franklin Central won the team championship with 21 points, trailed by New Palestine (95), Warren Central (122), Connersville (136) and the Royals (137). Roncalli (143) was sixth.
“Relieved,” EH coach Rex Putt replied when asked how he felt after results were announced. “This is something we have been achieving for this whole season. I have never had three freshmen run consistent throughout the year.
“I thought we might get in a little easier but we had a couple girls that had an off day.”
One Royal not having an off day was junior Kiersten Schrope, who finished eighth with a time of 20:03, a nearly 38-second improvement from her sectional time.
“I felt more energized for this race,” Schrope said. “I am really excited about (making semistate). This team we have a lot of freshmen and I think we have bonded more than last year.”
Aiding Schrope in the Royals’ historic meet were teammates Shelby Wyatt (24th), Karlee Gray (32nd), Cara Johnson (34th) and Hannah Miller (50th.
Caroline Talhelm of FC won the girls’ individual crown in 19:12.
Like the Royals, New Palestine also placed one runner in the top 15, followed by a tight pack of four.
Freshman Sarah Schwartz earned all-regional honors (top 15) with a 14th-place run, crossing in 20:28.
Another NP freshman, Bailey Wallace, was 17th. Marissa Crosby (19th), Kayla Medaris (21st) and Natalie Shields (29th) completed the Dragons’ runner-up regional finish.
“Very strong second and going to semistate, which is the goal — to go to the next step,” NP coach Dan Weimer said. “They competed really well, led by Sarah with an all-region performance as a freshmen. I am just very excited for the girls.”
After Schwartz completed the meet, she iced her left calf. It is an injury that has bothered her for the last couple meets.
Still, Schwartz ran the course in 20:28:97, good for 14th.
“I felt like if I was not injured I could do better,” Schwartz said. “I think our team is really good and I think we deserve to be at semi-state.”
Weimer gave credit to the freshman.
“She is always all in,” he said. “She gives her best effort every time she gets out there. She ran her guts out today and I think she had a great performance.”
The semistate meet will take place in Carmel on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. The top six (not five, as in the regional) teams and top 15 individuals will advance to the state finals. Last year, there were no Hancock County runners who made it out of semistate. The 15th-place time in the boys’ semistate last season was 15:54; 19:06 for the girls.
Other than those who qualified from Rushville, teams from the Ben Davis, Brebeuf Jesuit and Greensburg regionals will battle at Carmel for the right to run for the state championship.
Saturday at Rushville Middle School
Top five teams and top 15 individuals advance to Carmel Semistate, Saturday, 10:30 p.m.
Team scores: Franklin Central 21, New Palesrine 95, Warren Central 122, Connersville 136, Eastern Hancock 137, Roncalli 143, Hagerstown 156, Centerville 164, Union County 213
Individual champ: Carolyn Talhelm (FC) 19:12.19.
Local semistate qualifiers
New Palestine: 14. Sarah Schwartz 20:28.97; 17. Bailey Wallace 21:05.46; 19. Marissa Crosby 21:10.41; 21. Kayla Medaris 21:16.13l 29. Natalie Shields 21:57.40; 33. Izzy Fleetwood 22:16.00; 40. Mattie Waggoner 22:35.43.
Eastern Hancock: 8. Kiersten Schrope 20:03.69; 24. Shelby Wyatt 21:36.51; 32. Karlee Gray 22:15.15; 34. Cara Johnson 22:17.34; 50. Hannah Miller 23:23.89; 61. Hope Spaulding 24:37.63; 69. Alex Perkins 27:35.28.
Team scores: Franklin Central 53, Warren Central 65, Roncalli 81, Greenfield-Central 141, Rushville 149, New Palestine 162, Connersville 180, New Castle 180, Union County 210, Northeastern 239
Individual champ: Shane Wright (FC) 16:30.94.
Local semistate qualifiers
Greenfield-Central: 21. Syrus Fletcher 17:39.18; 30. Zach Bishop 18:00.21; 31. Taylor Wright 18:02.30; 38. Scott Prewitt 18:13.25; 39. Jason LaFord 18:13.51; 43. Garrett Benedict 18:25.36; 49. Luke Shambaugh 18:39.87.
New Palestine: 2. Seth Eagleson 16:45.84; 9. Austin Dodd 17:13.34.