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Valley Cross Country Kick Off Helps To Open The 2021 Season
Under good conditions for early August, Terre Haute South High School hosted the biggest opening-weekend meet in Indiana yesterday. The Valley Cross Kick Off hosted several programs from both genders that are preseason Top 25 teams and several All-State contenders in each varsity race. The meet surely did not disappoint with close finishes and strong performances throughout the results.
The first race of the day featured teams from across the state who are predicted to be not only state qualifiers but podium contenders. The team results are a little tough to interpret with many teams holding out some of their key runners. One of the potential limiting factors of this weekend is that Indiana High School Athletic Association rules require an athlete to have ten practices before they can race and this Saturday falls on the 11th day of the month. When that is mixed with some coaches opting for training or building a runner back up from a long track season, you get some athletes missing that would impact the team scoring tremendously.
Center Grove distanced themselves from the field with 65 points to beat runner-up Carmel (131 points) and third place Bloomington North (162). Center Grove used a tight pack that had a 1-5 gap of only 37 seconds on the challenging course. Parker Membela led the Trojans with a 3rd place finish overall in the deep field. Carmel was led by Charlie Leedke's 6th place finish and also used a strong 21-second gap from their second-to-fifth runners to hold Bloomington North. Carmel appeared to rest at least one of their top runners from last season but showed some depth and a tight pack that will help them come tournament time.
The race for the individual title was tighter than the team race as the first seven runners stayed close and finished within 15 seconds of each other through 5k. Abe Eckman from Jasper won the overall individual title in an opening time of 16:04 on the LaVern GIbson course. He pulled away late from a pack that included Nate Killeen from North Central, Membela from Center Grove, Krishna Thirunavukkarasu from Brebeuf, and Will Conway from Floyd Central. The athletes stayed close and were clocked in 16:08, 16:11, 16:12, and 16:17, respectively.
The second varsity race also featured several of the state's top teams on the women's side. Chesterton, who will look to be a favorite in the New Prairie Semi-State, easily outdistanced Westfield and North Central (Indy) with team scores of 72, 101, and 104, respectively. The Trojans were led by All-State runner Bailey Ranta. Ranta won the overall title to give Chesterton the sweep in the varsity race. Westfield used a tight 1-4 pack of only 15 seconds to hold off North Central by 3 points for the runner-up spot. Avon (172 points) and Jasper (241 points) rounded out the top five team spots.
The individual race was very competitive up front and showed some depth, even with some of the usual names missing from the lineup from the state's top teams. Ranta pulled away from an early pack that included several All-State candidates to win by eight seconds over a pack of three runners who all shared 19:35 for a time. The photo finish had Andi VanMeter from Jasper leading Kendall Martin from Brebeuf and Catherine White from Chesterton by less than a half of a second. All three runners were timed in 19:35. Lauren Klem from Franklin rounded out the Top 5 with a 19:42 finish.
The Valley Cross Kick-Off hosted 866 athletes and over 30 teams in each race. The spring gave us a tremendous track season in Indiana with amazing times and distances. Cross Country is back in Indiana and the fall promises to be very exciting if the opener at Indiana State University is any indication.