Columbus North ace Lily Baker emerged from the downpour rain victorious late Saturday night
The weather was perfect until it wasn't Saturday night for the Nike XC Town Twilight presented by Garrett Companies and National Scholastic Athletics Foundation. The weather had turned perfect and the course conditions were amazing through the first four races Saturday night at the beautiful LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course. The rain was light at best and course was holding strong as athletes from Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Kentucky toed the line for the JV and Open races, turning in strong performances in all sections. Just as the end of the Boys Open race came, so did the rain. It rained steady during the Girls Championship race and the skies really opened up as the Boys Championship race began. That did not stop some great team and individual races as the meet really felt like a true Midwest Cross Country meet during the last hour.
Midwest Open Girls
Jessica Hegedus and her Avon teammates both dominated the Girls Open race. Hededus' winning time of 19:01 gave her a 43-second victory over Emma Kendall from Collins High School out of Kentucky. She also led her Avon team to 32-54-79 victory over Carmel and Columbus North. Carmel and Columbus North both had teams in the Championship and Midwest Open divisions. Hegedus led teammates Hannah Taylor (3rd), Ava Watkins (4th), and Jaiden Davis (5th) to a strong victory by taking four of the first five places. Carmel and Columbus North both placed two runners in the Top 10 stay competitive but were no match for the Avon girls.
Midwest Open Boys
Carmel and Fishers staged a great team battle in the Open division race with Carmel coming out the victor by two points- 41-43. They were very tight throughout the meet with Carmel taking places of 1-3-9-12-16 while Fishers stayed even with finishes of 2-6-8-13-14. The Top 5 Average was 17:33 for Carmel and 17:34 for Fishers showing just how close the finishes were between the two Hamilton County schools. Quavion Hooks led Carmel by winning the division in 17:13, besting Ethan Nix, fittingly of Fishers, by two seconds. Columbus North was 3rd in the team competition with 81 points. All three of the teams additionally fielded teams in the Championship races as well.
Midwest Race of Champions Girls
The first feature race of the race night took place entirely in the rain and was fantastic to watch. The lights gave a glow to the beautiful green grass against the pitch-black night. The sound of the rain drowned out the crowd noise on the back side of the course and gave the first 2k a feeling that it the only focus in the world at that point was the race at hand. Out of the darkness, Addison Knoblauch of Homestead took out the first 1k in a huge effort common on LaVern Gibson's fast downhill start going through the 1k mark at 3:21. Her lead out gave her a 3-second lead over the field who quickly responded and had closed the gap basically by 2k led by Jasmine Klopstad of Carmel and Peyton Schieppe of O'Fallon High School out of Illinois. The two pulled a group of at least six other runners through the halfway point tightly packed.
The group was dominated by Carmel and Columbus North as each had three runners in the Top 9 at that point in the race. Shortly before the 3k mark, Lily Baker of Columbus North asserted her desire to cut through the rain and competition and took to the front of the lead pack. Baker threw in a 3:40 third kilometer, perhaps the toughest on the course, to stretch out the lead group and put all others on the defensive. Baker continued to keep the pressure on through the 4k mark, essentially creating a string of chasers into the shadows created by the lights spread out on the course. Knoblauch and Kloptad did not give in easily but could not match the final push from Baker as sped home to a 6-second victory in 18:17 on the by-then soaked course. Knoblauch stayed strong up the homestretch to stay in front of Carmel teammates Klopstad and Alivia Romaniuk. Julia Ray from MICDS out of St. Louis rounded out the Top 5. Carmel's Jamie Klavon helped put three Greyhounds in the Top 6. Lily Myers from Bloomington South was sandwiched between Columbus North's Julia Kiesler and Brianna Newell who were 7th and 9th, respectively. Summer Rempe from Noblesville rounded out the Top 10 in the highly competitive individual race.
The team race was equally as exciting as Columbus North edged Carmel 56-60 to even the season record after a 7-point loss at the Eagle Classic in mid-September. Carmel put three in the Top 6 but that came after Baker's individual victory and two more Bull Dogs in the Top 10. After three runners, the point total was 13-17 Carmel. Columbus North's 4th and 5th runners were able to make up the gap and put just enough space in between Carmel to find just enough points. Sydney Morlok from Columbus North was the big difference with her 14th place finish as Carmel's Olivia Mundt was 20th at the same scoring spot. Not be forgotten was the performance of Noblesville as they have started to make a case for a threat to steal a trophy at state. The Miners were 3rd with 80 points and were well ahead of 4th place and Northview and 5th place Homestead, both of whom turned in great team performances as well. If this was any indication, we are in for a hugely entertaining IHSAA State Finals.
Midwest Race of Champions Boys
If the girl's race was not dramatic enough with the excitement still in the air and the rain now pounding down creating huge energy on the course the was almost thrilling, the boy's gun going off gave us more thunder. The boy's race was hot from the gun with Carmel's Kole Mathison taking the first kilometer out in a blazing 2:51 to set a tone that this was going to be his night to shine under the lights at LaVern.
Mathison never relinquished his lead even though both the rain and the chase pack of Reese Kilbarger-Stumpf from Columbus North and Westfield's Kai Connor tried to derail Mathison. Mathison grew his lead to 7-seconds by the finish over Kilbarger-Stumpff and another 14 seconds back to Connor. The rain was so heavy at points during the race that the kilometers could not all be picked up on the chips. However, it was clear to see that Mathison's strategy of stinging the field on a wet night with a huge first kilometer worked as the Top 10 was atypically spread out.
After the Top 3 had finished, Carmel's Charles Schuman was next in at 4th giving the Greyhounds two in the Top 5. Center Grove's pair of Parker Mimbela (5th) and Griffin Hennessy (6th) finished nearly together in the rain to give the Trojans a great 1-2 punch for the team scoring. Several All-State candidates were closely behind with Ethan Baitz of Homestead, Joel Mumaw of Noblesville, Charles Leedke of Carmel, and Noblesville's Asher Propst rounding out the Top 10 in order. Places 5-11 were separated by only 10 seconds to give us an insight as to how tough it is going to be to gain All-State recognition in four Saturdays.
The team race was as dramatic as the rainstorm with Columbus North surviving a huge challenge from both Center Grove and Carmel. North used its depth to offset some great frontrunning from Center Grove and Carmel to pull out a 93-95-101 victory, respectively. Although Carmel had three in the Top 10 and Center Grove two compared to Columbus North's lone representative, the Bull Dogs used a 10-second gap from runners 2-5 to sneak past both teams. North's 4th and 5th runners finished in 24th and 30th place compared to Center Grove's 28th and 39th for the same spots and Carmel's 41st and 46th places in the same team positions. What a great race this is shaping up to become on October 30th.