RunningLane: Indiana Athletes Run in the Mud in Alabama

In 2020, when the major national championship races were cancelled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, a new national race was born in the form of RunningLane. The Garmin sponsored meet taking place in Huntsville, Alabama at the John Hunt Cross Country course was known to be a fast course that can be described as a track with grass on it. 

The hype of the event and fast results from the past two years helped the meet grow to over 3,000 participants this year and saw 9 total races across the day on Saturday. The growth of this cool national meet on a fast course was expected, but when runners from across the country came to the course Saturday expecting to hit a huge PR, mother nature had different ideas.

The potential storms and consequentially the messy course didn't stop teams from making the trip or competing hard when it came to race time.

Columbus North head Coach Rick Sluder was at RunningLane and shared his thoughts on the meet and how his team went about the exciting weekend.

"The meet was electric like last year. Lots of great competition, schools from across the country and a great environment created by RunningLane and New Balance. Our team, we took over 40 runners, they really enjoyed the racing and the great course. We competed well which was half of what we wanted to accomplish, the other being finishing off our season with a great team weekend and bonding even more."

The athletes for Columbus North had great success this season and they carried that into the RunningLane meet as well. Senior Julia Kiesler placed 5th overall in the girls gold race in a time of 17:48 for an All-American first team finish. 

"Julia ran fantastic. We weren't 100% sure of the competition but we prepped for everything from Top 20 to single digits. She was prepared for any of those opportunities and at 1k, we both knew it was Top 10. At two miles, we were able to communicate and knew Top 5 was the goal. She was absolutely thrilled with the All-American designation and finish."

(From left to right Lily Myers, Julia Kiesler, and Gretchen Farley all placed in the top 20 in the Girls Gold Race.)

Ty Garrett of Center Grove finished 8th in the boys gold race as Indiana's top male athlete on the day. Two other Indiana Girls also finished in the top 20 for All-American finishes. Park Tudor's Gretchen Farley was 11th in 18:03 and Lily Myers of Bloomington South placed 12th in 18:06.

Myers came to Alabama hoping for another huge PR after her stellar performance at Team Regionals. The conditions put a wrinkle into those plans, but maybe it worked out for the better for the Panther senior.

"After the rain on Friday night, the course conditions made it seem like no one was going to get a huge PR, which took some of the pressure off. I just decided to go out and enjoy my last cross country race and see what I could do. I tend to run pretty well when the course or weather conditions aren't great, so it may have worked in my favor! It was really unexpected to end the season like this. I know I was seeded somewhere in the 50s, so I didn't expect much place-wise. Finishing 12th in such a big meet was super exciting and a really great way to end my high school career."

The course was definitely put to the test with the rain on Friday night and with each race it made the course messier and muddier. It made racing a little harder and athletes had to strategize different ways to attack the muddy course.

"The conditions added a little extra thinking into the race, instead of just thinking about racing people, I also had to try to not slip or decided if I wanted to run straight through the mud," Myers added.

Athletes from Westfield's girls team who participated in the meet said, "We practiced running the tangents on the course. The mud made it difficult to execute that strategy completely. However, the mud definitely made the experience more fun and memorable even if the times weren't as fast."

(Indiana Girls athletes gather after the Gold Race at RunningLane)

In addition to the great performances, what made this meet extremely memorable for the athletes and their coaches was seeing the camaraderie among the Indiana athletes throughout the meet. 

Myers was one of six Indiana athletes to finish in the top 36 of the gold race and was very excited about meeting up with the other Indiana runners after competing. "One of the highlights of the meet was having the opportunity to gather a bunch of the Indiana girls together to talk about the race and get pictures. Even though the race wasn't exactly what anyone expected, it was a really awesome experience!"

The Center Grove Boys were the top team from Indiana to compete and placed very well amongst the field as they raced to a 3rd place team finish with 193 points. 

Here are remaining highlights and results from other Indiana top athletes that competed at RunningLane over the weekend:

Girls Gold Race

Julia Kiesler - 5th - 17:48

Gretchen Farley - 11th - 18:03

Lily Myers - 12th - 18:06

Jessica Hegedus - 27th - 18:29

Josephina Rastrelli - 34th - 18:35

Bridget Gallagher - 36th - 18:39

Maggie Powers - 50th - 18:52

Libby Dowty - 74th - 19:12

Brianna Newell - 96th - 19:27

Boys Gold Race

Ty Garrett - 8th - 15:22

Mateo Mendez - 83rd - 16:04

Parker Mimbela - 97th - 16:09

Kyle Montgomery - 105th - 16:12

Jarret Rockwell - 116th - 16:16

Gavin Rockwell - 120th - 16:17

Other Notable Indiana Performances:

Peyton Bucher - 12th (Girls Silver Race) - 18:57

Elizabeth Butler - 16th (Girls Silver Race) - 19:02

Sarah Maple - 27th (Girls Silver Race) - 19:16

Ryan Rheam - 36th (Boys Silver Race) - 16:15

Jackson Nolan - 47th - (Boys Silver Race) - 16:19

Jaryn Weinel - 52nd - (Boys Silver Race) - 16:22

Kyle Clark - 56th - (Boys Silver Race) - 16:23

Martin Barco - 2nd (Boys Bronze Race) - 15:44

A third place team, four total All-Americans and a weekend full of memories. Even through the rain and a muddy course, Indiana athletes showed out at the RunningLane National Championships in great fashion!