CULVER — It isn’t just skill and talent that wins championships; sometimes it takes a little luck too.
Culver Military Academy’s Leopoldo Burguete didn’t run his best race Tuesday, but it was still good enough for the individual championship as the Eagles senior gutted out some lower back and hip issues to clock a 16:29.6 and repeat as the CMA Boys Cross Country Sectional champion.
Warsaw had the luxury of sitting out number one runner Ellis Coon and still cruising to a dominant team championship with 27 points in the Tigers’ first year at the sectional, so Coon wasn’t around to push Burguete.
Manchester’s Matthew Fahs-Brown hung on Burguete’s heels for the first 4K and surged ahead with around 500 meters to go. But if Burguete wasn’t feeling at his best, Fahs-Brown felt worse, and when the Squires’ number one became ill in the homestretch of the race, Burguete passed him by to break the tape and defend his 2011 sectional championship on his home course.
“I overtook him after the 500-meter mark. I started digging in. I saw him stopping; I think he puked, and I got him, and it was my second chance so I had to take it,” said Burguete, affectionately known as Polo to coaches and teammates. “I got lucky this time. I wasn’t feeling very well… but I just put everything I had in.”
“This race was very strange,” Burguete continued. “Warsaw is new to the sectional, and I was very intimidated because they have very tough runners, some which are a lot stronger than me. In the first kilometer I was just waiting for them to come up and to go off with them. I just kept waiting and waiting, and I didn’t want to look back so I just started going with the Manchester kid, started pushing through, got in front of him. It definitely feels good to win, but it was a lucky win so I’m not satisfied with it.”
“It looked like (Burguete) was starting to pull away a little bit at the 4K, and then I could see his form was not looking that great out around the football stadium and Matthew caught him right there and put on a big surge with about 500 meters to go and passed Polo,” said Culver Academies head cross country coach Michael Chastain. “Then round at the turn there by the flag poles with about 400 to go (Fahs-Brown) started having some issues and throwing up. He slowed to almost a stop and Polo went around him and the other kid from Warsaw (Robert ) Murphy was moving nicely too. Polo was struggling a little bit today; he looked very, very good on Saturday, but he’s been having some issues with his hip and back for awhile. Today about halfway through the race it really started tightening up.”
Burguete’s individual championship gave the CMA team a big boost, and the Eagles wound up third in the team standings with 88 points ahead of Triton’s 122 and Plymouth’s 135 as all three teams earned berths at this Saturday’s CMA Regional.
Landrum Neer finished 14th for the hosts, Harris Allen was 20th, Brennan Hussey placed 24th, and Steven Muthart’s 29th-place result completed the Eagles’ team score and clinched third place behind Warsaw’s dominant showing and Rochester’s runner-up score of 53 as the hosts sat out number two runner Wes Hibbard and number five Paul Westman in anticipation of advancing to Saturday’s team meet.
“Landrum had a nice race today,” said Chastain. “He had a nice breakthrough race on Saturday up in Michigan and he looked good again today. There’s still a lot more there, and we’re hoping on Saturday we see a little bit more from him.”
“We didn’t have a good race from Harris Allen, and we didn’t run our number two and number five guys today; they’ve had some sickness and some injuries,” Chastain continued. “As far as I know they’ll be back and ready to go on Saturday, so hopefully we’ll look a little bit stronger as a team on Saturday.”
While CMA got a pair of top 15 finishes from Burguete and Neer, both Plymouth and Triton used pack mentalities to earn top five regional advancement spots at Tuesday’s meet.
Triton was paced by Trenton Stackhouse’s 18th-place finish in 18:15, while Trenton Cooper was 23rd, and Landon Kauffman, Bryce Wanemacher and Derek Johnston finished in order in 26th through 28th place.
The regional qualification marked the fifth straight by the Trojans.
“We kind of projected, looking at it we thought we should finish up fourth at least, so that was encouraging,” said Triton coach Will Rettinger. “This has become a nice little tradition. Ever since we’ve come to Culver Academies, I think the first year we came here we didn’t get out and every year since then we have. Every year it’s just a goal. We expect to eat at Ponderosa after regional every year. That’s just what we expect, and it’s nice not to have to worry about the expectations of the kids. They know that we’re going to get out every year.”
Levi Schuler finished 19th for Plymouth in 18:21, and Clay Corsbie and Mason Reed were close behind in 21st and 22nd as the Pilgrims’ top three all finished within 12 seconds of one another. Kenny Scott and Zacc Hutchings were 36th and 37th, respectively, and Plymouth finished on the bubble but still with plenty of room to spare 37 points ahead of Manchester.
“All season for my boys, we are aware that it’s more so about PRs. It’s hard to compete as a team; our conference is just ridiculous, but we had many successes every race,” said Plymouth coach Jami Holm. “So I was very happy with the boys being able to stay mentally in the season even though they knew when they’d show up somewhere the chances of us competing as a team weren’t always there… This was our first race where I went to them and said ‘We’ve got to forget about the PRs today because the only way you guys are going to get out of this meet is as a team; none you are going to get out in the top 15.’ For me to relay that to them and them to understand it, it was a switch that had to be flipped, but they did it and they passed with flying colors.”
Culver Community finished eighth with 216 points after putting up an incomplete score with only four runners last year. Dylan Bennett finished 32nd, Mark Lehman was 39th, Timmy Wireman placed 42nd, Justin Brown was 47th, and John Brown finished 57th as the Cavaliers beat out Caston by two points.
Led by Ashley Erba’s record-breaking 17:29.7 championship finish, Warsaw also dominated in the girls race Tuesday as the Lady Tigers turned in a score of 42 for the team title after realigning out of the Elkhart Central Sectional last year.
Rochester put up 56 points, while the Lady Pilgrims finished three points back for third place in the team meet.
Libby Read and Meagan Fisher finished within seven seconds of one another, going five-six for Plymouth with respective times of 20:28 and 20:35, and Abby Patrick also earned a top 15 finish with a 20:56 time for 13th place overall. Shelby Harrell came in just outside of one of the top 15 ribbon spots, nine seconds behind Warsaw’s Brooke Rhodes in 16th place, while Brooke Wagner completed Plymouth’s team score in 19th place.
“I was really hoping we would place second. We were only three points away, but what’s great is we’ll see them again on Saturday,” said Holm.
“I never have the same girl winning a race. I’m constantly rotating those three or four girls, and it’s really helping all of them, it’s pulling all of them along. It’s great to see.”
Culver Girls Academy stayed alive for its home regional Saturday with a 76-point score for fourth place behind the Pilgrims.
Like Plymouth, the Lady Eagles benefitted from a trio of top 15 finishes as Olivia Martinez beat Warsaw’s Emma Hayward by less than a second for eighth place in 20:43, Hannah Buggeln was 10th in 20:46, and Sarah Jamieson entered the chute 10 seconds behind her in 12th place. Stephanie Ma stepped up to finish 22nd, and Kennedy Thompson was 27th to round out CGA’s team score.
“Our top three and especially our top two did not look nearly as good as they did (last) Saturday, so we’re hoping that come Saturday they’ll be ready to race,” said Chastain. “Sarah had a decent race today…. I was very pleased with Stephanie Ma. Stephanie has been our number seven or eight all season, and she’s been stepping it up some and she had a little bit better performance today.”
Also advancing to this weekend’s girls regional, Triton moved up from a seventh-place finish at last year’s meet to earn the final team ticket out in fifth place with 150 points Tuesday.
The Lady Trojans were led by two-time semistate qualifying junior Allie Kann’s 11th-place finish and time of 20:55. Alexis Miller was 23rd in 22 minutes flat, Kayleigh Craig finished 36th, 41 seconds back of Miller, Taylor Hatfield finished 40th another 30 seconds back of Craig, and Autumn Kann placed 53rd as Triton’s girls beat out Manchester by 30 points for the last team berth at the CGA regional.
“I knew it was going to be really close with Manchester and (Tippecanoe) Valley following us, just looking at the times I’ve seen all year,” said Rettinger. “I thought we should get fifth if we ran well, and they did run well today. I don’t think anybody’s times were amazing today, but I’m pleased with our efforts. I’m very happy.”
Culver Community had a pair of runners at the CGA tourney but was unable to put up a full team score. Tori Shank finished 20th in 21:46, and Tatum Schultz was 30th in 22:44 for the Lady Cavs.
The Culver Academies Regionals will convene Saturday morning. Girls are scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. ET, and the boys race is slated for 11:15 a.m.
• CULVER ACADEMIES SECTIONAL
TEAM SCORES: Warsaw 27, Rochester 53, Culver Military Academy 88, Triton 122, Plymouth 135, Manchester 172, Tippecanoe Valley 203, Culver Community 216, Caston 218, North Miami 245.
Individuals: 1. Leopoldo Burguete (CMA) 16:29.6; 2. Robert Murphy (W) 16:36.9; 3. Matthew Fahs-Brown (M) 16:42.8; 4. Ellis Coon (W) 16:50.8; 5. Alex Gudeman (R) 16:52.2; 6. Brysten James (W) 16:57.1; 7. Michael Compton (W) 17:02.3; 8. Daniel Messenger (W) 17:09.3; 9. Jeff Ferrell (R) 17:09.8; 10. Seth Cousins (Ca) 17:22.1; 11. Brandon Rife (R) 17:32.7; 12. Owen Glogovsky (W) 17:34.9; 13. Matt Hayes (R) 17:38.3; 14. Landrum Neer (CMA) 17:41.2; 15. Tyler Byerline (R) 17:50.3.
TEAM SCORES: Warsaw 42, Rochester 56, Plymouth 59, Culver Girls Academy 76, Triton 150, Manchester 180, Tippecanoe Valley 193, North Miami 219.
Individuals: 1. Ashley Erba (W) 17:29.7 (sectional record); 2. Anna Bearss (R) 18:55.8; 3. Sarah Ray (W) 18:56.8; 4. Anna Meyer (R) 19:39.1; 5. Libby Read (P) 20:28.6; 6. Meagan Fisher (P) 20:35.4; 7. Samantha Ruppert (R) 20:39.8; 8. Olivia Martinez (CGA) 20:42.7; 9. Emma Hayward (W) 20:43.6; 10. Hannah Buggeln (CGA) 20:46.9; 11. Alexandra Kann (T) 20:55.4; 12. Sarah Jamieson (CGA) 20:56.5; 13. Abby Patrick (P) 20:56.9; 14. Madeline Hooks (W) 20:57.1; 15. Brooke Rhodes (W) 21:18.3.