CULVER — In cross country, the sixth runner rarely gets the glory.
They labor all season long with performances that never quite make a difference on the final scoresheet. But it was the Lady Pilgrims’ sixth runner that made all the difference Saturday.
Miranda Hacha’s 44th place result pushed Plymouth’s girls over the top in a tiebreaker with NorthWestern, and the team earned its third straight semistate berth with a fifth-place finish at the Culver Academies Cross Country Regional.
Libby Read finished 13th to pace the Lady Pilgrims, while Meagan Fisher finished 24th, and Shelby Harrell and Brooke Wagner were 39th and 40th as the latter gutted out an injury Saturday to leave Plymouth knotted in a tie with Northwestern 151-151. Hacha’s strong finish propelled the team into the final spot out to New Prairie next Saturday.
“We were seeded fourth coming in. I thought if we had a great day we’d be third, and then as the race unfolded, I thought ‘Oh my word, I hope we’re fifth,’ “ said Plymouth head coach Jami Holm. “Knowing that it came down to our sixth runner, by the skin of our teeth, I really can’t believe it. We just had a conversation with our sixth runner Miranda Hacha on Tuesday about how important it is to be a pusher, especially on a team like ours where we have a consistent four and our fifth is kind of hairy. We need our sixth girl to have a good race on a day like today to keep pushing.
“Not only her but our number five Brooke, she’s been somewhat injured in the past couple weeks, she had the potential to have a bad race, too, so those two are the reason that we’re going.”
While Eastern’s girls took five of the top 10 individual spots to win the team meet with a score of 28, Warsaw’s girl placed second with a score of 42 in the Lady Tigers’ first year after realigning into the Culver regional. Rochester finished third with a 77, and the host Lady Eagles also earned a ticket out to semistate with a 124 score.
Culver Girls Academy got a lift from Eden Brackenbury in the number four spot as the junior finished 32nd after sitting out at sectional, while Olivia Martinez and Hannah Buggeln finished 20th and 21st, respectively, Sarah Jamieson was 23rd, and Stephanie Ma placed 35th.
“Our one and two didn’t perform that well today, but they still ran OK. Eden Brackenbury, this may have been her first race back all season,” said Culver Academies coach Michael Chastain. “She’s been injured, and we went ahead and gave it a shot today, and it helped definitely. Kennedy Thompson and Stephanie Ma again ran pretty solid again today. We’d like to see them step it up for semistate, but we’ll see. But I was pretty pleased.”
Like their girls counterparts, Culver’s boys got a big lift from a runner who sat out sectional, and the Eagles also made the cut out in fourth with a 128 score. Warsaw went one-two-three to easily win the team meet with a 21, Rochester was second with 68 points, Western was third with an 87 score, and Carroll earned the last semistate berth with a 146 behind CMA.
Leopoldo Burguete finished fourth behind Warsaw’s Jacob Poyner, Ellis Coon and Robert Murphy after winning the CMA Sectional Tuesday, while Wess Hibbard rejoined the squad to finishe 17th, Harris Allen was 27th, Landrum Neer struggled through injuries to place 51st, and Brennan Hussey was 57th.
“(Hibbard) had been sick for awhile, and he raced today and that helped a lot,” said Chastain. “Landrum Neer was injured today, and he didn’t run very well so it was good to have somebody else in there. Polo ran a solid race, he ran pretty smooth most of the way and didn’t go out crazy. I was very pleased with Harris Allen as our number three man.”
Triton’s boys finished ninth with a 217 to avoid last place for the first time in the Trojans’ past five trips to regional.
Trenton Stackhouse led the team in 29th, while Trenton Cooper was 42nd, Derek Johnston was 55th, Bryce Wanemacher was 59th, and Landon Kaufman placed 65th.
The team will bid goodbye to their top two in seniors Stackhouse and Cooper.
“Our game plan was that everybody needs to run their own race because the last four straight years our boys have been here they’ve been last,” said Triton coach Will Rettinger. “I think it’s because the competition is a little bit better, and they think they need to run harder than they do, and I just really wanted them running their own race so they could do as well as they possibly could. I think they did OK.”
Plymouth’s boys closed out the year in 10th meanwhile, as Levi Schuler finished 35h, Mason Reed was 44th, Clay Corsbie placed 53rd, Brandon Brashere was 71st, and Andrew Miller was 72nd.
“We had some goals, some of those top boys like Levi and Mason had some aspirations to try and get in the top 15, but I did explain to them that Warsaw’s top seven are going to take seven of those spots,” said Holm. “We were realistic, that’s all you can be. They had goals, they know what they wanted to try to run, and they tried to get what they could.”
“We’re still learning, and it’s nice that my top two are still juniors,” she added. “Clay is my senior in my top five, and it’s going to be hard to lose him. I’ve coached him for seven years, and I enjoy him. I enjoy Brandon, it’ll be tough to lose those two.”
Triton’s girls closed out their season in the ninth spot with a 254. Allie Kann missed the cut to semistate for the first time in her high school career as the junior placed 34th to lead the Lady Trojans Saturday. Alexis Miller was 38th, Taylor Hatfield finished 62st, Kayleigh Craig was 64th, and Autumn Kann completed the team score in 67th.
“Lexi Miller, she ran right about where she’s been running the past couple weeks so I was really pleased with her. Allie Kann is really bummed that she didn’t make it out today. I understand, I feel for her. Her time was about a minute slower than she’s run here before,” said Rettinger.
“The girls we actually had a team every race all year long. Ever since I’ve been here we’ve had five girls maybe, and then we’d get an injury and suck it up and run with four. I’m very happy with the girls. The girls should be good again next year, they should get stronger.”
• CULVER ACADEMIES REGIONAL
TEAM SCORES: Warsaw 21, Rochester 68, Western 87, Culver Military Academy 128, Carroll (Flora) 146, Logansport 161, Kokomo 162, Northwestern 200, Triton 217, Plymouth 232
INDIVIDUALS: 1. Jacob Poyner (W) 15:54.4; 2. Ellis Coon (W) 16:00.5; 3. Robert Murphy (W) 16:01.4; 4. Leopoldo Burguete (CMA) 16:20.9; 5. Matt Grider (We) 16:31.7; 6. Robert Duke (Eastern) 16:40.7; 7. Daniel Messenger (W) 16:49.1; 8. Matthew Fahs-Brown (Manchester) 16:49.6; 9. Alex Gudeman (R) 16:50.3; 10. Adam Schaaf (Eastern) 16:52.0; 11. Brian Bordner (Carroll) 16:55.4; 12. Brysten James (W) 16:57.9; 13. Jeremy Breedlove (K) 17:08.1; 14. Brandon Rife (R) 17:08.7; 15. Tyler Houvener (W) 17:09.5.
TEAM SCORES: Eastern 28, Warsaw 42, Rochester 77, Culver Girls Academy 124, Plymouth 151, Northwestern 151, Lewis Cass 156, Carroll (Flora) 226, Logansport 234, Triton 254.
INDIVIDUALS: 1. Ashley Erba (W) 17:12.5; 2. Bethany Neeley (E) 18:37.5; 3. Sarah Ray (W) 19:03.0; 4. Brittany Neeley (E) 19:18.8; 5. Carly Jones (E) 19:30.0; 6. Anna Meyer (R) 19:41.6; 7. Sarah Wagner (E) 19:51.9; 8. Hannah Dawson (W) 20:06.9; 9. Samantha Ruppert (R) 20:11.6; 10. Avery Ewing (E) 20:17.9; 11. Anna Bears (R) 20:21.4; 12. Emma Hayward (W) 20:32.3; 13. Libby Read (P) 20:32.8; 14. Taryn Thor (NW) 20:33.2; 15. Gabi Carney (LC) 20:33.7.