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Carmel XC running with one goal in mind
October 25, 2012VYPE MAGAZINE - Central Indiana
By Jason Haddix
For VYPE Magazine (Central Indiana)
CARMEL—When the cross country semistate results were announced Saturday afternoon, it wasn’t a surprise when Carmel’s girls and boys cross country teams both advanced to the state finals.
Ranked as the nation’s top team in MileSplit’s USA XC Rankings, the Carmel girls placed first as expected. The boys took second with another strong showing.
“It is a big deal,” Carmel girl’s coach Mark Ellington said after his team placed first for the third time this postseason. “We have not missed a state meet ever in history and… you don’t want to be the first team that doesn’t make it.”
The first-place finish marks the 35th in a row for the team with the last non-winning performance in the 2009 state finals when Carmel took second.
“It is really exciting because that is our goal every year to make it to state,” sophomore Kelsey Harris said. “It is really a privilege to be this successful and get to state each year.”
Harris led the No. 1 state ranked Greyhounds with a fourth-place finish and a time of 18:43.8.
Carmel’s team score of 44 was 60 points lower than second place Hamilton Southeastern. The low score is a result of the Greyhounds placing their top-5 girls in the top-15 (4, 7, 9, 11, 13).
“We try to run in a pack and that is what makes us so successful,” Harris said. “The experience is so much fun.”
She added that knowing the course is helpful when running at a meet with so much talent as it give you the advantage of knowing when and where to make passing moves to climb the leaderboard.
“I made my main move around the 2k mark.” Harris said. “After that move I just tried catching more and more people to try and get as high in the rankings as I could.”
Some may think a team can get complacent after being so successful for so long, but the Carmel girls have the mindset of besting their predecessors.
“They look at what other teams have done before them and they are constantly saying, ‘that is great that we are doing this right now, but the next thing is to do this and beat it,’” Ellington said.
Once a team makes it to these big meets, Ellington said the racing becomes more mental than physical.
“Mentally you just have to be prepared for a big race and know what that looks like and make sure you’re not freaking out,” he said. “It is just cross country, it is just a race.”
Harris agreed with her coach but added that Carmel is fortunate to have a deep team to allow the top runners to take a little time off leading up to the state tournament to ensure their bodies are physically ready.
“I feel like getting to state is more mental than physical because since the summer we have been preparing our bodies, and then the week of state it is about getting mentally focused and getting ready to do what we need to do.”
It was not a semistate championship on the boys’ side but a strong second-place finish for the Greyhounds propels them back to the state championship meet.
“We ran a pretty good race, Hamilton Southeastern ran really, really well and you can’t beat them when guys run 1, 2, 4 (places individually) like they were,” Carmel boy’s coach Erhard Bell said.
Freshman Ben Veatch led the Greyhounds with his time of 16:06.5, earning him a 10th place individual finish, highest of any freshman.
“I am just happy our team advanced and that we can compete at state,” Veatch said. “I just hope to do well and push my teammates along to a win (at state).”
Veatch said he began running since fourth grade and tries to block out the nerves of running in a big race until he steps up to the starting line.
“To be part of a state championship would be fantastic; it would mean the world,” Veatch said.
Finishing in the top five in team points earns Carmel a trip back to the state finals looking for their 12th championship and first since 2008.
“It is a tradition that we have had since my predecessor, coach (Chuck) Koeppen who was there for all those years and won all those state titles, it’s just a given we have to keep that streak going,” Bell said. “We have high expectation not only to get there but to do very well.”
In all the Carmel boys have won 11 cross country state titles.
“We are just striving to do our best,” Bell said. “We keep our pack together, so they can encourage each other and our job is to get better every week.”
Both the girls and boys will run at LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute on Saturday. The girls race at 1 p.m. The boys compete at 1:45 p.m.