ALL SPORTS CHAMPS
NCC ATHLETE OF
Muncie Central, Jay County repeat as cross country sectional champs
October 12, 2011North Central Conference
MUNCIE -- Jace Hirst felt out of sorts through the first mile Tuesday on the Muncie Sportsplex course.
He finally settled into a rhythm only to twist his ankle at the second marker. But after that hiccup, Hirst ran, and he ran fast -- faster than anyone expected.
"I wasn't feeling too good the first mile, and then my adrenaline started getting to me, and I started going," the Central junior said. "... The last mile marker I was flying."
Hirst crossed the finish line in fifth overall in a time of 17:26.93. To put how surprising that is in perspective, Hirst entered the Delta cross country sectional as the fifth seed among just Central runners.
His unexpected top-five finish ensured another cross country sectional title for the Central boys, who repeated as champions for the first time since stringing together three in a row from 1967-1969. The sectional repeat comes on the heels of the Bearcats winning their first North Central Conference title in 22 years.
"When I took over the program, it was a little bit back in the dumps," Central coach Kris Scholtes said, "but just getting these kids to believe, and seeing the work ethic it takes to be there, and now seeing that their work is paying off, it's exciting."
The favored Bearcats placed five runners in the top 10 to score 28 points and easily outdistance second-place Delta (55). Monroe Central took third (102), Union fourth (157) and Wes-Del fifth (163) to round out the teams who advance to run on the same course Saturday at the Delta Regional.
Fabian House led the Central contingent with a third-place finish (17:17.26). Hirst followed in fifth. Austin Green took seventh (17:39.5), Daniel House eighth (17:43.05) and Jason Helms 10th (17:51.27).
The Bearcats dominated the top 10, but none of their runners threatened to win the race. Wapahani senior Stefan Harry surged to a comfortable lead in the opening mile and cruised to his first sectional title in a time of 16:51.82. Harry finished nearly 15 seconds ahead of second-place Logan Rayl of Delta (17:06.71).
"I tried to get out quick so they couldn't stick with me and break me up," said Harry, who ran only for individual glory since Wapahani falls short of the mandated five runners for the team standings. "Logan did really, really good today. He surprised me."
Delta placed two runners in the top five. Rayl took second and fellow senior Joel Keller placed fourth (17:21.64). But five Central runners crossed the finish line before the next Eagle to create the scoring disparity between the two teams.
The top 15 finishers advance to the Delta Regional as individuals. Seniors dominated the race with the exception of a Central junior who crashed the party.
"Me coming in fifth is a big shock, because I think I came in 19th last year," Hirst said. "All of the people in front of me are seniors, and I'm a junior, so next year I should be up there."