ROSSVILLE – When a team’s No. 1 runner from a season ago becomes the No. 2 runner, that can be a good thing, especially if that occurs due to the emergence of a young runner.
That’s what has happened to the Rossville girls’ cross country team this season. Senior Hannah Alling, a semistate qualifier a season ago, has given way to talented freshman Lauren Bright in the top spot – giving the Hornets’ a formidable 1-2 punch a lot of schools Rossville’s size can’t match.
And Bright didn’t disappoint at Thursday’s Rossville Invitational. Bright placed second overall among 35 individuals, finishing with a time of 21 minutes, 1 second. That finish, along with Alling’s seventh-place finish (22:04) helped the Hornets finish second out of eight teams.
Bright’s time was a season-best for the frosh.
“Being the No. 1 runner is what I was pretty much hoping for this season,” Bright said. “I was planning on it but I knew it’d be hard to beat Hannah.”
Bright and Alling were only one second apart at the West Central Invitational earlier in the season.
Rossville finished with 50 points, 18 back of champion Western, paced by the first-place finish of Emma Nixon (20:58). Bright only finished three seconds back of Nixon, but Nixon separated from the pack in the second mile, a deficit too much for Bright to overcome before a late push by Bright cut the final margin.
“I knew she was probably better trained,” Bright said. “She was running around 20:40 and that was a minute faster than me so far this season.”
Bright is actually competing in two sports this fall, with volleyball as her main sport and cross country her secondary one.
“A lot of the time she practices on her own,” said Rossville head coach Rick Foster. “She has an awful lot of natural ability. I’d like to see her practice with us more but that’s how it goes. She’s really talented.
“She knows how to run but she’s learning how to race. The Western girl made some surges she didn’t cover. She’s only run three varsity races, so she’s still a rookie.”
Rossville edged Hoosier Heartland Conference foe Carroll by one point, 50-51. Foster’s reaction when he saw the score sheet showed how important it was for the Hornets to beat Carroll.
Tipton (100) was fourth and Pioneer fifth (108). Delphi, Bethesda Christian and Faith Christian did not tally team scores.
Rossville team scores were incomplete in its first couple of meets this year, only racing four runners. But with a full team, the Hornets hope to make some noise in future invitationals.
Rounding out the Rossville runners, Rena Gascho was 10th (23:58), Kaitlyn Mills 11th (24:07) and Brooke Hughes 21st (26:38).
Rossville’s boys’ team also had a strong outing, placing second with 71 points. Western won the event with 45 points. There were eight teams total, with Tipton third (80), Carroll fourth (85), Faith Christian fifth (115), Delphi sixth (118), Pioneer seventh (132) and Bethesda Christian eighth (inc).
Rossville senior Austin Stewart had the team’s best finish, finishing fourth (17:43). It was easy to tell that, following the race, Stewart was disappointed with his time.
Stewart said that he was battling a sinus infection, which caused some problems with breathing. Stewart estimates he had an eight-second lead on the field just 800 meters into the race.
“From there on out it was pretty rough,” Stewart said. “Running by yourself the whole time, it was a pace game. The first mile we all battled back and fourth. Everyone was making surges and with me being sick, I don’t think that really helped. I could’ve probably held on for a little bit longer.”
Stewart’s time was only seven seconds faster than his best time in the preseason (17:50).
“That’s not really what I was hoping for,” Stewart said.
Western’s Matt Grider (16:44) finished first.
Overall, Foster has been pleased with Stewart’s performance this season. At the West Central Invitational Stewart finished first – his first career victory.
“He may have been better served to let Grider go (Thursday) because Grider’s awful good,” Foster said. “But he challenged him; can’t complain about that.”
Junior Austin Meyers also had a strong outing, placing eighth (18:37). After that, there was a little too much separation from the 3-4-5 runners in order to catch Western. Devin Hodgen was 16th (19:35), Seth Waldron 19th (19:44) and Ben Pettry 24th (20:06).
Hodgen was the team’s No. 5 runner in the first two meets of the year but moved up to No. 3 on Thursday.
“They weren’t quite as sharp as they were last Saturday, but sharp enough to get us second place,” Foster said. “We can’t be too sorry about that. (Devin) pushed himself toward there.”
No. 6 runner Shayden Hughes was 34th (21:15).
Rossville senior Austin Stewart (left) races side-by-side with a Faith Christian runner during Thursday’s Rossville Invitational.
With the pack
Rossville freshman Lauren Bright (right, 333) and senior Hannah Alling (330) sprint with the pack at the start of Thursday’s Rossville Invitational. Bright and Alling finished second and seventh, respectively, helping the Hornets place second out of eight teams.