LIGONIER _ The West Noble Boy’s Cross Country Regional went as expected Saturday with Concordia’s Zach Panning and the No. 2-ranked Carroll Chargers both winning easily. But don’t think for a minute either are satisfied.
“It was a good race; I felt good. Actually, it felt real good,” Panning said. “I wanted to take it out (fast) because (Prairie Heights’ Nick Lagemann) has a great kick.”
Panning did what he needed to do and received a little help from eventual runner-up Mark Beckman. The DeKalb sophomore tailed Panning from the start, giving him company. Beckman didn’t hang on to Panning in the third mile, but his aggressiveness helped him secure second as Lagemann and Central Noble’s Ryan Smith made a late charge.
Panning won in 15 minutes, 35 seconds while Beckman finished in 15:54. Lagemann was third in 15:57 and Smith fourth in 15:58.
“Next week is a bigger meet and I’ll have to run faster,” Panning said. “This is just a step in the right direction.”
Carroll won the team title with 40 points with Bishop Dwenger (80) second. Carroll placed all five scorers on the All-Regional Team (top 15). Also advancing to Saturday’s New Haven Semi-state at The Plex in Fort Wayne, are Homestead (91), West Noble (106) and Concordia (112).
Despite the margin of Raber was less than impressed with his team, which was without injured front-runner senior Jon Harper. Was it heading into the race without Harper key off that unnerved the Chargers?
“That shouldn’t matter. They need to grow up and be big boys and get over that,” Raber said. “This sport is about mental toughness and not making excuses. It’s time for (seniors) Alex Hess (11th) and Eric Claxton (sixth) to run in the 15:40s like their workouts indicate.”
Raber did admit that senior Kyle Gator (ninth), freshman Cameron Clements (10th) and junior Bret Unger (14th and fifth man), ran well.
“Kyle had a good comeback race,” Raber said of Gator, who was racing for the first time in three weeks due to injury. “He just wants it really bad. He genuinely wants to win a state championship and he’s racing like it. You have to get better every week and I don’t think some of our guys want to do that.”
Gator said he was nervous at the starting line because he hadn’t race in three weeks.
“I wasn’t sure I was ready mentally,” Gator said. “I knew the fitness was there, but racing is another thing.”
Gator said he started conservatively and worked his way into the final mile where he moved up several positions.
“Winning a third straight regional championship is really awesome,” Gator said. “Without Jon, we knew we didn’t have anyone to pace off so it was a little tougher. But a few of us were back together in the third mile.”
Dwenger’s runner-up place may have been a surprise to some, but not to those who follow coach Eric Ade and his program. The Saints always improve late in the year. The Saints were led by senior Luke Miller who finished eighth.
“We have a pretty good formula,” Ade said for the post-season. “You don’t reinvent the wheel every year. We know what works so we stick to it.”
The only area individual advancing to semi-state is Snider’s Asher Scott, who placed seventh in 16:09.