The race plan at the Northrop cross-country sectional Tuesday was the same for Zach Panning and Lindsey Marriott: Go out fast and don't look back. Both runners executed their plan to perfection and earned individual titles.
Panning, a Concordia Lutheran senior, successfully defended his sectional title while Marriott, a Leo sophomore, continued her breakthrough season.
Carroll swept the team titles with a narrow victory over Bishop Dwenger and Homestead in the boys race and the girls cruised over distant runner-up Homestead. The top five teams from both races as well as the first 10 runners not on advancing teams qualify for Saturday's West Noble Regional.
“I wanted to run the first mile in (4 minutes, 45 seconds) and then work the second mile,” Panning said. “The third mile takes care of itself.”
Panning passed through the mile on schedule, but with Homestead sophomore Brayden Law right behind him. Panning was not surprised to have company despite running unchallenged most of the year.
“I knew Brayden would be there because he's been saying all season how excited he was to race me,” Panning said.
During that second mile, Panning kept his relentless pace and started to gap his challenger. The third mile was simply a formality, as it has been all year for Panning. From a narrow lead at the 2-mile mark, he built a 43-second victory.
Panning finished in 15 minutes, 25 seconds while Law was runner-up in 16:08.
Placing third in 16:10 was Carroll sophomore Cameron Clements, who led four other Chargers in the top 14. Carroll won the team title with 43 points; Bishop Dwenger was second with 52 and Homestead third with 68. Concordia (101 points) and Snider (154) also advanced.
The Chargers were victorious because of a strong finish, said coach Phil Yoder.
“I think Dwenger had us at (4 kilometers),” Yoder said. “Then I yelled at them, for the first time all year. I told them they had to get a couple of places.”
The Chargers did just that, with two runners passing Dwenger runners down the stretch.
“The key for us today was Trevor Hamilton, who was running in his first varsity race,” Yoder said of the junior who placed 12th. “Trevor was our fourth man and ran a great race. He moved up just like he needed to.”
In the girls race, Marriott had little challenge from the field until the final 100 meters when she held off Concordia's Marina Konow by two seconds. Marriott finished in 18:40 and said she didn't know that Konow was gaining on her.
“I just ran (the entire race) pushing myself, picturing someone behind me,” Marriott said. “I can usually tell if someone is close by the cheering but I didn't know (Konow) was there. I try not to look back because it slows me down. And if they are close, it might cost me.”
It was a 14th straight sectional title for the Chargers and despite all the new names in the lineup. Carroll was strung out behind front-runner Madison Fruchey (who eventually placed third) and didn't have more than two runners in the top 10 until late in the race. The Chargers pack of Londyn Wise, Stacey Metzger and Megan Doty drifted up through the field to finish sixth, seventh and eighth.
Carroll won with 43 points. Homestead (80), Concordia (99), Bishop Dwenger (108) and Snider (150) also advanced.
“It was fun to see them run,” Yoder said of the Chargers. “We wanted to be relaxed and run controlled, working together. A couple of girls felt great and even ran (personal-best times).”
The 10 individuals advancing from the boys meet and their overall places were North Side's Valentin Emmanuel (sixth) and Manny Ratliff (16th); Northrop's Dustin Starnes (19th); Blackhawk Christian's Jon Roth (22nd) and Ryan Mitchell (29th); North Side's Rigel Jaquish (30th); Columbia City's Gage Emrick (31st); Leo's Will Emery (34th); Northrop's Dylan Wagner (35th); and Leo's Mariano Flores (38th).
The top 10 individuals advancing from the girls meet and their overall places were Leo's Lindsey Marriott (first); Columbia City's Samantha Roush (fifth); North Side's Jalyn Radziminski (11th) and Lakeisha Thieme (14th); Whitko's Brigit Nemitz (16th); Garrett's Maranda Malcolm (18th); Northrop's Patricia Bolton (22nd); Columbia City's Brooke Werstler (29th); Garrett's Amanda Stump (36th); and Leo's Breann Fawcett (37th).