Was it tradition and experience that propelled Carroll to a couple of IHSAA New Haven Semistate cross-country championships Saturday at The Plex? Considering it was the fifth consecutive for the girls program and second straight on the boys side, that reasoning sounds about right.
But in assessing the two victories, first-year Carroll coach Phil Yoder pointed to a pair of individual efforts put forth by both teams' third runners, Trevor Hamilton and Megan Doty, as critical parts to the titles.
“Those two ran with such great confidence,” Yoder said. “You would never know it's their first postseasons, their first semistate. Both just knew they were going to run well and they were both a huge part of why we won.”
Along with being juniors, Hamilton (he finished in 18th place with a time of 16 minutes, 31 seconds) and Doty share another thing in common: inexperience. But on Saturday that didn't matter.
Hamilton was running in just his third varsity race. Yoder waited patiently for the right time to bring him up to the varsity, despite his running a top-seven (varsity) time in several junior varsity races.
“I probably kept him on the JV too long,” Yoder said. “But he was gaining so much confidence winning those races. That confidence really came in handy today.”
The Chargers were paced by sophomore Cameron Clements, who finished ninth overall in a time of 16:10, while junior Jacob Schmeling (11th, 16:13) and seniors Bret Unger (20th, 16:36) and Alex Kreilach (36th, 16:52) also contributed.
Carroll graduated its four top performers from a year ago, and not only was Hamilton inexperienced, but Schmeling was also competing in his first semistate race.
“There were a lot of people doubting us,” Schmeling said. “But we knew we were going to be good.”
Other area runners also advancing to next week's IHSAA state finals in Terre Haute included DeKalb's Mark Beckmann (third place overall) and Bishop Dwenger's Matt Klein.
In the boys race, the Chargers dominated, as they placed four runners in the top 20 finishers. Carroll won by 45 points over runner-up Northridge (71-116), while Bishop Dwenger (142 points) took third.
Other area teams advancing to next week included Homestead (fifth place, 160 points) and South Adams (sixth, 169).
Claiming the top spot individually was Concordia Lutheran's Zach Panning, who continued his undefeated season.
The Cadet senior finished in 15:19, which tied the meet record set in 2010 by former Carroll star James Martin. Homestead's Brayden Law placed second, 34 seconds behind Panning.
In the girls race, the fifth-ranked Chargers were not as dominant, but also were competing in a heavily loaded field.
Aside from Carroll, seventh-ranked Penn, Pendleton Heights (ninth), Northridge (10th) and Homestead (12th) were also battling among the teams.
Carroll held off Penn 69-73, while the Spartans placed fifth with 167 points.
“We knew it was going to be close,” Yoder said. “We knew even if we ran well, it was going to be a dogfight. Every runner, every place counted.”
In the end, it was the Chargers' depth that was the difference over the Kingsmen. Carroll put all seven runners in front of Penn's fourth runner, and Doty, who placed 14th overall in a time of 19:14, was the linchpin.
“Last year Megan was on the outside looking in,” Yoder said. “A spot opened up and she took advantage of it. The last three races she's really come on. She's immune to the pressure, always has a smile on.”
Doty said running in her first semistate was more exciting than nerve-wracking.
“It's cool to say we've won this many in a row,” Doty said. “But we knew we had to run well and if we did, our depth would be the difference.”
Carroll was led by Madison Fruchey (ninth place in a time of 18:56) and Stacey Metzger (11th, 18:59).
Other area runners finishing in the top 20 and advancing to the state finals either as an individual or with their teams were Columbia City's Samantha Roush (seventh, 18:53), Homestead's Madison Distelrath (eighth, 18:54), Concordia Lutheran's Marina Konow (10th, 18:56), Bellmont's Bailey Beery (15th, 19:14), Leo's Lindsey Marriott (16th, 19:15), Norwell's Hannah Aschliman (19th, 19:23) and Homestead's Grace Walther (20th, 19:23).