Morgan Township hangs with the big boys
LIBERTY TOWNSHIP -- Morgan Township is a long way from Terre Haute, on a map and in cross country.
The Cherokees have been a regular at the New Prairie Semistate in recent years, but that's where the season has always ended for the perennial small school power.
After Saturday's third-place showing in Saturday's Chesterton Regional, Morgan Township finds itself back in that familiar position, with its sights set on taking that elusive next step.
"The kids know what they can do, it's the other teams that are unsure of it," Cherokees coach Matt Wellsand said. "The cool thing is hearing other coaches congratulating us. We've got a good group of guys. They want to prove they belong in the semistate. They want to take it to the next level."
Morgan turned a few heads at Sunset Hill Farm, its 91 points putting them in front of the likes of Valparaiso (93), New Prairie (120) and Portage (131) and just four behind runner-up La Porte.
"This isn't a place we've graced once or twice," Wellsand said. "We practice here three to five days a week. We know every acre. We wanted to use the terrain to our advantage."
While the traffic was heavy between second and sixth, Chesterton ran away with the title posting 36 points.
"We're not promised tomorrow," Trojans coach Tim Ray said, noting how the Lake Central volleyball team was depleted in the sectional due to virus quarantines. "We've told the kids every day. Amongst the chaos of all day every day, we wanted to put our best foot forward, and I we thought did. We're heading into (semistate) with our goal in mind, a chance to qualify for state. We wanted to be confident going in that we can get out, and we established that."
Chesterton put all seven runners in the top 25 with Matthew Streeter second (16:22.8) with Cole Dolson (fourth, 16:34), Josh Dennington (eighth, 16:53.2) and Evan O'Connor (10th, 16:54) all in the top 10. Jackson Tuck was 12th (16:56).
"It was really a solid performance by the entire group," Ray said. "It was Matthew (Streeter)'s last 'home' race at Chesterton, and it was nice to see him go out on a positive note. He's had some expectations on his shoulders. Conference was a disappointment for him, but he learned from that and bounced back the last two weeks and put together two solid races."
Streeter was runner-up the second Saturday in a row, catching a better glimpse of La Porte's Cole Raymond this time. Raymond finished in 16:17.2.
"It's exciting, 20 seconds last week, six seconds this week," Streeter said. "It doesn't ultimately matter, as far as the team, but the season is headed in the right direction."
While his lead wasn't seriously challenged, Raymond was actually glad to hear someone within ear shot of him.
"It'll be fun next week with some better competition," he said. "I'll see Lucas Guerra, so finally everybody will be keying off him instead of me. The plan was to go out hard, then run a more relaxed second mile. I wanted to try to feel out the pace, but it was so slow, as soon as we got to the 400, it was already six, seven seconds slow, so I started pacing. That formed a gap and I went with it. We weren't doing anything to make me run fast here. Semistate and state, that's been the plan all year. The training we have is for my fastest races to be the next two weeks."
Raymond's finish helped the Slicers pick off second place.
"We knew, even on Chesterton's worst day, we still we weren't going to touch them," LP coach Corbin Slater said. "It's nice to be in the middle there. It was the
Cole Raymond of La Porte won Saturday's
Chesterton Regional at Sunset Hill Farm.
perfect spot. We can't take anything for granted, especially now, but we knew we should get through. On a good day, we were going to be up there, but honestly, I thought it was a mediocre to good day. We really haven't tapered yet. In years past, I fell into the trap of trying to be a little too fresh. Since early on, our eyes have been set on the semistate."
Sam Bell took seventh and Janan Pillai placed 17th.
"Sam was up a few spots and Jay was back where he needs to be. He was up a few," Slater said. "Our four-five, whatever that ends up, it's a matter of trusting, getting up where they need to be."
Josh Baltes (third, 16:32.8) gave New Prairie a lift in a race where the Cougars had to overcome some misfortune to advance. Ethan Walden (27th, 17:31.2) had a foot issue flare up late, costing him several spots, and Tristan Balmer lost a shoe at the mile, dropping to 41st. Alex Cicero (38th) also helped put the Cougars over the top.
"I knew it was going to be close," NP coach John Arndt said. "We were sitting really pretty for two miles. Ethan was fighting for all it's worth. Tristan lost the shoe, but he was still busting it. Eventually, it got to him. Josh hasn't raced well. Let's call it what it was. He hasn't raced focused. He had the correct look on his face, and he was right where we wanted him to be. Al ran 17s last year, but we haven't had that guy. We told him, we're all depending on you, man. We kept believing in him. He cracked back into the 17s. He had been running 19s and was low 18 last week. That kid was money."
Tyler Hachey of Washington Township was the top individual qualifier in fifth.
Josh Baltes of New Prairie placed third in the Chesterton Sectional on Saturday at Sunset Hill Farm.