No longer the new kids: Illiana Christian continues its climb in cross country
NEW CARLISLE -- They're not the little kid on the block any more, not by a long shot.
Illiana Christian's athletics program is all grown up, competing at high levels across the board, including cross country.
"I'm looking at the big picture," Vikings boys coach Jorge Ramos said. "With the whole (state) tournament changing, it makes it more difficult. We're just trying to keep it positive. You make running fun, you've got a good thing going. It's hard work. You've got to have a lot of patience. The thing with society today, everybody wants instant gratification, my food now, my phone now. They want the running to cut a minute now. You have to earn it. If they see that reward for their effort, it makes it a lot easier to get them to buy in. Since I've been here, we've been moving both programs."
Illiana boosted its credibility again Saturday, when the boys rolled to the Class AA team title at the New Prairie Invitational with 56 points, less than half of runner-up Western. The girls nearly made it a sweep, taking second behind Western, 120-140.
"I was thinking about moving up (to AAA), but sometimes these small victories are good for their morale," Ramos said. "Not that this is small. We've got a good group of kids. They love it. It's fun when they have camaraderie. Everybody gets along, motivates each other."
The Vikings put four in the top 14 and five in the first 23 to secure the team trophy. They were led by Jarvis Mickles, who took third in 16:41.3 despite some taking a wrong turn while leading the race with about a mile to go.
"He got sent back," Ramos said. "I think he might have had a chance to be at the front. He said an official told him this way, but he turned too early and had to go back and was 15 places back. He made it all the way back, but I told him that surge will take it out of you. It is what it is. It's part of the learning process. I really want him to advance as an individual."
Mickles' development has been particularly gratifying to Ramos, who took on the oft-injured former sprinter and has as a project of sorts and seen him find a new running identity.
"I try to get my runners from anywhere," Ramos said. "I thought, he's broken, but I'll fix this kid. His first year, I was like, hey, you should just try this. He never did any distance running. Fast forward, he won a race in Michigan last week. His mom and I good laugh. I said, when he started, you said I don't know if this sport's for him, now look at him, his maturity, how far he's come. Jarvis is running really well. It's a feel good story. Good for him."
Nolan Bouwman was sixth (16:44.8), Josh Wandaal 11th (17:14.4), Cody Aardsma 14th (17:31.5) and Dane Scheeringa 23rd (17:42.9).
"Josh was injured part of last year," Ramos said. "He started picking up steam late last season, he's come on this season, and is right in the middle of our lineup, doing well. He's a real good team leader, a good motivator. Nolan's the definition of hard work, lunch pail, hard hat. He's money. I never have to worry about him. I know what he's going to do. Even if he's not 100 percent, he's going to give you 110."
Avery Olthof (seventh), Ella Olthof (10th) and Adeline Mulder (15th) led the IC girls.
Jarvis Mickles of Illiana Christian placed third in the Class AA Division race at the New Prairie Invitational despite taking a wrong turn and having to backtrack along the way.