October 29th – A Tale of Two Schools
By: Rob Swank
IR Small School Coverage Coordinator
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)
October 20, 2012
One school was in Northern Indiana, one was in the south. One had students living closer to Ohio than to the school, one had students living closer to Illinois than to the school. One had one of the flattest cross country courses in the state, one had one of the hilliest. One had a coach who did not run cross country in high school or college, one had a coach who was a pretty good high school runner and ran collegiately.
For both, the 2012 Cross Country season was the best of times as they were two of the top small school cross country teams in Indiana. However, October 20, 2012, must have seemed like the worst of times for both. On that day their dreams of going to the state cross country meet were ended at the semi state.
In fact, in the previous TWO DECADES the state meet qualifying dreams of all but two small schools have failed to materialize in boys cross country. (Those two, Northfield and Perry Central both qualified multiple times)
Fast forward to Oct. 26, 2013
In two decades only two small schools qualified for the boys state cross country meet and then BOOM!, on October 26, 2013, two teams in one year make the finals.
Both are in the smallest third of schools in the state—South Adams 369 students and South Knox 344 students. Both are in the southern part of counties that have three public school districts. Both are mainly rural districts. Both teams are well known state wide for the major cross country invitationals that they host. Both reached their goal of RUNNING IN THE STATE MEET.
It is the first ever state final appearance in any sport for South Knox and the first for South Adams since 1982 when their baseball team made an appearance. South Knox is a member of the Blue Chip Conference, this is the first state meet team appearance by a boys cross country team from any Blue Chip conference team since the conference was formed (late 1960’s) For South Adam’s conference, the ACAC, it is the first boys team to qualify since Nowell (who is no longer an ACAC member) qualified in 1985.
South Adams coach Clint Anderson’s comments:
Clayton Rhoades, 12 (5K PR 17:40), has been in our program for six years. This is the first year Clayton has been able to make our varsity team, and it’s a testament to his dedication that he stuck with it. Clayton is as dedicated as they get when it comes to summer conditioning and everything else that goes with being a good runner. After spending all these years fighting for a varsity position, it’s pretty cool that Clayton is going to be on the starting line for our first trip to the state finals.
Brody Shane, 12 (5K PR 16:30), has been with us for seven years and is one of the top athletes we’ve had in our program ever. He was our number one runner during the 2012 season, and when a couple of our other guys started challenging for that top spot this year Brody proved what a great teammate he is by challenging right back. He’s been a positive force for us all seven years and has been as dependable as they come once the starting pistol sounds.
Daniel Velasco, 12 (5K PR 17:00), first came to us in fifth grade and helped out as a manager while also running some with the middle school kids. He’s a wonderful kid and works really hard. Daniel dedicated his last year entirely to running and it’s paid off huge for him as he’s run better on every course from his junior to senior year (and we’re not talking little improvements – we’re talking like a minute or more). A year after getting knocked off the varsity a few times; Daniel has been a mainstay in our top four this year.
Sawyer Miller, 11 (5K PR 16:01), began running with us as a freshman, and he’s come a long way since then. Sawyer is an accomplished wrestler, having placed in the IHSAA state wrestling tournament as a freshman and sophomore, and really started to come into his own as a runner toward the end of his sophomore season. Having someone on the roster that knows what goes into achieving at a high level is invaluable, and Sawyer provides that. He’s a great leader on the course and off, and fits in as well with our elementary kids as he does with the high school. That’s a wonderful character trait to have.
Daniel Steffen, 10 (5K PR 17:38), came to us last year as a freshman and started to show strong improvement toward the end of that first year. He is an absolute practice beast and tears through workouts with the best of them. Those practice performances really started to translate over to meets around the time of our conference meet this year. Daniel is a fun kid that loves to talk (just the opposite of his twin brother, but that might be just because David never gets a chance to talk!). Daniel is one of our strongest finishers.
Briar Goodwin, 9 (5K PR 19:37), is in his fourth year of cross country at South Adams and took advantage of our challenge system to work his way into the post-season lineup. He was a reserve runner for us all season until breaking through the week of regional. As a reward for his efforts Briar will be toeing the line with the other six guys at the state finals.
Bailey McIntire, 9 (5K PR 16:03) is in his first year with us at South Adams after moving from Cowan. What a blessing to get a freshman of this caliber on your team. Bailey let it be known early that he was going to be a force for us. He also let it be known that we’re going to have to look at his floppy camouflage hat for a few years (we can deal with that…but during workouts? Geesh). Bailey has a great work ethic; great attitude and we’re looking forward to great things from him.
Our backups for the state meet…
Cole Litwiller, 11 (5K PR 18:40); Kadin Gerber, 9 (5K PR 19:21); David Steffen, 10 (5K PR 19:39)
These three guys are what we’re going to build our future on, and based on their attitudes and work ethic we’re going to continue to have the kind of program we desire. They all work hard both during season and out of season. We’ve seen a lot of young guys in our system with PRs at or near where these guys currently are exceed at strong levels as they stick with it. We expect no less from these three.
Goals and Accomplishments
Overall record – 170-26 (7-0 in ACAC dual meets)
New Haven Semi-State – 6th
Marion Regional – 2nd
Bellmont Sectional – 1st
ACAC Championship – 1st
South Adams Invitational – 1st
Culver Invitational Elite Division – 17th
West Noble Invitational – 4th
IWU Wildcat Classic – 2nd
Spencerville Invitational – 1st
Bi-County Conditioner – 1st
Greenville Invitational – 1st
Bellmont Invitational – 1st
Celina Rotary Invitational – 1st
We had goals of winning conference (check), winning 6 of 7 Saturday meets (after finishing second at IWU we discarded that one and jumped into elite division at Culver). We also had goal of winning sectional (check), winning regional (thought we won, then found out second on sixth man later), and advancing to state (check).
South Adams’ first season of cross country was in 1966, but the school dropped the sport in 1981 because of a perceived lack of interest. There was no cross country for boys or girls for ten years. The program was resurrected in 1992.
Our first semi-state appearance came in 1994 when Tim Shoaf qualified as an individual. We have had 13 individual boys qualify for semi-state, and our first individual state qualifier was Evan Liechty in 2011 (third at semi-state).
We’ve had four boys teams qualify for semi-state (2010 -16th, 2011 – 11th, 2012 -12th and 2013 – 6th).
This is just the third athletic team in South Adams history to qualify for a state finals (1972 and 1982 baseball teams).
We are a member of the Allen County Athletic Conference (joined in 1989-90). Prior to that we were part of the Northeast Indiana Athletic Conference. We have had a great deal of success in the ACAC, winning six conference titles since 2002. We swept the top seven all-conference positions in 2012 (the first time that’s ever happened at the ACAC meet).
Brief Coach’s Bio
I began coaching at South Adams in 2000 (14 yrs). I had no previous experience with the sport (did run on my own), but had coached baseball for 10 years. My first exposure to cross country came when I was reporting for our local newspaper (where I still work) and attended the Blackford Invitational. There was a runner from DeKalb named Kaleb Van Ort that won the meet that day and just watching him finish and then collapse to the ground made every hair on my body stand on end. I wanted to be a part of that. I was hired one week before the start of the 2000 season.
South Adams offers every IHSAA sanctioned sport during the fall (the only one we don’t offer is gymnastics) so we really spread our 369 students thin. I had teams of 15 runners the first few years, but then soccer started and our numbers began to drop. We started to achieve success around my third year and the numbers picked up a bit after that. We average between 9-14 runners year to year.
I have always coached the high school and middle school boys teams, and took on both girls teams (HS/MS) in 2008. During my tenure as girls coach, we’ve had three semi-state teams (2008, 2009, 2010).
I’ve been blessed to have wonderful coaching assistants in recent years, and our staff this year is incredible. For a small school, having coaches like Danette Von Gunten, Dianna Fox and Nathan Rupp is a luxury. They are all runners, totally invested in our runners, and sacrifice a great deal of time for the good of the program.
South Knox Coach Matt Toothman’s comments:
Our record is now 109-6, regular season was 77-1
We were County Champs, Blue Chip Conference Champs and Sectional Champs,
Best finish of a Regional Runner up,
Andrew Staggs—(senior) Been our leader and #1 runner since his sophomore year. He has been running since his early middle school years. He has been top 5 all four years in H.S. Andrew has never missed a practice in XC or T&F which shows his dedication for the sport and his team. It was his goal this year to make the state finals. PR of 15:39 at Barr Reeve Invite
Alex Weber—- (sophomore) Been our #2 all year and provides us with another low stick at big meets. He has been running since his early middle school years. He has been in our top 5 since his freshman year. He missed qualifying for individual state status by 1 place if team hadn’t made it. He has come on strong as of late and has another great race left in him! PR of 16:28 at Brown County SS
Jaden Page—(junior) Been our #3 all year. He has provided us with solid consistency and leadership at the 3 spot. He has been running since his early middle school years. He has been running varsity since his sophomore year. He has challenged the #2 spot a few times this season and is very capable of a sub 17 minute effort. PR of 17:04 at Blue Chip Conference
Alton Hoops—- (freshman) Been our #4 all year. He has pushed the pace to be with Jaden in most meets and been running like a veteran this season. He has a great runners build and is finding out what he can do with his body. He always shows up when needed!! PR of 17:21 at BC SS
Mason Gay—-(junior) Been our #5 for most of the season. He has been running since his early middle school years. He has been in our varsity lineup since his sophomore year. Provides us with good scoring and solid times out of our final spot and that’s pretty good for the SMALLEST school to be in the state finals. PR of 17:50 at Pike Central Invite
Caleb Martin—- (junior) Been our #6 for most of the season and has been #5 a few times. He has been running since his early middle school years. He has been in our varsity lineup since his sophomore year. He runs well with Mason and that is great to see out of our #5 and #6. PR of 17:43 at Barr Reeve Invite
Matt Hermes— (junior) Been our #7 for most of the season. He has been running since his early middle school years. This is the first year for Matt to be in the top 7. He showed up big at BC SS by being in the top 5 for the first time this year. PR of 17:50 at BC SS
Cole Kirchoff—(sophomore) Been our #6-#8 throughout the year due to injuries. Stepped up and filled in at Regional and SS as our #6 man to tighten the pack. PR of 17:56 at Pike Central Regional
Our #1 goal from day 1 was to advance out of SS and make the state finals. We were 10th two years ago, 8th last year and this year we wanted to make the podium.
Win Invites: We won
The Boonville Invite (out of 15 teams),
Barr Reeve Invite (out of 12 teams),
Pike Central Invite (out of 18 teams)
Northeast Dubois Invite (out of 7 teams).
Our only invite loss was at our own SK Invite (out of 22 teams) only getting beat by the #11 ranked team in the state in Bloomington North.
Win County (we did that back to back to back for a 3-peat)
Win Blue Chip (we did that, back to back to back for a 3-peat)
Win Sectional (we did that, back to back to back for a 3-peat)
Win Regional (we have been 3rd the last two seasons and 2nd four years ago, we were within 3 pts of it this year for 2nd place)
100 wins (we are at 109 so far this year with State meet yet to come)
The Spartans have had a long history of excellence in cross country with many accomplishments including the following:
—25 consecutive years qualifying for the regional
—9 Sectional titles in the last 18 years
—winning record in 39 of the last 40 years
—11 semi state appearances since the semi state was introduced into the tournament format in 1986
—Dominant team in the Blue Chip Conference with 12 firsts, 12 seconds, 5 thirds and 1 fourth in the last 30 years.
—a 15 year unbeaten streak (1991-2005) in dual and triangular meets (109 wins-0 losses)
—Knox County Champions in 19 of the last 23 years.
Brief Coach’s Bio
H.S.: Ran XC for the Tell City Marksmen my Sophomore year through Senior year (1994-96 seasons). Graduated in 1997.
Played football my freshman year.
Sophomore: 5th at Sectional, Won Regional, Not for sure what I placed at SS
Junior: Won Big Eight Conference, Sectional, and Regional, Placed 7th (?) at SS and placed 46 at the State meet
Senior: Won Sectional and Regional, Didn’t make it out of SS
Ran Track for the Marksmen all four years winning the 2-mile in Sectional every year.
College: Ran XC my freshman first semester at Oakland City University and then ran XC and Track for 2 years at the University of Southern Indiana
Coaching: Coached freshman basketball from 2004-20012 at SK. Coached JV baseball from 2004-2006. This is my 5th year coaching Varsity XC at SK (no other previous coaching experience in XC), will be my 6th year coaching Varsity Track (no other previous coaching experience in track)
A brief tribute to small schools
Perry Central and Northfield
I feel that I would be remiss without closing with a short tribute to the two most successful small school cross country programs of the last quarter century.
Perry Central dominated the first decade of the 21st century qualifying for the state three times—2007, 2008 and 2009. Under the excellent guidance of Coach Jason Barnett, the Commodores have consistently produced outstanding teams for both girls and boys.
The Gold standard for small schools goes to Northfield High school. The Norsemen guided by hall of fame coach Dick Leming owned the last decade of the 20th century. They qualified for the state six times in the 1990’s. They recorded back to back 3rd place finishes in 1993 and 1994. In 1995 they were 8th and in 1996 they took 9th. In their final appearance in 1999 they were 18th. Coach Leming continued to have great success until his recent retirement. The program is now under the guidance of Chad Andrews who ran in the state meet four times while competing for Northfield, taking 2nd place in 1997.
RECAP OF OTHER SMALL SCHOOLS IN THE SEMI STATE
Besides South Adams and South Knox 4 other boys teams participated in the Semi State.
Borden had the highest finish of those schools placing 11th at Brown County. (top five average 17:19) Although the team did not qualify, sophomore Julien Magallanes of Borden is moving on individually for the Braves. He placed 15th in 15:57.
Winamac took 18th at New Prairie with a top five average of 17:46.
At New Haven Wapahani took 18th and Wes Del took 20th. They had top five averages of 18:16 and 18:27 respectively.
Jarit Perkins of Barr Reeve advanced as an individual taking 2nd in 15:37 at Brown County.
Nine girls teams participated in the semi state. Seven of those placed in the second 10.
Seeger 11th at New Prairie (20:33 top five average)
Dubois 12th at Brown County (21:06 average)
Northfield 14th at New Haven (21:08 average)
FW Canterbury 15th at New Haven (21:16 average)
Winamac 17th at New Prairie (21:28 average)
Clinton Central 18th at New Prairie (21:40 average)
Hebron 19th at New Prairie (21:41 average)
The other two teams, Oldenburg and Fremont, were the top two ranked teams in the small school polls and both ran extremely well in their semi states.
Oldenburg took 8th in the loaded Carmel semi state. The Oldenburg Twisters had a top five average of 19:41. The sixth and final qualifying spot at the three other semi states all had top five averages over 20:00. Consequently Oldenburg would have had an excellent chance of qualifying in another semi state. Sarah Billingsley will advance as an individual as she placed 4th in 18:16.
Most teams are disappointed when they are eliminated, but it is hard to imagine that anyone experienced greater heartbreak than the Fremont girls. They were eliminated on the sixth runner tie breaker rule at New Haven. Abby Hostetler did qualify by taking 3rd in 18:20.
Other small school individuals advancing were:
Jenna Helderman, Northfield, 6th at New Haven in 18:50
Michayla Wenzel, West Central, 13th at New Prairie in 19:15
Alli Workman, Bloomfield, 16th at Brown County in 19:23
Cia Greene, Henryville, 23rd at Brown County in 19:37
Angela Kendall, Orleans, 24th at Brown County in 19:41