With their top runner in a walking boot and out of Saturday’s NE8 meet, one could not have blamed the Bellmont Braves for dropping down the conference pecking order and competing with Huntington North to stay out of the bottom of the standings.
Instead, coach Randy Hisner’s team dug down deep and edged out New Haven and East Noble for a strong fifth-place finish.
“For a rebuilding team without a senior in the varsity race and missing our usual #1,” noted Hisner, “we had an excellent day in the meet.”
The coach gave some context to Hayden Whittenbarger’s team-best finish, noting that it was 41 seconds better than his previous career best. It also netted Whittenbarger Honorable Mention All-Conference honors.
“His progress has been remarkable,” said Hisner. “Last year his best time was 20:40, but with great dedication and determination, he has cut over three minutes from that time.”
Hisner called the performance “gutsy and intelligent.”
The Columbia City Eagles, behind the one-two punch of Marcus Ridge (first in 16:08) and Gavin Good (second in 16:21), claimed the title, edging Leo 37-43. The Lions placed three in the top seven, led by Jaden Steidinger, who was third in 16:36.
Harry Gunsett and Maddux Miller finished next to each other, with Gunsett registering his first sub-18:00 race in his career. Miller’s time was also a career best.
“Both ran with excellent focus,” said coach Hisner.
Sophomore Landon Rich ran a season-best 18:49 to place 26th.
“It was great to see Landon bounce back from a couple of sub-par races to come through for us big time in the high-pressure conference meet.”
With Krull out with an injury, freshman Logan Whitacre moved up a spot and into a greater role, and he responded like a veteran to the challenge, posting a season-best 19:20 as the team’s fifth and final scorer in 42nd place.
Cayden Rauch, a sophomore, cut a whopping 29 seconds from his career best, breaking 20:00 for the first time with 19:48. Freshman Owen Adams also got into the 19s for the first time, going 19:56, a 16-second PR.
Senior Caleb Adams placed 14th in the JV race, clocking in at 20:32. Sophomore Cole Sipe finished 30th in 22:34.
“Overall, it was a very good day for the program. The guys came through with excellent performances to place higher as a team than I had a right to expect. I’m proud of how they overcame inexperience—four of our guys were competing in their first varsity conference race—and the hole in our lineup caused by Hudson Krull’s injury. It was an impressive clutch performance!”
1. Columbia City 37
2. Leo 43
3. DeKalb 103
4. Norwell 108
5. Bellmont 146
6. East Noble 149
7. New Haven 149
8. Huntington North 180
17. Elijah Jacob 17:43.20
19. Gage Reinhard 17:43.78
21. Gavin Threewits 17:51.95
22. Luke Johnson 17:53.95
29. Lukas Mashuda 18:18.19
43. Zathan Westfall 19:22.96
50. Parker McCartney 19:54.18
15. Hayden Whittenbarger 17:36.66
25. Harry Gunsett 17:59.92
26. Maddux Miller 18:11.45
38. Landon Rich 18:49.36
42. Logan Whitacre 19:20.94
49. Cayden Rauch 19:48.71
51. Owen Adams 19:56.62