By JULIAN YERGER – On the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, while most were either shopping or recovering from their recent gluttony, the members of IHS cross country team traveled to Wappingers Falls NY to run in the Nike Northeast Championship, their last unofficial race of the season.
Although many students know of the WPIAL title held by boys cross country, the entire season was full of success for both teams, from the first meet to the last. Between the beginning of September and the middle of October, the boys and girls teams both attended five invitationals, each one preparing them for the WPIAL race at the end of October. Indiana’s biggest rivals for control of WPIAL attended these invitationals also, and the boys team finished ahead of many of them. Based on this, some outside observers picked Indiana as their favorite to win WPIAL, and both teams won their sections for the second year in a row.
In early September, the IHS Indians traveled to Schenley Park for the Red White and Blue Invitational, held on the fastest 5k course they would run on all season. Although all cross country courses are nearly the same length, some can be much flatter or straighter or have fewer hills. The course at Schenley park was mostly a gravel path laid out in a massive arc, gradually declining then climbing again. Most of the top runners ran personal records (PRs) that day, and the boys team finished 5th out of 17 teams in A and AA. For the first time, they beat Greensburg Salem, one of two major rivals in WPIAL.
At the Kiski Cavalier Invitational, many people ran PRs again, but the course was short, only 3.0 miles instead of the usual 3.1. The lead group of runners had accidentally taken a wrong turn, and instead of disqualifying them, the rest of the races followed the new route.
At the end of September, the Foundation Invitational was held, specifically using the course of the state meet. Thus, most teams that expect to go to states attend this invitational, and Indiana was no exception. Even with this strong competition, the Indiana boys finished second out of thirteen teams in AA, beating Greensburg Salem again and only losing to a team outside of WPIAL, Winchester Thurston.
Indiana County holds its own annual invitational on the IUP course near the rugby fields. All schools in the county participate, but Indiana hardly dominates, only winning for the past few years. The Marion Center girls team forced the Indiana girls down to second, but the boys won easily. Kendall Branan won the race overall with a time of 16:57.
Coming just days after the county meet, the Slippery Rock Invitational was held on the same course as WPIALs, providing a good opportunity to become familiar with the course. The Indiana boys finished 5th out of 50 teams, showing further promise for WPIALS.
Throughout the season, a series of tri and quad meets were also held with nearby schools, and the outcomes of the meets decided who would be the section champion. For the second year in a row, both the boys and girls teams won their sections.
At WPIALs, some were still nervous about the dark horse team, New Castle. Barely attending any meets, no one was quite sure how fast they were, but the Indians managed to beat them by a razor-thin margin.
After a triumphant send-off, the Indiana boys team traveled to states for a rematch against rivals New Castle and Greensburg Salem, who had made it to states also. It wouldn’t simply be a rematch of WPIALs though since the state course turns away from spectators and climbs several hills. Greensburg Salem finally recovered and pulled ahead of Indiana, but New Castle’s team was mostly freshmen, young and inexperienced, so at states, they lagged behind by over 100 points. After the race, Senior Evan Weaver said, “It was a great season, exciting. The state course is pretty difficult, there are a lot of hills on the second mile.”
Junior Isabelle McCabe was the only runner from the girls team to make the state meet, but ran well even on her own. “My first mile was so fast, probably too fast, but you can’t do anything else. I still stayed with the same people all race.” Her intuition was backed by evidence of her splits, recorded by electronic timing gear. The fast first mile was a 6:04, followed by a 6:35 and a 6:36.
A few weeks later, students who went States were called to the radio station for interviews. Junior Joey Bujdos said, “It’s awesome, we’ve been training since early June, the coaches have supported us the whole way.” States would certainly have been a high enough note to end the season on, but some had other plans.
Nike hosts a national tournament for cross country, with the northeast regional held in Wappinger Falls, NY. Although the Indians scored second to last in team results, they gained experience on a difficult course. It’s been five months since summer training began, but with winter track starting, it’s time for the defending WPIAL champs to prepare for next year.
[Photo By Lisa Kinter]
Photo Caption – “The boy’s cross country team celebrates its success at this year’s WPIAL’s