2017 Cross Country
Cash wins HCAC title
October 28, 2017
NORTH MANCHESTER, Ind. - The Bluffton University harriers went in to the HCAC cross country championships with many goals, both individually as well as collectively as teams. Many were realized, a few even greatly exceeded during two hotly contested championship races.
Without question the race of the day went to sophomore Alexis Cash (Gaines, MI/Lake Fenton). In her year and a half of collegiate running in cross country, indoor and outdoor track, Cash had never won a race. She had shown flashes of potential brilliance, but had never finished the effort. Today that all changed. Cash took charge from the firing of the gun, quickly gapping the field and by the first mile was 40 meters clear of everyone save for Manchester’s Hannah Wappes, the prohibitive pre-meet favorite. During the second mile Wappes, sitting on Cash’s shoulder, looked poised to strike but the course entered a wooded section of rolling terrain and Cash found another gear, emerging from the woods clearly in command. By the end of mile three, Cash had a 30-meter lead on Wappes with the remainder of the top runners in tatters behind her. Cash pressed her advantage to the finish line, coming across in a commanding 15-second victory over Wappes to become the Beaver’s first women’s conference cross country champion in school history, breaking the women’s 6,000 meter school record as well, with a sub-23:00 performance (22:57)!
The Beavers were far from done, however, as superb women’s races were to follow Cash’s victory. With less than 800 meters remaining, junior Jennie Matteson (Guysville/Alexander) was in 5th place but dug deeply to cross the line 4th in the field of 85 with a PR time of her own. Cash and Matteson earned All-Heartland Conference honors for finishing among the top 12 competitors. Freshman Kimmie Hetrick (Fremont/Ross), running an amazing first college season, came home 15th and was quickly followed by senior Alissa Hauke (Hillsboro) in 20th for each of them to earn Honorable Mention. Sophomore Arie Cox (Ontario) completed the Beavers scoring varsity five with a solid 27th place finish. The women had set as a goal winning the team title but that was not to be. In a back-and-forth team battle for the top 3 spots, the scores ended with Rose Hulman 56, Manchester 60 and Bluffton 63.
The men’s squad went into the competitive part of the season down their #1 runner, Kris Lyons (Vickery/Margaretta), who was diagnosed with a season-ending injury just two weeks after arriving on campus. While Lyons remained a leader and enthusiastic part of the team throughout the season, his running was sorely missed. Regardless, the men rallied and with spirt and huge commitment rose to a respectable finish.
Sophomore Dakota Frost (Edgerton/Hicksville) ran home to 7th place in the field of 93, a quantum leap from his finish at last year’s HCAC meet (32nd), earning All-Heartland Conference honors for his efforts. Junior Jonah Eckert (Terre Haute, Ind./West Vigo) raced to 19th, an Honorable Mention position. Sophomore Connor Gulick (St. Louisville, Ohio/Utica) crossed the line a mere two places behind Eckert, narrowly missing the last coveted honors position. Juniors Wyatt Baer (Marshallville, Ohio/Smithville) and Michael Lehman (West Liberty/West Liberty-Salem) rounded out the men’s scoring but at mile 2 junior Jacob Hill (Dayton/Wayne), the usual 4th or 5th runner for the Beavers, lost a shoe. Running the remainder of the race in his sock set him back precious seconds and perhaps places which could have made a difference in the team scoring. When the results were posted, team scores were again tight with 4th, 5th and 6th reading Manchester 113, Anderson 114, Bluffton 118.
“With a squad of only seven runners, the women’s tightly contested, hard-fought 3rd place finish is a huge performance,” said distance coach Jim Brandt. “It hurts to be so close and not win but the women ran superb races and with total guts and commitment. We are so proud of them. Alexis’ race has been an amazing work in progress and while Karen (head coach) and I felt that level of racing was there, to have her execute so exquisitely was beyond thrilling. The men went for it as well, aiming to be among the top three teams at the end of the day, but we knew running without Kris it was a tall ask. There was no wiggle room for either team and Jacob’s shoe may have been the difference in the men taking 4th which would have equaled last year’s team finish with a larger and more seasoned squad. Like the women, they put it all out on the course. The most you can ask of your athletes is to give the best they have on any given day. Unequivocally, every Bluffton runner today gave everything they had.”
While the HCAC Championship is a cornerstone event for the season, an even bigger occasion is still on the calendar. The NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championship, contested in two weeks at Ohio Wesleyan University, determines which teams and individuals move on to the Division III NCAA national championship. Additionally, the top 35 athletes in each field of roughly 300 runners will earn All-Region honors. Much therefore is yet to be raced for and perhaps the women’s squad can mix up the Rose, Manchester, Bluffton scoring at that event. The meet will take place in Powell, Ohio at Liberty Park. The men’s 8,000 meter race will start at 11 a.m. followed by the women’s 6,000 meter race at 12:15 p.m.