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Written By StaceyPageOnline / Sports on Sunday, October 8, 2017

Warsaw’s boys cross country team poses for a team pic after the Tigers won their seventh straight sectional championship at the Culver Academies Saturday. (Photos by James Costello)

CULVER — The Tigers didn’t have a dominant number one at this year’s Culver Military Academy Sectional, but they didn’t need one either.

Warsaw’s Lucas Howett leads Rochester’s Thomas Rohr around a turn Saturday.

Warsaw’s boys cross country team placed four runners in the top 10 and squeezed all of its top six into the top 15 in the field, and the Tigers clinched a seventh straight sectional championship with a score of 34 at a gusty CMA tournament Saturday morning. Host Culver Academies (73) placed second, Plymouth (83) challenged for third, defending champion Mitchell Rans paced the field a second straight year to help Caston (104) to a fourth-place finish, and Manchester (117) earned the final team regional berth in Culver. Tippecanoe Valley (183) placed seventh but saw a trio of runners advance individually, while Triton (236) was ninth, but three Trojans did the same Saturday.

Down last year’s sectional runner-up and eventual All-State standout Zeb Hernandez, the Tigers still easily defended their title Saturday.

Senior Lucas Howett (17:00) finished third, Francisco Ramirez (17:16) was fifth, senior Taylor Mills (17:23) was sixth, and senior Justin Fleming (17:40) placed eighth as Warsaw’s top four all broke 18 minutes at CMA. Samuel Lechlitner (18:02) was close behind in 12th place to complete his team’s score, while fellow frosh Jacob Kissling (15th, 18:16) added another Tiger to the top 15.

“I’m just proud of this team for being without our All-State runner, and they just keep performing every week,” said Warsaw head coach Jim Mills. “We’ve just got to get it done a couple weeks, and I hope they do.”

While Warsaw’s times were easily good enough to secure a seventh-straight title, they weren’t necessarily at the pace Mills might’ve liked to have seen. Blame an extraordinarily windy day, as well as a low-key atmosphere — at least in comparison to the Culver Invitational and the Northern Lakes Conference Championships where the Tigers have raced the past two weekends.

Warsaw’s true goals lie two weeks from now at the New Prairie Semistate anyway. The Tigers will be back at the Culver Academies next Saturday to vie for a top five team spot once more and earn the right to advance to the big race in New Carlisle Oct. 21. One down, one to go.

“You go from the Culver Invite with 80-some teams and all the atmosphere and then the conference meet with two conferences, a pretty big meet, and then you come here and there’s a small number of teams,” Mills explained. “We practiced hard; we had a really hard day on Thursday. Our guys kind of ran heavy-legged, and with the conditions it didn’t show in the times, but we got the job done. That’s all we’re worried about.”

Manchester’s Ethan Davis leads Tippecanoe Valley’s Matthew Howes into the chute in Culver.

Manchester was just on the right side of the bubble to advance, but the Squires were 27 points better than sixth-place Rochester Saturday.

Senior Lance Bennett (18:02) finished 13th, freshman Carter Bedke (18:23) placed 16th, and senior Ben Reichenbach (19:03) and junior Ethan Davis (19:09) were 26th and 27th for Manchester. Sophomore Reece Adameic (19:45) finished 35th to give the Squires another race next week.

Valley got three out at Culver, meanwhile. Senior Jordan Owens (18:09) placed 14th as the first individual regional qualifier from a non-advancing team. Freshman Matthew Howes (19:09) and sophomore Colt Demske (20:27) finished 28th and 45th to follow Owens to regional, while sophomore Mitch Smith (20:27) crossed the line just .03 of a second behind North Miami’s Kasey Deardorff, who earned the final individual ticket out to next weekend’s race. Junior Justin Peconga (20:42) was 49th for the Vikings.

Freshman Brandon Kitch (19:46), sophomore Russell Reichard (20:10) and junior Josiah Page (20:24) all lived to race another day for Triton in 37th, 41st and 44th place, respectively. Freshman Trenton Barnhart (21:28) placed 54th for the Trojans, and Brock Watkins (22:39) closed out his junior season in 62nd place.

The 72nd annual IHSAA Boys Cross Country Tournament resumes at the Culver Academies next Saturday, and teams are scheduled to toe the line at 10:30 a.m.

“The atmosphere will be about the same — not many teams. It’s good to run here when there’s a lot of teams, and you’ve got to readjust your attitude,” Mills said. “I have no idea what teams are coming in here, but as long as our guys run the way they’ve been running I just don’t see any real problem. But you never know.”

Triton’s Russell Reichard races the final stretch.

Jordan Owens sets the pace for the Vikings.

Posted In: Boy's Sports > Cross Country