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Written By Ink Free News / Sports on Saturday, October 19, 2019

Warsaw’s cross country teams show off their Culver Academies Regional championship trophies after cruising to a dual title Saturday. (Photos by James Costello)

CULVER — Admittedly, Warsaw sophomore Wini Barnett doesn’t usually have the strongest kick in the race. So her strategy is to get out front — way out front — and then hold off the rest of the field in the homestretch.

At last week’s Culver Academies Sectional, Barnett didn’t get quite enough separation from her challengers and so had to settle for third place behind CGA’s Alexis Allen and Rochester’s Madilyn Calloway. But her plan worked perfectly at the regional race back at the Culver Academies, and this time she claimed the blue ribbon with a 19:05 stop ahead of both Allen and Calloway.

Wini Barnett rounds a corner Saturday.

“I don’t have the greatest kick at the end, so in the middle we try to get a bigger gap in between so that when others do kick at the end, then they can’t gain enough on me. That’s really what we focused on this week,” said Barnett.

“We have coaches at all the different k markers telling her the same thing — ‘Hey, they’re going to be coming. And you just need to stay on the gas and keep going, build throughout the race.’ We told her to build from the first k on, and I thought she did a really good job of executing that,” explained Warsaw girls cross country coach Jason Fleming on his front-running sophomore.

While Barnett earned some redemption, Jacob Kissling claimed the individual boys title for a second straight week, and both Warsaw teams dominated on their way to dual regional championships in Culver Saturday — the eighth straight for the Tigers and seventh in a row for the Lady Tigers.

The weather was warmer, the course less soggy, and the times mostly reflected those improved conditions.

Barnett’s own 19:05 mark was more than a half-minute better than her time the previous week at Sectional 7.

“The weather was a lot different. Last week was a little worse. I think we weren’t as used to the cold last week, and now we’ve kind of grown used to it, so I think that was a big part of it,” she said.

Barnett led six Warsaw girls runners earning all-regional honors inside the overall top 20 at the race.

Ava Knight was next across the line for the Lady Tigers in sixth place with a 20:01 time, while Erika Bugg, Amanda Lusinde, Adree Beckham — back with the team after resting during the sectional round of the tourney — and Mikayla Mimnaugh finished in order in 15th through 18th place with respective times of 20:38, 20:42, 20:43 and 20:45. And those strong individual performances added up to 49 points, well ahead of CGA’s runner-up tally of 75. Rochester placed third with a score of 93, Manchester was fourth with 134 points, and Maconaquah earned the fifth and final team appointment to next week’s New Prairie Semi-state with 143 points.

“It was really good having Adree back in there with the leadership. She’s not running at her full capacity yet, but she’s getting close. I thought she put on a really good run and pulled along a lot of young runners with her. Amanda Lusinde was there, and Mikayla Mimnaugh was there. We got a great run out of Erika Bugg this week. It was just a real solid group coming in 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th altogether. Now we just move that pack up a little bit.

Jacob Kissling leads the field in Culver.

Kissling improved on his time by nearly 10 seconds en route to his second individual title in as many weeks, clocking 16:34.9 Saturday, and his separation from the rest of the field nearly doubled at more than 11 seconds faster than runner-up Brayden Curnutt of Western.

“I’m just glad that I was able to make it this far. I’m glad for the great team that I have, that we were able to go this far together,” he said.

“He’s just a smart runner and he doesn’t get carried away at the start, but he knows where he needs to be to not let it get away from him. He finds that spot,” said Warsaw boys Jim Mills of the junior regional champ.

The Tigers placed all of their top five inside the field’s top 10 at sectional and nearly replicated that impressive feat with four of the first 10 into the chute at the regional run.

Sam Lechlitner and Tanner Stiver finished third and fourth, respectively, with times of 16:51.6 and 16:52.9, while Austin Fleming finished eighth in 17:08. Lukas Nier settled back into 15th with a time of 17:21.8 to complete the Tigers’ team score, and Harrison Phipps landed in 18th in a time of 17:33.6 to earn the team its sixth all-regional finish. The Tigers were somehow even more dominant than their Lady Tiger counterparts, collecting just 31 points in the race — more than 50 points better than CMA’s second-place score of 83, which nipped third-place Plymouth by a single point. Western finished fourth with a 120 tally, and Rochester put up a 148 score to earn the right to advance to New Prairie.

“We were going to try to get five in (the top 10 again), and our five guy just kind of didn’t show up. I hate to say it, but Luke is usually just right behind or right ahead of Austin, and he was a ways back, so he’s got to close that gap for us. But I’m not going to complain,” said Mills with a chuckle.

Matthew Howes races for Tippecanoe Valley.

While Warsaw’s was the only area team to advance to semi-state, Tippecanoe Valley’s Matthew Howes punched his individual ticket to New Prairie a second straight season with a 17th-place time of 17:33.2, finishing fourth among individuals from non-advancing teams. Triton’s Russell Reichard was also among the 10 individuals qualifying for a semi-state berth, clocking 18 minutes flat for 28th place in the field.

Manchester’s Carter Bedke secured the first of those individual qualifications with a seventh-place, 17:07.2 stop. The Lady Squires were paced by Josie Briner in 11th place (20:23), followed by Kambree Cashdollar in 19th (20:47) and Halle Briner in 20th (20:52), while Kiera Hatfield finished 50th (22:51), and Maddy Evans was 55th (23:07).

Tippecanoe Valley’s Valeria Jimenz closed out her high school career in 60th (23:29), while teammate Ella Myers closed out a strong freshman season in 81st (25:09). Triton’s Makenna May finished her sophomore campaign in 79th (24:49). Brandon Kitch placed 51st in the boys race for Triton (18:47), while Valley’s Mitchell Smith was 52nd (18:50), and Chase Miller finished 65th (19:22) for the Vikings.

Up next for runners is the New Pairie Semi-state next Saturday at 11:30 a.m. ET. This time, the top six teams advance to the state championship in Terre Haute the following weekend, as well as the top 10 individuals from non-advancing squads. Warsaw’s girls are looking for a second-straight state berth, while the boys are hoping to make it back for the first time since 2013.

Valley’s Ella Myers leads Triton’s Makenna May midway through the race.

“Except for falling back a little at five — and he’s just a sophomore — the team is getting closer. You saw coming in one, three, four — that was a pretty impressive finish for those guys. They had more in the tank, so they get out good next week, and the five guy gets up where he belongs, we’re going to be right in it,” said Mills.

“We’ve got a lot of rest this week; we’re on fall break. I know it’s hard on the kids not to be able to spend that time — we’ve got to stay on that cycle of practice and rest and nutrition and things like that. So hopefully this week we get in some decent rest and come out gunning next week,” Fleming said. “We’re going to load up, and it’s going to be the young guns next week.”


Wawasee’s boys closed out their team season in seventh place at the Elkhart Sectional at Ox Bow Park Saturday, but two Warriors punched individual tickets to the New Haven Semi-state race next week.

Karlson Hand surged to a 15th-place finish at the meet with a 16:59 stop, while Michael Hammer finished 21st in 17:02 to grab the ninth of the 10 semi-state berths reserved for individuals from non-advancing teams. Jace Alexander placed 66th in 18:21, Camden Powell was 70th in 18:31, and Trevor Smith and Thomas Conley finished 85th and 86th, respectively, with times of 19:27 and 19:28 for the Warriors, who scored 171 at the meet. Penn won the title with 68 points, South Bend Adams was second two points behind, Elkhart Memorial and Goshen tied for third as both finished with 86 points, and Northridge finished fifth with a score of 95.

NorthWood’s Brady Hunsberger and Sam Schlatter landed in 27th and 28th, respectively, with times of 17:13 and 17:15, while Jordan Burden placed 35th in 17:38, and Austin Escamilla was 44th in 17:48.

NorthWood’s Kaitlin Burden advanced in the girls’ race at Ox Bow, meanwhile, finishing 23rd in a time of 20:57. Wawasee’s Emma Ebright finished 32nd in 21:14, and Cammy Kryder was 40th in 21:37, while NorthWood’s Emilie Allen placed 54th in 22:08, and teammate Megan Miller was 60th in 22:34.

Northridge won the girls team title with an impressive score of 39, followed by Penn with 58 points, Elkhart Memorial with 88, then Mishawaka with a 131 score, and South Bend Adams earned the last team berth to New Haven with a fifth-place tally of 143.

The New Haven Semi-state is set for 1 p.m. ET at Purdue Fort Wayne next Saturday. The top 10 individuals from non-advancing teams move on to the state finals at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute the following Saturday, as do the top six teams in the field.

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