Members of Jonathan Alder’s cross-country program are pictured from left, front row, Avery Hecht, Olivia Riddlebaugh, Ashlyn McDaniel, Maddie Davis, Jessie DeVore, Maddy Killian, Mary Sara Albert, Jenna Keiffer and Annie Hirshberg; second row, Colyn McDaniel, Koen Murdock, Caleb Freyhof, Brady Corbitt, Michael Gray, Gavin Frick, Zach Hicks and Sergey Dutt; back row, head coach Justin Creps, Luke Malone, Reggan Gray, Lauryn Saxour, Rachel Snyder, Morgan Hicks, Maggie Malone, Grant Welsch and assistant coach Alex Irwin. Not pictured, Avery Pierce.
Jonathan Alder’s boys and girls cross-country teams will take to the course at National Trail Raceway in Hebron on Saturday.
Both Pioneer squads will compete in the final meets of the season at the Division II state races.
The meets were originally scheduled to be held last Saturday.
However, flooding at National Trail prevented the meets from being run on their original day.
The boys squad qualified for the state and placed 12th a year ago as a first-time entrant.
This year, the Lady Pioneers are making their first-ever appearance at the state as a team.
“The expectation from the outset was for the girls to qualify for states,” said JA coach Justin Creps. “Frankly, we were disappointed not to make it happen last year.
“There was never a point in the season when the state meet wasn’t our expectation,” he said. “That being said, finally seeing our name officially among the qualifiers gave us a real sense of relief.”
Creps said the boys shouldn’t have too many cases of the nerves going into the meet.
“I definitely think having been there before will be a real advantage,” he said. “We know the drill now and should be able to concentrate on our races a little more, being less distracted by the atmosphere and festivities.
“It will be more ‘business as usual’ and it should help us keep our nerves under control.”
Creps said there is no secret to Alder’s distance running success.
“Our strength is developed through hard work,” he said. “We’re a physically and mentally tough team that is not afraid of making the race hurt to achieve our results.
“We’re also a very close team that draws a lot of motivation from competing for each other. That thought definitely helps us remember why we run during those hard moments in races or training.”
Creps said as with any state event, the competition will be fierce.
“On the boys side, I would probably call Shelby the favorite in D-II, while Lexington will lead the way in the girls meet,” he said.
The coach, however, has definite goals in mind for both teams.
“I’d love to see both rank in the top 10,” he said. “Our boys want to improve on last year’s finish.
“There are a handful of other programs that we definitely measure ourselves against and we’ll be trying to do well on that front. That information, though, is something I keep pretty close to the vest.”
Creps also said he would like to see several Pioneers reach the awards podium ad individuals.
“Maddie Davis is probably the one who has the best chance of earning an individual award,” he said. “We’re definitely hoping to see her on the podium on Saturday.
“Gavin Frick, Luke Malone and Morgan Hicks all could potentially achieve that goal as well with strong races.”
Creps said he has no real concerns for either team heading into Saturday’s competition.
“I just want them to go out and do their best,” he said. “I’ll be proud of them no matter what.
“I want our athletes to try their best and execute our race plan,” said Creps. “If we do that, the rankings will take care of themselves.
“I have found over the years that trying to over-analyze where you should rank or finish tends to lead to more anxiety and doesn’t really benefit the team very much,” he said. “There will be 150-plus really fast runners out there, so we’re going to try and beat as many as we can.”
The boys will take to the course at 11:45 a.m., while the Lady Pioneers will compete at 2:15 p.m.
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