DUBOIS — The Tri- County Invitational usually takes place at Southridge, but things changed this year when Northeast Dubois hosted the invite on Tuesday.
“We don’t have a course right now due to the construction going on at the high school,” Raiders coach Chase Bland said. “They’re putting in soccer fields and they’re putting a multi-sport building in as well...and ended up destroying our cross country course from previous years. So, we had to go to the drawing board and make a new one, and it just wasn’t ready yet for this year.”
Jasper swept in both the individual races and the team scores, with runners from the local teams of Jasper, Southridge and Northeast Dubois all enduring a challenging course.
“I’ve never ran here before, but it’s a lot tougher than the Southridge course,” said Jasper senior Ally Wigand, who won the girls race with a time of 20:45. “It was a lot more hills.”
“This is definitely the hardest course on the schedule for sure, for us,” Bland said. “It’s a very brutal course — it’s not just the course, but the uneven terrain. It’s definitely a true cross country course, which makes it interesting, but it’s definitely not like most of the modern-day cross country courses. So, it was difficult for the girls and boys.”
The boys race followed the junior varsity race, with Wildcat seniors Harrison Hulsman and Jaryn Weinel finishing in the top two and both grabbing a time of 17:25, but Hulsman received first place in crossing the finish line first.
“I feel like these past few years just weightlifting really helped me build my strength up over the past few years — really allowed me to get more solid finishes,” Hulsman said of his victory.
“(It was) just a lot of pushing each other — staying mentally in it and not letting one get too far away from the other,” Weinel said on how the two stayed with each other throughout the race.
Jasper’s boys have seen a different dynamic to this point of the season. Abe Eckman served as the team’s undisputed top runner in 2020 and 2021 as part of a decorated career that’s seen him go on to run at Indiana University. But both Hulsman and Weinel have had their moments as the team’s top boys runner in 2022.
“It’s good to have just a one-two up there,” Wildcats coach Kevin Schipp said. “They ran together tonight, that was sort of the plan — they did a great job of it. I think they kind of decided who was going to win (laugh) between the two of them, but they did a good job of pushing each other and really eyeing towards Saturday at the Eagle Classic at Brown County.”
Northeast Dubois came in second place on the boys team side, with freshman Chase Wildman getting seventh at 19:23, while fellow freshman Adam Dooley rounded out the top 10 at 20:03.
“Chase and Adam — they put a solid base in over the summer,” Jeeps coach Ben Gessner said. “They’re just strong runners, (senior Peyton Betz) following close there (12th place, 20:09) and (junior) Trey (Wiseman, 13th, 20:19) real close behind Peyton. It’s just awesome to see that group get closer and closer, time-wise.”
The Raider boys did not have enough to field a team at the beginning of the year, but ran one on Tuesday, getting sixth place.
“We finally got a team last Thursday at North Harrison,” Bland said. “And today, we added (sophomore) Jamie Bowers, and he ran for us last year and he came back out again. Yeah, it’s been good — I mean, obviously, for the boys, it’s just focusing on getting in better shape and just cutting down time. They’re very pack-oriented. If we could just move them up some positions, then they’ll be much more competitive.”
The girls race featured Wigand side-by-side with Jeeps senior Sara Livingston in the early going, but Wigand found her groove during the race to create some separation and get the victory.
“During the first half, I was just working on staying controlled, and then once the second half hit, try to go for it...speed up,” she said.
“We told Ally to kind of hold back for the first part of the race — just stay calm instead of going out in the lead right from the beginning,” Schipp said. “Especially just with our training and with the hills today and the heat, she just did a great job.”
Livingston got second place at 21:16 on the girls side, while fellow senior Paige Wildman rounded out the top three on a night that saw the Jeeps honor their senior runners with the two of them, plus Betz and Ty Verkamp on the boys side. Emma Betz, who doesn’t run, but helps the team out, also got the senior night treatment.
“They are an outstanding group of seniors,” Gessner said. “They really form team unity — pull them underclassmen in into their wing and take care of them, so great team assets right there.”
Southridge came in second place on the girls side with three top 10 runners — freshman Maddie Graber getting fifth (23:06), junior Kelsey Wibbeler ninth (24:27) and fellow junior Clair Leathers 10th (24:42).
Bland didn’t think his girls could overtake Jasper, but the goal of getting second.
“The girls ran really, really good today,” he said. “They were kind of down on themselves after the race, but all in all, we really wanted to run as a team today and not focus on individual results.”
All three of Jasper, Southridge and Northeast Dubois are scheduled to compete in Saturday’s Eagle Classic, hosted by Brown County, with this being the same course for semi-state and a possible preview for runners from these three programs.
“We’re going to go up there, get the full experience of what real cross country is all about — tons of people, tons of runners, hopefully enjoy it, shake out the nerves of a big race and just see what happens,” Gessner said.
“We love going to Brown County,” Bland said. “The boys and girls love it — it’s an awesome facility, they do a great job hosting the meet — this meet and semi-state. They’re super-excited for this week. We’re not really 100%, especially on the girls side, we’ve got a lot of just lingering stuff. So, we’re going to probably take it pretty easy the rest of the week, honestly, just to prepare for Brown County.
“We don’t really want any mental issues from the course with having semi-state there. So, we’re just going to kind of take it as it goes and just kind of recover and recoup and get ready for Saturday and have some fast times and good races.”
“It’s going to be a great race,” Schipp said. “Many, many of the top 20 teams are going to be in the Elite race on Saturday that both our boys and girls are going to run in. So, it’s going to give them a mega semi-state experience, which is just good to have a race like that under your belt against some of the best in the state. It shows you where you’re at and also gives you that level of competition and getting used to being in a high intensity race. I’m excited for that.”