It’s been two whole decades of regional dominance for the Carroll girls cross country team.
On Saturday, the Chargers extended their streak to 20 years, winning the West Noble Cross Country Regional by 21 points to best runner-up Concordia 49-70.
“It’s awesome,” Carroll Head Coach Phil Yoder said of the team’s 20 straight titles — a streak that began in 2001. “I’ve only been here for less than half of them, but I remember the girls that started the streak — Carolyn Magley, Mandy Knuckles — they were freshmen when I was a senior in high school. It’s incredible, and I know the girls take a lot of pride in the streak. It’s not our main priority, but it’s still something that we want to continue to do every year and keep this going as long as we can.”
Even without their top runner this season — senior Zoe Duffus, who was sidelined ahead of Saturday’s race after winning the Northrop sectional the previous week — the Chargers were a dominant force, placing four of their scorers in the top nine.
Senior Ashlyn Minton paced the team, placing second overall in 18:49, behind Homestead’s Addison Knoblauch (18:39). Shelby Christman, another senior, finished third on the afternoon, and junior Madalyn Ruch placed fifth. Freshmen Taylor Hansen (ninth) and Marybeth Hall (35th) rounded out the team’s scoring.
“We always tell the girls we never know what‘s going to happen in a race, so you always have to be ready to run hard for the team, and they did that,” Yoder said. “We knew Zoe wasn’t going to run today — that was part of the plan — but girls like Madalyn Ruch, she was fifth today. To me this was the best race she’s ever had in a Carroll uniform, and it was awesome. Girls like her step up when they know they need to be counted on. I think that’s part of the Carroll tradition — it’s the whole team, it’s not just a couple of runners.”
Concordia’s Rhaya Kaschinske, Abigail Mays and Madelyn Borchelt took 11th through 13th to lead the Cadets to a runner-up finish. Homestead, Leo and Bishop Dwenger claimed the remainder of the team semi-state qualifications.
In the boys race, Carroll placed second with 79 points behind first-place Concordia’s 49. Junior Preston Sloffer, coming off his first high school win at the Northrop sectional, led the Chargers with a fourth-place finish in 16:07. Also scoring for Carroll were Robert Lohman (sixth), Nicholas Kiplinger (15th), Blake Nietert (31st) and Ian Gongwer (34th).
Angola junior Izaiah Steury was the individual champion, crossing the finish line in 15:20 for a new regional and course record.
Homestead placed third, Bishop Dwenger placed fourth and Westview placed fifth to advance to semi-state.
This year’s New Haven Cross Country Semi-State will take place at Huntington University on Saturday due to COVID-19 restrictions in place at Purdue Fort Wayne.
The Carroll girls will enter that meet with a No. 1 overall state rank. They will be joined by ranked opponents in No. 4 Hamilton Southeastern, No. 6 Penn, No. 17 Concordia, No. 20 Homestead and No. 24 Fishers.
“We’ve got to figure out who’s going to run in a couple different spots, but the core runners are obviously going to be there, and they’ve run the course, they like the course, they’ve worked out on the course,” Yoder said. “We’re confident we can get in, get the job done and hopefully move on to state.”