While Paige Brunner and the Oak Hill Golden Eagles have dominated cross country in Grant County over the past 10 years, it would be remiss not to acknowledge their success against the Central Indiana Conference as a whole.
On Saturday morning at the IWU cross country, that trend continued as Oak Hill crossed off another major goal – winning a pair of CIC championships.
Led by seniors Kinzie Robey and Selah Jackson, the Lady Golden Eagles won their eighth straight conference championship with a score of 18, while the boys, led by the talented foursome of Sol O’Blenis, Jacob Winger, Landon Biegel, and Owen Jackson, scored 21 points, collecting their fifth straight championship in the process.
“The big key for today was taking care of business, knowing that it was a race that both of them were favored to win,” Brunner said. “It was get in here today, compete at a high level, collect as many top-10 and top-20 medals and honorable mention All-Conferences as we can, and get through it healthy. [Now,] we turn our attention towards sectional.”
Seven Lady Golden Eagles finished as First Team All-CIC and two others collected Honorable Mention All-CIC honors. Robey finished as the individual conference champion with one of the fastest times of her career, clocking in at 19:47.1.
From the minute the race began, Robey was locked in and focused, putting forth one of her best performances of the season. By the 1k mark, she held a comfortable lead over Jackson, her teammate, and never relinquished it. After running behind Margo Hornocker and Mollie Gamble throughout most of her high-school career, Robey has thrived as Oak Hill’s No. 1 runner and has played a major part in the team’s success.
“That’s one of her better times ever today,” Brunner said. “Not a PR, but pretty close. This was her opportunity to shine, and I’m glad that she stepped up.”
Jackson placed second (20:23.0), freshman Leah Highley and Sadie Wisner placed fourth (20:56.3) and fifth (21:01.1), and senior Kate Hornocker came in sixth (21:01.1).
In a sea of blue and golf, Eastbrook’s Olivia Howell proved once again that she belongs in the conversation of the top cross-country runners in the area. Howell, after placing fourth in the Grant Four, improved in the CIC race, taking home third place honors (20:41.1).
“She’s hard working and willing to do whatever we put in front of her,” Eastbrook Head Coach Lexi Echelberry said. “She goes out to each practice and just puts her mind to it and is able to do it. Then, on race day, she is just willing to listen to what we have to say. We’ve been implementing new strategies, and she has been really open to that and has raced well because of that.”
She, together with Claire Lakanen, who placed ninth (21:57.7) finished First Team All-CIC, while three other Panthers collected Honorable Mention All-CIC honors.
“They did a great job,” Echelberry said. “Olivia was out front, and then we had four back behind here that were able to pack up and run together, which was great for us.”
Lacey Mayfield finished in 18th place (22:48.7) to lead Madison-Grant, who came in fifth overall with a score of 122, while Faith Bolden finished with Mississinewa’s best time at 23:45.8.
“I thought they did really well,” Madison-Grant Head Coach TJ Herniak said of his girls. “Overall, we’ve just been trying to battle some late season bumps and bruises, but I thought they did well. They came out and competed, and we saw some good times. I was proud of them.”
For the boys, Saturday’s race served as a bit of redemption for Oak Hill after a tough performance the previous weekend in New Haven. With star freshman Owen Jackson unable to compete, the team never found their groove, placing 11th, their worst finish of the season.
But in the CIC, it was business as usual for Oak Hill, who finished with six First Team All-CIC runners and two Honorable Mention All-CIC competitors.
“Our mindset last week was horrible,” Brunner said. “We deserved to get our butt kicked. But these guys came back today and battled. Sol and Jacob did the work on their own, Biegel was in no man’s land [and ran wel], and it was nice to get Owen back. Owen hasn’t ran in three weeks, so for him to come in and get fifth and feel pretty comfortable, we can turn him loose next week.”
O’Blenis’ tremendous junior campaign continued as he added an individual conference championship to his list of accolades, placing first in 16:29.3. Winger placed second (16:35.3), Biegel fourth (16:52.5), and Jackson fifth (17:17.1).
Mississinewa took home fourth place honors, collecting a score of 122. Jon Alsup finished in 15th place overall (18:04.6), while Sam Bolden came in 18th (18:13.4).
For Madison-Grant, Chad Harbert, Dylan Hofherr, and Kaden Howell recorded some of their best finishes of the year. Harbert broke 19 minutes for the first time this season in his 29th place finish (18:55.6), while Hoffher (19:01.6) and Howell (19:03.77) came close. As a team, the Argylls finished in fifth with 122 points.
Herniak is pleased with the progress that his boys team has made all season.
“They’ve just been improving each and every meet,” Herniak said. “Those guys have been outstanding. I don’t have to do much to motivate those guys…they’ve done an awesome job. Hopefully we can just build on it going into next week’s sectional.”
While Brunner is thrilled to add two more conference championships trophies to Oak Hill’s ever-expanding trophy case, the real test awaits them in the coming weeks.
“The focus is putting ourselves in a position to win a sectional, win a regional, and go to the semi-state with confidence high.”