By Gregg A. Sims
Barr-Reeve seniors Connor Sorrells and Damon Pruett may not know how they really feel until the race is already a mile old.
That’s what Barr-Reeve cross country coach JayR Perkins believes as he and his runners prepare for one final shot at the annual state meet held at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course near Terre Haute today.
“Cross country is one of those things where you may not be feeling all that great until you lace your spikes and get out there ready to go with adrenaline,” Perkins said. “Sometimes you can feel really good warming up and run very bad. Usually by the end of the first mile I can tell by the expression on their face. We have ways of communicating, and I should know by then how they are going. Sometimes you never know when you’re in a championship race how you’ll feel 10 minutes in.”
Sorrells runs for a shot at the championship. He has won each event from sectional through semistate in the past few weeks, and is considered one of the meet’s favorites heading in. Pruett hopes for a top 15 finish that would place him on the award podium.
Both runners are ending a high school career with a run that has been nearly six years in the making.
“I going to say more than four years,” Perkins said. “At least five. I saw potential in these two when they were in the seventh grade. They may not have, but the potential and talent were there. If you would have said then that what is going to happen now, I probably would have said not because of the commitment needed.”
The commitment grew with each passing year. Sorrells proved to be the front runner with Pruett a close second. With Sorrells winning varsity races, Pruett often found himself second in the meet. Those second could have been wins under different circumstances, but both have noted without each other, they both would have fallen short of their goals.
“We looking at the Reeder boy (Troy Reeder) of Hamilton Southeastern, Zachary Panning of Fort Wayne Concordia, of course Bertoli (Jackson of Terre Haute South) and Alec Kostelnik of Morgan Township,” Perkins said of other contenders. “There will probably be a handful of kids to put in the top 10 that could challenge early. I think, if everything goes well, there are three kids who will likely challenge for a state championship berth. That’s probably Connor, Troy and Panning.”
All three are semistate champions. Sorrells won at Brown County, Reeder at Carmel and Panning at New Haven. Sorrells defeated Bertoli at Brown County.
And while there are others who certainly could challenge, Perkins noted there are really few secrets left to be discovered.
“These kids all know each other,” Perkins said. “If a kid who is maybe the third best runner on the team bolts out and is 10 seconds ahead of the pack at the mile, you’ll let him go because you know that you catch him back up before the race ends. Everybody knows who the players are. If someone tries to do something they can’t do, the chances are they will fall on their face.”
Perkins is looking for Pruett to have a chance at a top 15.
“We’ve looked back in the past few years to see what it will take for Damon to finish in the top 15,” Perkins said. “He’s going to have to run under 16 flat to get into that top 15. His first goal is really the top 25, but he wants to get into the top 15.”
The two runners will have different strategies to go with different goals.
“Connor will probably be a bit more aggressive and Damon a bit more conservative,” Perkins said. “They both want to run a smart race. Sixth wasn’t bad at the semistate, but he would like to have finished better.”
Perkins believes his runners will have good days. “I would be really surprised if they don’t,” he said. “Now will they hit the jackpot — we think their best races are still our there.”