EVANSVILLE — If you see Washington cross country coach Dave Harman, offer him something spicy to eat. It’s been a few days.
KC Heller ran second, Logan Sipes third and Austin Gray seventh as Washington won its first boys Big 8 cross county championship in 20 years Saturday.
The trio paced the Hatchets to 54 points, beating second-place Princeton by 12 to secure Washington’s first boys conference championship since the 1992-93 season.
Heller and Sipes ran a controlled race for Washington, as Boonville’s Jesse Stanley won the event with a time of 16:50 to 17:12 for Heller and 17:13 for Sipes.
Gray placed seventh in 17:33.
Heller had hopes of running with Stanley after placing in last year’s meet, but Harman said those plans were changed just before the race.
Heller had hurt a knee in a post-race accident at Pride’s Creek last Saturday after a ninth-place finish.
While the knee had improved to the point where Heller was ready to run, Harman and Heller agreed the pace should be a bit slower with a team championship at stake.
“Before the race started, KC was going to try to go with the Boonville kid (Stanley),” Harman said. “He came to me about 10 minutes before the race and said his knee was really hurting. With about a mile left, I could tell he was in a lot of pain. He gutted it out. He was exhausted at the end.”
While the top three opened the door to the title, it was Washington’s fourth and fifth runners who closed the championship.
Cross country team scores are totaled by the first five runners, and Timber Shelton ran 18:49 for 18th. Dalton Short came home in 24th in a time of 19:03.
“The entire team did a great job and stepped up,” Harman said. “This is one of the biggest races of the year and they came through. They did the job.”
Harman noted he believed the race would come down to his team, Princeton and Jasper. Those results became somewhat cloudy on Thursday after Hatchet Drew Brothers was told he could not run.
Brothers has been recovering from a summer knee surgery, and his running has been limited. Harman was hoping for a healthy Brothers, but once Thursday’s news was known, that’s when the stomach irritability began.
“I can take a big, deep breath and relax now,” Harman said. “It’s been a stressful week, finding out the news about Drew. I’ve put the pressure on the boys the last three days, and they responded.”
While Brothers did not run, he was named all-conference by coaches. The top 10 in each varsity race receive all-conference honors, unless a runner is voted in due to illness or injury.
Washington’s Madison Decker also received the same honor on the girls side, although she missed running due to a hip injury.
“Both Drew and Madison were named all-conference by the coaches from the other schools despite not being able to run,” Harman said. “
Brandy White did run her way on to the team with a fourth-place finish in 20:29 after missing the meet at Pike. White is running her first year after competing in track.
“I told her that I thought she would run about there,” Harman said. “She had been hurt, but I thought she get in the top four, and that’s what she did. She was in pain when she finished, but the leg is getting better. She wasn’t sure at the end of track season that she could run three miles. It’s been a matter of confidence.”
Jasper’s Hannah Welch won the girls race in 19:32. Vincennes Lincoln took team honors.
The victory was quite satisfying for Harman who has preaching the gospel to his team this fall.
“It’s been a long 20 years for the school,” Harman said. “Once they (the boys) started running, I think they saw the potential. It just wasn’t me saying it, it was seeing themselves getting better. They told me all week — they knew I was nervous — that they were going to do it. I’m ecstatic. I’m very happy for the boys and school.”
The Hatchets run today at the Northeast Dubois Invitational, but that will be used as a conditioning outing before Washington looks for one of three sectional positions at South Knox Oct. 9 in the sectional.
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