By Jeff Robison
Hendricks County Flyer
CARMEL — Nine Hendricks County runners, paced by the second place individual finish for Avon junior Malayka Abramson and the Avon girls team’s third place finish, advanced through the IHSAA Cross Country semistate at the Carmel Northview Church course on Saturday.
Abramson and teammate Taylor Nicholson, who took seventh, were the day’s top county finishers. Kelsie Mothersead (29th), Kate Bernicke (45th), Lauren Heeger (50th), Alissa Lustgarten (82nd), and Fiona Kelly (106th) made up the rest of Avon’s scoring.
The highlight race of the day turned out to be the girls race, as Carmel runner Kelcy Welch outran Abramson and claimed a new course record by almost 20 seconds (17:35.7).
Abramson, who also eclipsed the old mark and held the course record, was not able to keep pace with Welch to the end. Abramson finished in 17:44.9.
“I knew I had my work cut out for me,” Abramson said. “We usually run pretty close times, but (Welch) just got the better of me today. It is now just about refocusing for next week.”
The girl’s race featured a lead pack of ten runners with the top three teams — Carmel, Hamilton Southeastern, and Avon—having at least two runners in the group.
Nicholson was in that group, trying keep the Orioles high in the team competition.
“My coach told me to stay in the front the last couple of races, and try to stay in the front,” Nicholson said. “That helped me to stay focused. I am really excited to go to state as a freshman.”
Individually, Plainfield’s Samantha Woodford (16th) also qualified for state in the girl’s race.
As expected, Woodford led her Plainfield team’s effort, but Quakers coach Wes Woodson liked the effort of his team, which came in 14th.
“The team ran strong today as a group, but this is probably the strongest semistate in the Midwest,” Woodson said. “I felt our group really maximized their talent this year to get to (semistate).”
Sydney Simpson, Marina Pfeil, Mady Hayden, and Saige Woodford, Anne Kritenstein and Hannah Snider rounded out the Plainfield team.
Brownsburg’s team of Julia Popenfoose, Cassidy Brown, Allison Hering, Alex Smock, Brianna Channon, Rachel Graham, and Mackenzie Vondersaar finished 16th.
Tri-West senior Carrie Chappell finished 120th.
The boy’s race included full teams for Avon and Brownsburg, along with individuals for Plainfield and Danville. However, Avon’s Presley Martin was the lone runner proving fast enough to advance to the state meet as he finished eighth among runners not advancing with teams.
“This was a strong field today,” Martin said. “I tried to come out and put our team in the best position for the team to advance (to state). This was a big meet, and an important one for me.”
While Martin advanced, the Avon and Brownsburg teams came up a little short. Avon finished in seventh, one position shy of advancement, while Brownsburg combined for a ninth place outcome.
Avon coach Zach Toothman found it hard to be just one team spot shy of advancing.
“We were ready all week, and thought we moved up well in the second half of the race,” Toothman said. “We got a little too far behind the teams we needed to be up with and came up a little bit short.”
Taylor Kleyn, Will Anderson, Jon Cramer, Alec Scheerer, Leo Merchan, and Keegan Ridgway also represented Avon.
Brownsburg coach Bret Neylon was more upbeat about the Bulldogs’ finish.
“I was very happy with our boys,” Neylon said. “When you look at where we were at the beginning of the season to where we finished today, I could not be happier with them. To make it to semistate and have a strong race is really a feather in their caps.”
Hariharan Sathyamurthy (39th) led Brownsburg, which also ran Mark Bond, Seth Webster, Elijah Wagner, Marcus Fierek, Brandon Britton, and John Thomas.
Plainfield senior Joel Thompson was 16th among runners without team advancement, just shy of making state.
Danville freshman Daniel Gerber (67th) and senior Sam Bratton (113th) also ran the boys’ race.