On paper, a regional team title victory seemed a tall task for the Center Grove High School girls cross-country team.
Southport had topped the Trojans by 16 points in the sectional the previous week.
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“Our goal coming in was to see if we could win; it seemed unlikely after we got trounced,” Center Grove girls coach Wes Dodson said. “But I knew we had a chance. We had a great week of practice. I knew my girls were tough. They came out and fought (Saturday). I’m really proud of them.”
The Trojans (56 points) edged Southport (57) by one point at the regional at Blue River Memorial Park in Shelbyville.
It was a sweep for the Trojans, whose boys team won by a larger margin over second place Franklin Community. Center Grove won with 58 points, followed by Franklin with 86.
The top five boys and girls teams advance to semistate at Blue River this Saturday.
Southport’s Erin Sullivan (18:03) and Lexie Green (18:41) finished 1-2. Senior Valerie Clark placed third to lead the Trojans, finishing in 18:52.
“I really wanted to try for second, but I’m really happy with how I did and how the team did,” Clark said. “Everyone did really good on times. With Rachel (Chan) coming back from an injury, she’s been running really well. Everything happened that needed to happen for us to get the win. Everybody really wanted it after losing (at the sectional) because that isn’t something we expected to happen.”
Chan was 11th. The other Trojans all came in together from 18th to 22nd place.
Clark finished 48th at the state meet last year.
“I want the whole team to go; I don’t want to go by myself,” Clark said. “We’re looking to make a move (at semistate) and try to get there. Being my senior year, I know I probably won’t be running in college. I definitely want to look to play basketball in college. Knowing this is my last chance, I think I’ve worked harder this year and try to bring everyone with me all the time.”
Clark said running at the same course in the semistate will help.
“I’ll know exactly how I want to run it,” she said.
Also advancing as a team in the girls competition was Franklin in fifth place. Three Johnson County girls advanced to the semistate as individuals: Greenwood Christian senior Alexandra Dalton (seventh) and two Whiteland runners, senior Kaley Brewer (13th) and sophomore Kelsey Ross (27th).
In the boys race, Franklin junior Joshua Campbell took third in a personal-best 16 minutes flat, one second behind Southport’s Michael Crook. Oldenburg’s Curtis Eckstein won in 14:50.
“I ran a strong middle of the race,” said Campbell, who was fifth in the sectional. “I was able to run with the lead pack, other than the guy that got away from us. I wanted to get second but got beat just at the end, but I ran a pretty strong race. The team ran well. We were third (in sectional) and got beat by Southport. But we got (Southport) by four points so that was pretty big.”
Campbell is hoping for similar conditions in the semistate.
Center Grove sophomore J.T. Hodges would rather it be a bit colder. Hodges led the Trojans by placing fifth in 16:10 and senior teammate Adam Russell (16:19) was right behind in sixth.
“I feel I did good at the beginning, but when it got towards the end it got just a bit more competitive,” Hodges said. “As a team, we did pretty strong like last week (at sectional).”
Also advancing as a team in the boys competition was fourth-place finisher Greenwood. Ethan Pine paced the Woodmen with a ninth-place individual finish.