Sophomore recognizes team potential for Grizzly Cubs

Franklin cross-country runner Andrew Bixler felt obligated to demonstrate the best version of himself this season.

Diagnosed a year ago with an iron deficiency that limited his progress, the junior took the necessary steps to correct the problem by taking iron pills and adjusting his diet.

The results were good enough to make Bixler the Daily Journal’s Runner of the Year in boys cross country.

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Bixler, who moved into the Grizzly Cubs’ No. 1 spot while senior Josh Campbell was not sufficiently healing from a stress fracture to his fibula, advanced to the state finals for the first time.

He placed 103rd of 208 runners in a time of 16 minutes, 36.7 seconds.

“My sophomore season was really rough. I had a bad season and didn’t start feeling good again until track season,” said Bixler, who made it as far as the Shelbyville Semistate last year and ran a time of 16:52.5.

“I felt like I had a lot to make up this season and show that I can do better.”

Bixler spent over two months doing just that. His time at this season’s semistate on the same Shelbyville course was a personal best of 15:56.9 — an improvement of nearly an entire minute.

Some of Bixler’s regular-season highlights were placing first at the Johnson County and Mid-State Conference meets and coming in ninth at the Flash Rock Invitational in Carmel. The latter is the race he’s proudest of this season.

“Andrew had a fantastic year,” Grizzly Cubs coach Adam Schwartz said. “He showed tremendous growth in leadership and also pushing on his daily runs. We knew last year was a fluke and that he would bounce back if we could get his issues resolved.

“He stepped up when it mattered most. He proved that he is back to where we knew he could be all along.”

All-County team

The 2017 All-Johnson County team for boys cross-country:

Andrew Bixler, Franklin junior: Won the Johnson County and Mid-State Conference meets. … Fourth at sectional and regional and 20th at semistate. … The area’s lone state qualifier.

Will Jefferson, Whiteland freshman: Secured a fifth-place finish at the Shelbyville Regional, a 12-spot improvement from the previous week’s showing at sectional. … Finished 38th at semistate.

Isaiah Lindsay, Franklin junior: Took seventh at sectional and eighth at regional for a very deep Grizzly Cubs squad. … Finished 66th at the Shelbyville Semistate.

Wyatt McCullough, Franklin sophomore: Had a sixth-place showing at sectional and was a ninth-place finisher at regional. … The 59th runner to cross the finish line at semistate.

Archit Malik, Center Grove sophomore: Ninth at sectional and 12th at regional. … Was 41st individually at semistate for the Trojans, who placed third at sectional and second at regional.

Ethan Pine, Greenwood senior: Placed sixth at the Shelbyville Regional. … Was 12th and 36th at sectional and semistate, respectively, missing a state berth by one spot.

Ethan Stanley, Center Grove junior: Came in fifth at Franklin Sectional, and went on to finish 10th at regional and 45th at semistate.

Honorable mention

Brandon Albin, Greenwood; Nate Decker, Indian Creek; Mika Long, Whiteland; Steven Mills, Center Grove; Kegan Owen, Greenwood Christian; Will Tucker, Franklin

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.