Franklin Community High School cross-country coach Adam Schwartz suspected that resting one of his top runners during last week’s sectional meet would give the Grizzly Cubs a leg up in regionals.
That hunch paid off in a big way Saturday, as a healthy Franklin squad claimed the boys championship at the Greensburg Regional. It was the team’s fourth regional title, and first since 2007.
Four Franklin runners finished in the top 20, paced by senior Jake Johnson, who ran a strong race and took third with a time of 15:47.97. Johnson was seventh at the sectional. Camden MacLennan took 10th place; junior Blaine Conners finished 14th; and senior Austin Havener finished 19th.
Franklin finished third behind Shelbyville and Center Grove at the sectional. Schwartz said giving Conners, who suffers from hip bursitis, a week to heal might have cost the Cubs in sectionals, with the goal of leading to better results later.
“I don’t think it’s a surprise,” Schwartz said of the team title. “Maybe we would have placed better (in the sectional) with Blaine in the lineup, but we wanted to rest him up for (the regional) and hopefully get him ready for semistate, as well.”
Schwartz said the Cubs made no tactical changes because of the cold, wet conditions.
“I told them it’s a fast course, but that doesn’t mean our times are going to be fast,” Schwartz said. “You just have to go out and make it happen.”
The front of the boys race was a repeat from the Franklin Sectional.
Greenwood’s David Dalton battled Southport’s Clayton Bowie throughout the race, with Bowie taking a win for the second time in five days. His time of 15:36.95 was just over three seconds faster than Dalton.
Dalton, who finished third in last year’s regional meet, said other than a small tactical error, he was pleased with his run.
“I think I went a little early, maybe 300 or 400 meters early,” the senior said. “Besides that, it was a good run.”
He added that it was helpful to run against a familiar opponent.
“I can plan when I kick and surge around when he kicks and surges,” Dalton said.
Franklin won the boys team title with 59 points. Shelbyville was second with 69, and Center Grove was fourth with 107. Greenwood also advanced to semistate, finishing fifth with 119 points.
On the girls side, it was a two-runner race from the start.
Defending regional champion Sarah Billingsley of Oldenburg Academy jumped out early with only Greenwood freshman Allie Dalton able to keep her in sight. Billingsley never let up and repeated as champion in 18:07.80. Dalton finished just under six seconds later, in 18:13.51. The third-place runner finished over a minute after Dalton.
Despite the conditions, Dalton’s time was a new personal-best. She said Billingsley’s pace both surprised and helped her.
“I planned on trailing behind her and kicking at the end to pass her,” said Dalton, who is David Dalton’s younger sister. “But she definitely made it harder to stay with her.
“She really helped me race (hard).”
Dalton added that she was already thinking strategy for catching Billingsley at next week’s Carmel Semistate.
“I either have to go out faster or work on being able to pull her back in,” she said.
Oldenburg won the girls team competition with 42 points. Center Grove was second with 51 points, while Greenwood was third with 89. Franklin just missed advancing as a team, finishing sixth.
Both the boys and girls seimstate races will be conducted at Carmel’s Northview course.