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MARION–South Adams and Bellmont each placed a runner in the top five of the IHSAA boys cross country regional race Saturday on the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University and the Starfires advanced as a team as well to the semi-state competition in Fort Wayne this coming weekend.
Evan Liechty of South Adams and Evan Boucher of Bellmont finished third and fifth within four seconds of each other as the South Adams junior toured the basically flat and straight Wesleyan course in 16:16.00 while Boucher sped his way to a 16:20.12 finish.
The top five teams and top 15 individuals move to the Plex on Saturday for the semi-state and South Adams had a strong showing with a second place team finish, just one point out of second. Homestead easily won the meet with 51 points while Whitko nosed out Coach Clint Anderson's Starfires 77-78.
Eastbrook and Columbia City claimed fourth and fifth in the team race with 131 and 135 points to nose out Huntington North for the final team slots as the Vikings had 138. Norwell rolled up 172 points followed by Bellmont at 181, New Haven at 219, and Churubusco at 224.
South Adams also placed Brody Shane and Joel Hawbaker in the top 15 in the field with Shane polishing off a 16:37.28 run for 11th while Hawbaker earned 13th spot with a race that took 16:38.90 to complete. The Starfires held a nine-point lead after the top three runners from Whitko and South Adams had crossed the line but Whitko's fourth and fifth runners were 20th and 21st.
Simon Sprunger and Tim Lehman had strong races for South Adams to round out the SA scoring with Sprunger nailing a 17:26.81 time for 25th and Lehman was clocked at 17:34.02 for 29th. The two non-scoring runners for South Adams were Cody Sprunger, 34th in 17:44.68, and Sawyer Miller, 52nd in 18:19.46.
Boucher ran a magnificent race for the Braves in making a return to the semi-state for the fourth straight year. His finish Saturday was a personal career best effort by three seconds.
BHS coach Randy Hisner labeled Boucher's effort a "courageous and gutsy effort. He challenged the leaders throughout the race and hung on to finish four seconds out of third and 14 seconds from winning the regional."
Boucher will be the only BHS racer at the Plex next week where he will compete against approximately 170 other runners for a chance to run in the IHSAA State Finals in Terre Haute.
"We had a pretty good day Saturday. While we finished eighth out of 10 which doesn't sound that great given our success at that level over the years, being in a rebuilding year with only one senior in the varsity line-up I think it was a good showing," Hisner said.
Despite fierce winds, the Braves had several season or career bests on the day.
Adam Corral ran a great race for the Braves taking 30th in 17:40 which was a 15-second career best for him. "Adam is a terrific competitor and he gave his all Saturday," noted Hisner, adding freshman Adam Garner tied his season best with an 18:03 which was good for 47th. "He had an excellent rookie season and we look for big things from him as he gains experience," Hisner praised.
Underclassmen Sean Andrews and Josh Porter were the fourth and fifth BHS runners. Andrews came through in a big way with a huge 43-second season best and Hisner asserted that the freshman "redeemed himself after his showing in the sectional. He broke 19:00 for the first time in taking 53rd in 18:21 and it was a very impressive effort showing his potential for contributing next year as one of our top runners."
Porter, a sophomore, was the fifth man with a 54th place time of 18:25. "It wasn't quite the race he was hoping for but he had an excellent season with several fine races and some great training. He's a hard workers and we'll count heavily on his example and leadership next year."
Also running for the Braves were Michael Braun, 56th in 18:32, and Aaron Macklin, 65th in 19:38.
Josh Neideck, a sophomore from Eastbrook, won the race in 16:06 while Max Silcox of Homestead was in second place five seconds behind Neideck and five seconds ahead of SA's Liechty, and Lewis Cordell of Huntington took fourth.