FORT WAYNE—Three Adams County seniors finished their high school cross country careers Saturday in the IHSAA semi-state meet held at the Plex course but the real news locally was the brilliant run of South Adams junior Evan Liechty who soared to a third place individual finish out of 151 runners overall.
Liechty ran what coach Clint Anderson called "a smart race" enroute to his 15:59.22 finish. Only Joey Zielinski of South Bend St. Joseph (15:40.32) and Miguel Lozano of Mishawaka (15:50.60) ended up ahead of the Starfire harrier.
The race was the second straight third place finish for Liechty in as many weeks as he was in that position in the IHSAA regional at Indiana Wesleyan, but his time at the Marion course was 16:16.00 or 16 seconds slower than his semi-state time.
Bellmont's Evan Boucher rounded out his cross country career with his fourth straight appearance in the semi-state and finished 53rd with a clocking of 16:58.79. South Adams' Tim Lehman was 93rd in 17:31 in his last high school race.
In the girls semi-state encounter, South Adams' Hannah Moore suffered a major disappointment on Saturday after getting a seventh place ribbon at regional. Moore twisted an ankle in practice on Tuesday and then came down with a cold on top of that.
Moore took 89th in the semi-state with a 21:05.80 time compared to a 19:41.75 regional time. She was five spots behind Bellmont's Cadence Faurote who was 84th in 21:00.13.
Anderson said Liechty's time was especially remarkable considering the fact he was about 50th after the opening quarter mile (a 5K race is equal to about 3.1 miles).
"He just kept a steady, strong pace and slowly moved up. When he came out of the wood on the Plex course into the final stretch (about 300 meters remaining) he was able to hold off a couple of runners who were challenging him," Anderson noted.
Bellmont boys coach Randy Hisner lauded the performance of Boucher.
"Evan closed out his illustrious high school cross country career. He had an off-day, but it does not diminish what he accomplished in his four years at Bellmont. He was our number one runner in all but a handful of races from the time he first donned a Bellmont uniform and he made all-NHC four years in a row.
"He was also in the top five in the sectional all four years and a semi-state qualifier each year. He holds the freshman and sophomore school records and his 16:20 in this year's regional puts him in the number six position on the all-time individual performance list. No one in the history of the program has recorded anywhere near the number of sub-17 minute races that Evan has. He is truly one of the all-time bests in Bellmont history," noted Hisner.
South Adams, via its third place team finish at Marion in the regional, advanced seven runners to the Plex. In addition to Liechty and Lehman, Joel Hawbaker was 41st in 16:48.34, Brody Shane was 62nd in 17:05.19, Simon Sprunger was 105th in 17:44.86, Sawyer Miller was 125th in 18:07.44, and Cody Sprunger ended up 129th with a time of 18:22.62.
Despite heavy rains last week, coaches said the course condition at the Plex was better than expected.
"They got out and worked on it and did a really nice job getting it ready," Anderson praised. In addition to Liechty, Lehman and Miller both actually had better semi-state times than regional postings. Lehman was 2.28 seconds faster while Miller chopped 12.02 ticks off his time a week ago.
The Squaws' Faurote was heavily praised by Bellmont coach Carl Risch for her efforts in her first-ever semi-state run as a sophomore.
"We're very proud of her. There is absolutely no disappointment whatsoever in her race as she performed well. She ran a good race and time and we expect she'll be able to build on this great experience for next year's team," Risch noted.
He added that while Faurote's time at the semi-state was off the regional mark she had, "the Marion course traditionally runs a lot faster with fewer turns. This race was still Cady's fourth personal best time and if you take away the two times she's run at Marion, it would have been her second best time ever, only four seconds behind that time."
Risch also analyzed the final results and noted that while Faurote finished 32nd in the NHC meet several weeks ago, only 19 runners from NHC teams beat her at semi-state showing her improvement. Her race Saturday at the Plex was a 14 second personal best (for that course). She came in at 21:14 in the New Haven Invitational and 21:28 at the NHC meet (both at the Plex).
The boys semi-state event was won by Mishawaka with 67 points while other teams moving on to the state finals this coming Saturday from this site include South Bend St. Joseph's 83, Carroll 121, Warsaw 141, and Snider 170. South Adams finished 11th in the team competition out of 20 teams with 268 points.
The girls race was decided by a single point as Carroll edged Concordia 89-90. Concordia led by 11 points prior to the two teams' fifth runner coming in and that Carroll runner was 29th compared to a 41st place finish for the Cadet harrier giving the win to Carroll. Other advancing teams are Warsaw 106, Penn 141, and Northridge 158. Homestead and Norwell also competed as teams with Homestead seventh at 247 and Norwell was 13th with 320.