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MARION — When it comes to high school cross country, Whitko boys’ cross country came into Tuesday in a new position.
One season removed from reaching semistate as a team for the first time in school history, the Wildcats yet again knocked on the door of history.
Before the Marion sectional Tuesday, Whitko had never before seen a sectional team championship.
Using two sub 16 minute times, the Wildcats changed that claiming its first sectional title in school history by three points over No. 25 Huntington North 45-48.
“I told them kids, we don’t come in to see who has the most experience, we come to see who’s the toughest,” Whitko head coach Mike McKeighen said. “They may not have been here in this role before but we know what we can do.”
The Wildcats had to take on defending champion Huntington North who by all measures was a favorite along side Whitko. Both teams will move on to the Marion regional Saturday.
“This is the first sectional victory in school history which makes it huge,” Whitko coach Mike McKeighen said. They knew they were going to be better coming in and they’ve been focused all year to see how far they can go this time.”
The top 15 is a crucial number in the sectional round with those first 15 runners advancing to the regional as individuals.
Whitko got runners at both ends of the pack.
Out of the gate, senior Brian Menzie ran along side teammate Trapper Mize before breaking away in the final mile.
Menzie topped a personal best time by nearly half a minute crossing the line with a winning time of 15:48. Mize gave Whitko two sub 16-minute times in second at 15:54.
“They’re fun to watch aren’t they?” McKeighen noted. “They feed off each other and believe in each other.”
Maybe just as important as the first two Wildcats across the finishline, were the next three.
With Huntington bring in four runners before the next Wildcat, a race for the final three spots in the top 15 came down to three Whitko runners and a Viking.
In the final strides, the Wildcats took all three spots with Brody Wilson placing 13th ahead of Jude Stieglitz in 14th and Dallas Asher in 15th.
“We were pointing out who they had to get and they were keeping their eyes up,” McKeighen commented. “They made it close but fought for every point they could get tonight.”
The ’Cat eyes are on a state finals appearance and McKeighen notes this is a good start.
“The whole team has the attitude of giving everything they have for one another,” McKeighen said. “We know its tight for state. They’re are so many teams that can make it. We’re just going to do the best we can to give ourselves the best chance to get one of those spots.”
The Columbia City Eagles squad also moved on as one of five teams moving on.
Brenden Zoltek’s eight-place finish overall helped the Eagles place fifth over Marion 121-133.
“We were shooting for third-place so we’re a little disappointed with fifth but we’re always happy to be moving on,” Columbia City head coach Bob Fahl said.
Behind Zoltek, Adam Bernhard placed 17th. A season best by both Trevor Maggart and David Potter had the two Eagles finishing 31st and 32nd. Evan Harney came in right behind them in 33rd.
Churubusco’s boys finished their season eighth overall.
Davon Geiger led the Eagles in 19th with teammate Connor Hogesten two spots back in 21st.
Dylan Geiger was 44th for ’Busco and Dalton Heinkel placed 46th.