Allie Dalton had finished well ahead of the field Saturday morning at the Franklin girls cross-country sectional, but her championship effort was not yet over.
Dalton, whose time of 18 minutes, 24.64 seconds was 46 seconds ahead of the next closest competitor, staked out a position next to the chute through which those finishing the race walked to have their placement recorded.
She proceeded to congratulate every runner from the second-place finisher to No. 68, the final contestant to cross the line.
Dalton, who transferred to Greenwood Christian Academy for her junior school year after having finished fourth at the state meet for Greenwood Community High School last season, said her gesture was a case of answering a higher calling.
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“God has called me as a Christian to support my family, and in this case my family is everybody running out here,” Dalton said. “This sport is just so hard. I have a lot of respect for all of these girls.”
Perhaps the greatest difficulty facing Dalton was that she was running alone from an early stage of the race.
She agreed that this can be difficult.
“There definitely are challenges (to running alone),” she said. “You have to battle with yourself. It’s a different thought process with nobody there to push you. You have to push yourself to get a good time.”
Dalton said her time Saturday was a confidence booster, saying she had experienced some setbacks in training as of late.
Center Grove’s girls team won the team competition by a comfortable margin.
Trojans coach Wes Dodson watched all seven of his runners in the top 19, with Valerie Clark and Taylor Hickey leading the way, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.
Dodson said the group accomplished its purpose for the day but noted the focus for the Trojans is making it to the state meet.
“Overall, our goal was seven in the top 20, and we accomplished that,” Dodson said.
Other top area finishers in the girls race included Franklin’s Zosia Piotrowski (ninth), Whiteland’s Kaley Brewer (10th) and Greenwood’s Krista Robinson (12th). Whiteland (third) and Franklin (fourth) will join the Trojans in the team competition at Saturday’s South Dearborn Regional.
Dalton and Robinson advance as individuals.
In the boys race, Center Grove freshman JT Hodges took over the lead midway through the race and never looked back, winning individual honors with a personal-best time of 16:13.24.
Hodges has battled a foot injury for most of the season and only resumed full training in the past couple of weeks.
While he likes to set an early pace over the 5,000-meter distance, Hodges realized his finish made the difference in winning a sectional title.
“This was the hardest finish of any race I’d run,” the soft-spoken Hodges said in summarizing his performance.
Hodges’ finish helped the Trojans qualify for the regional meet as a team, taking third behind Franklin and Greenwood.
Grizzly Cubs coach Adam Schwartz said the race went about as planned, adding that second-place finisher Josh Campbell had an especially strong race for the team.
“Some guys ran a little better than I hoped, and some ran a bit slower, so it evened out,” Schwartz said.
“We told Josh today to go and compete and race, and he did really well. It was fun to watch him.”
Jared Williams of Whiteland finished third in the individual race, and Greenwood senior Hunter Smith took fourth.
While Whiteland did not qualify for the regional as a team, its six top finishers will all advance by virtue of being in the top 10 among runners whose teams did not qualify.
Dawsons lead Braves
Indian Creek’s Tucker Dawson and Isabel Dawson advanced to this week’s Brown County Regional as individuals after leading their teams at Saturday’s Brown County Sectional.
Tucker Dawson finished 15th in the boys race in 16 minutes, 58.99 seconds for 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) to lead the Braves to an eighth-place team finish with 184 points.
Brandon Briggs took 33rd in 17:53.25, while Nate Decker was 43rd (18:18.71), Jace Russell 48th (18:34.97) and Sean Bowman 53rd (19:05.53).
Isabel Dawson, one of only three Indian Creek girls runners to compete, finished 19th in 21:40.29. Marissa Smith took 49th in 24:22.97, and Hayden Roway was 63rd in 26:53.18.
Edinburgh’s girls finished 10th as a team. Blythe Carman led the Lancers with a 57th-place finish in 26:06.09, and Katelyn Bivens was 61st in 26:37.42. Edinburgh had two boys runners, led by Addison Lollar’s 71st-place finish.
Columbus North won the boys and girls team titles.
The top five teams and top 10 individuals on non-advancing teams qualified for the regional meet, which will begin at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.