BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Pioneer junior Leighton Dodt has become a cross-country runner who cannot do anything to surprise us.
We knew he was a special talent when he won the 2022 individual regional title at Culver Academy. We knew if he continued to develop that he would have a chance to make the state finals.
And then the IHSAA changed the state tournament format. They got rid of the semistate round, and they placed Pioneer in the toughest of the five regionals. That was not good news for Dodt or any small school runner.
It still could not stop him from making state.
Dodt ran a 16:19 at the Brownsburg regional and made state as the 15th out of 15 individual qualifiers, fighting his way past much of the city of Indianapolis seemingly to earn his recognition. He then followed that up with a 16:17 at the state finals.
Here is the rest of our All-RTC boys cross-country team. We appreciate all the thoughts and insights from area coaches, but ultimately, this list is ours and ours alone, and we take full responsibility for it.
We put extra emphasis on conference meets as well as the state tournament series in making our determinations.
Leighton Dodt (Pioneer) – The Winamac Town Park course at which the conference meet is held is famously fast, so it was impressive but maybe not shocking that Dodt ran a 16:05 at that race. A 17:02 against very tough competition at the Logansport sectional did not lead one to believe that he was going to make state. And then came his 16:19. He’s only a junior, and he’ll try to make it back next year, but this needs to be recognized as a historically great performance.
Carson Meyer (Pioneer) – Meyer is Pioneer’s No. 2 runner, but he would be a No. 1 at most other schools. He was the Hoosier North runner-up behind Dodt at 16:43, and like Dodt, his time went up to 17:39 for the sectional before going back down to 16:59 at the regional. Dodt might have a little more raw foot speed, but Meyer runs at a more consistent pace. How fast was the Brownsburg regional? 16:59 was only good for 75th place.
Wes Steininger (Rochester) – Steininger did not make the all-Three Rivers Conference team this year, though that had more to do with Lewis Cass replacing Tippecanoe Valley than any circumstance that was within Steininger’s control. His sectional time was 15 seconds faster than his conference time, both of which were run on the same Manchester course. He also ran a 17:32 in the slop at Fort Wayne in the regional.
Edison Byrum (Caston) – Byrum followed a similar pattern as the aforementioned Pioneer runners: He ran a 17:18 at the conference meet, slowed down to 18:00 at the sectional before running perhaps the race of his life at Brownsburg, a 17:15 that netted him 92nd place.
Logan Fredel (Winamac) – Fredel was a sophomore surprise, finishing third at conference and fifth at sectional in 17:42 at a seemingly slow Rensselaer course. His season ended at the regional when he ran a 17:54 in a downpour at New Prairie, but the future at Winamac is bright with Fredel, Nathan Pierzchalski and Dylan Guilford all expected back next year.
Jackson Baker (Pioneer) – Baker, a senior, made the all-conference team with a 17:32 before running an 18:55 at the Logansport sectional. He then got that time down to 18:14 at the regional. He was the consistent No. 3 Panther strider behind Dodt and Meyer.
Grant Bailey (Rochester) – Bailey’s sophomore season ended like his freshman season – with an injury. But he gutted out an 18:11 while less than 100 percent at the sectional, and he did it in somewhat swampy conditions. Bailey is a naturally gifted runner who will likely assume more of a leadership role next fall.
Dane Bowditch (Pioneer) – Bowditch is the only freshman to make our team. He was an all-conference runner in 17:45, ran an 18:26 at the sectional and then got that time down to 17:50 at the regional. He is one of three Pioneer all-Hoosier North runners expected back in 2024.
Jack Nance (Pioneer)
Reece Johnson (Rochester)
Christopher Marquez (Tippecanoe Valley)
Nathan Pierzchalski (Winamac)
Dylan Guilford (Winamac)
Lane Shank (Rochester)
Kane Finke (Caston)
Isaac Whetstone (Tippecanoe Valley)