BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Chesnee Miller was the greatest girls cross-country runner in Tippecanoe Valley school history before this season even started.
And then she got faster.
And it led to the greatest moment of sporting drama during the fall sports season: It came on a rainy Saturday in October when a public address announcer listed the 15 runners who had qualified for the state finals from the Fort Wayne regional.
Would Chesnee Miller’s time of 19:20 be good enough? The announcer read off 14 names. And then he read off Chesnee’s. She was going to the state finals.
Miller had already accomplished so much prior to the regional, including winning a race that was essentially a conference preview race for next year
Miller wound up running a 19:31 and finishing in 120th place at state.
And while no one was as consistently excellent as Miller, we need to give a shout-out to Winamac senior Maggie Smith, who also qualified for state and who did so while also playing for the Winamac girls golf team.
We would like to thank area coaches for their insights with us throughout the season. Ultimately, though, this list is ours and ours alone, and we take full responsibility for it.
We place extra emphasis on the meets later in the season, especially conference meets and meets in the state tournament series.
Chesnee Miller (Tippecanoe Valley) (Runner of the Year) – Miller went from consistently running sub-21-minute times to consistently running sub-20-minute times. In addition to making state, she also ran a 19:02 at the Bluffton Invitational.
Maggie Smith (Winamac) – Smith won the Class 1A race at the New Prairie Invitational and then followed it up by running a sizzling 19:31 to win the Hoosier North title. Then she finished third behind two Kankakee Valley runners at the Rensselaer sectional before running a 19:58 at the New Prairie regional. The Winamac pack was strong, and Smith was usually at the head of it.
Violet Montgomery (Pioneer) – Montgomery was second behind rival Smith in the conference race in 19:37, and she was fifth at an incredibly competitive Logansport sectional. And then she missed making state by only five seconds at the even more incredibly competitive Brownsburg regional. We will never know if she would have made state under the previous format, which included a semistate round. Actually, she might have made state if Pioneer had been assigned to the Rensselaer sectional instead of the Logansport sectional.
Kadence Hoover (Winamac) – She ran a 21:04 to make the all-conference team, and she followed it up by running 21:26 at the sectional and 21:45 at the regional.
Kelsey Wegner (Winamac) – Wegner ran a 21:23 to make the all-conference team and was ninth among all individuals at the sectional in 21:50 before a season-ending 22:08 at the New Prairie regional.
Allyson Calloway (Rochester) – Calloway missed the conference race due to an Achilles injury, and that was a shame because we would have loved to seen her compete with the great teams at Manchester, Maconaquah and Lewis Cass. However, she bounced back to run a 21:55 at the sectional and then an outstanding 21:23 at the regional. All signs point to her being under 21 minutes next year. Will there be enough girls to form a team around her?
Kandace Kroft (Winamac) – Kroft is another key part of the Winamac pack, usually running right with Hoover and Wegner and only a step or two behind Smith. She ran a 21:43 to make the all-Hoosier North team and followed it with a 22:35 at the sectional and a 22:52 at the regional.
Bailey Bussard (Tippecanoe Valley) – Once Valley coach Mike Inglehearn started having Bussard run with Miller at practice, that brought out Bussard’s speed. It’s not common to get faster between the sectional and regional rounds because of nerves, traffic and a typically tougher course, but Bussard went from 21:47 at sectional to 21:43 at regional.
Avery Wegner (Winamac)
Kylie Jamerson (Pioneer)
Kadence Bradley (Rochester)
Avery Haselby (Pioneer)
Ellie Hines (Pioneer)
Camila Hernandez-Rios (Caston)
Lexi Gibson (Argos)
Lily Bennett (Winamac)
Alexa Lowe (Caston)
Jaded Aguilar (Caston)