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It’s Miller’s time: Valley star runs 19:20 at regional, advances to first state finals

‘She really hasn’t quit running since her sophomore year’


Sports Editor, RTC

Tippecanoe Valley’s Chesnee Miller ran a 19:20 at the New Haven regional at The Plex in Fort Wayne Saturday. She finished 15th among individuals on non-advancing teams to advance to the state finals. She is believed to be the first Valley runner in at least 20 years to advance to state.

FORT WAYNE — An extra workout on the treadmill after basketball in the dead of winter. Mile after mile on the roads in the heat of the summer. Getting to bed early on Friday nights when all of your friends are out having fun.

Tippecanoe Valley senior Chesnee Miller had to make all the sacrifices to get to be a top cross-country runner, and then she had an excruciating wait at the New Haven regional at The Plex Saturday as they read through the names of the 15 individuals on non-advancing teams that made it to state.

The last name they read was hers.

Miller advanced to the IHSAA state finals with a 19:20, passing runners through a chaotic last kick to finish 27th overall and, more importantly, 15th among individuals on non-advancing teams.

The top five teams and top 15 individuals in each race advanced to state.

The girls state finals race will start at 2:30 p.m. this Saturday at the LaVern

Chesnee Miller

Gibson Championship Cross-Country Course in Terre Haute.

“I can’t even describe it,” Miller said. “I’ve been working for it. This is my last opportunity because I’m a senior. … On top of the world.”

Miller’s personal best was a 20:18 coming into this year. Her status as Valley’s greatest girls cross-country runner was cemented. She is also a guard on Valley’s regional champion basketball team and multiple-time regional qualifier in track in both the long jump and 800 meters.

But she had to get faster if she wanted to make state in cross-country.

“She hovered around 20:25, 20:30,” Valley coach Mike Inglehearn said. “And then as you know, through basketball, she doesn’t quit running. She jumps on a treadmill if they don’t have a game that night before school. And she really hasn’t quit running since her sophomore year. Over the summer, she hasn’t gotten me a number, but I’m guessing somewhere between 300 to 400 miles since the last day of school to the first day of school. And it shows.”

Miller was one of three area runners who ran at the newly constituted regional, which featured 25 teams and 75 other runners in each gender competing as individuals through Purdue Fort Wayne’s home course.

Bailey Bussard

The semistate eliminated and the number of regionals statewide reduced from 16 to five, runners hailed from as far west as Triton and Plymouth to as far southeast as Blue River Valley. They started out flat, criss-crossed through the woods and then barreled home through a slightly downhill finish.

After the race ended but before the 15 individuals were announced, Miller, Inglehearn and their supporters were playing the numbers game.

“Concern,” Inglehearn said of his thoughts while the names were read. “Because she’s worked so hard to get to this. I knew, and I had been talking to her that she was going to be in the bottom five (11th through 15th places among individuals). Where? I didn’t think it was going to be there. But the other schools picked up and ran better races. I mean, the kids ran better. Everybody ran well today. If you look at other races, there were kids that have been behind her, and today they were in front of her. So this race brings the best out of kids.”

Fort Wayne Dwenger’s Emily Bruns was announced in 23rd place overall and 13th among individuals. Inglehearn thought Miller would have to finish in the top 25 overall. Then Eastbrook freshman Alayna Bruckner was announced in 25th place and 14th among individuals.

“I was thinking about all the people that were in front of me,” Miller said. “The whole time we were waiting, we were just counting the teams and everybody that was in front of me. And they said, ‘23rd place,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m 27th place,’ and they said ‘27th place,’ and I knew it was me. … To be honest, I wasn’t very confident because I ran a 19:20 today, which is good, but it was not as good as it could’ve been. So confidence definitely went down, but I knew once we got towards the end that it was me.”

Miller said she is not a strong starter and said she likes to “chill back” over the first mile before surveying the situation. There was a slight uphill section of the course coming out of the woods. Miller said she saved her best for the end.

“My finish, obviously,” Miller said when asked what the strongest part of her race was. “I mean, if I was the 15th one out, it came down to one person and passing one person. I knew once I got on that straightaway that I had to make some moves, and I did, and it paid off.”

She described the intensity of the race.

“Chaos the whole time,” Miller said. “You always have somebody breathing down your neck.”

Miller’s teammate Bailey Bussard was 125th overall in a personal best 21:43.

Bussard’s training regimen has involved running more frequently with Miller.

“She has come a long ways since I’ve been sticking her with Chesnee in practice,” Inglehearn said. “They get along really well. They’re good friends. These last three weeks or better, they’ve ran almost every practice together unless it’s something where I said, ‘Hey, we’re going to do some speed work,’ and then Bailey or Chesnee would run away. But normally, it was like they would just go, and they’d run. I would tell them to do four miles, and they’d do five.”

Allyson Calloway

Allyson Calloway, the only runner representing Rochester, ran a 21:23 and finished in 107th place out of 246 runners. Her previous personal best was a 21:30 at the Maconaquah Invitational on Sept. 9. She later missed the Three Rivers Conference meet on Sept. 30 due to an Achilles injury.

“Fantastic,” Rochester coach Alex Gudeman said of Calloway. “Best race of the season. Since she had that breakout race at Maconaquah and then had to sit out for conference, I think she was really itching for a good race today, and I think it really showed. She had a three-paragraph essay for her race plan today, and that’s just the kind of runner Allyson is. She’s really dedicated to the sport.”

Calloway said she was not happy with the 21:57 she ran at the sectional a week earlier. Ultimately, she relied on the 200 miles she ran over the summer plus a lot of biking to prepare for the season.

“I was ready to get back at it, and I’m very happy with how I did today,” Calloway said. “I felt way better rested today. I had no pain. I was numb pretty much the whole race because it was cold. Apparently, I PR’d in my two-mile during this for track, so I think my first and second mile really helped me out.”

No area boys advanced.

Rochester’s Wes Steininger ran a 17:32, which was six seconds off his sectional time, and finished in 93rd place out of 247 runners. Reece Johnson trimmed 20

Wes Steininger

seconds off his sectional time and ran an 18:04 and placed 147th. Lane Shank was 218th in 19:13. Grant Bailey did not run due to a leg injury.

Steininger appeared to jostle with a runner from Yorktown late in the second mile. Gudeman said with a smile that the broad-shouldered Steininger, a frequent denizen of the Rochester weight room, was more than able to handle himself.

“In a race this big, you’re going to have a lot of people fight for the same position,” Gudeman said. “So that’s not unexpected. But I do feel a little sorry for whoever decides to tangle with Wes. They must not be a scholar-athlete if they think that’s a smart idea.”

Steininger is also a Lilly Scholarship finalist and had to skip a practice Tuesday for his Lilly Scholarship interview. He then made his way to The Plex to run the course alone.

Steininger said he runs more of a paced race. While it’s easy to let the adrenaline of the moment and the quality of the competition push a runner to go faster in the first mile, many runners start too fast and then drop back in the pack. That leads to heavy traffic.

Reece Johnson

“I think that it was a very tough race physically. Everybody started out hard, and because of that, when people slowed down, that makes it hard to keep going. The way I run my races is I like to keep an even split. So when you have people that are going out at my pace and slowing way down, it’s hard to get back up to your pace because you’ve got to fight through the crowd.”

Bailey, who also plays soccer during the fall, suffered a leg injury in a soccer tournament at Winamac on Sept. 23. He was Rochester’s No. 2 runner at the sectional behind Steininger.

“He got kicked pretty hard in that area, and he had an X-ray confirm there was a small break there,” Gudeman said. “So since that was the week of conference, since then, he’s been running on a broken leg without knowing it. But he says it has been healing. It’s just a streak of bad luck for Grant. But I do think we’re going to have to adjust what we do with him going forward. I think we have to put his health before anything we want to do as coaches.”

Johnson, a junior, said his goal was to break 18 minutes. He ran a personal-best 18:00 at the TRC meet at Manchester on Sept. 30. He said he ran about

Lane Shank

150 miles over the summer and also swam every day and hiked every day to get in shape. He also credited Gudeman’s training plans.

“I went out too fast,” Johnson said. “The first 800, I was way too far up, and I knew it, so I backed off, and then I backed off too much, and I just didn’t do well. … About a K in, I was like, ‘This does not feel good. Let’s slow down.’”

Shank said his legs “couldn’t move” the first half of the race. He said the second mile was in the woods and was the most uphill portion of the course. The finish was the most downhill portion.

He said the team missed 2023 grad Chris Rohr, who is now running at North Central College, but he said the team became very close.

“I wish I had put in more work over the summer,” Shank said. “I’m not going to lie. I think my freshman year, I did just fine. I wish I was faster. My sophomore year, I wasn’t really feeling it, so I didn’t put in as much work and as much effort. And then my junior year … it was the most fun year of cross-country that I’ve ever had besides this year. … But during the summer, I didn’t put as much work in … and the summer mileage is what constitutes if you have a good season

Christopher Marquez

or not. I had more mileage than I ever had before, but it still wasn’t that much.”

Christopher Marquez, the only Tippecanoe Valley boys runner, placed 197th overall in 18:46. That was his second fastest time ever.

“Not quite a PR,” Inglehearn said. “He’s capable. I think because he was the only runner out, it made him a little nervous. I don’t know if he started as well. He looked like he had a good finish. But then again, he’s only a sophomore.”

Fort Wayne Concordia won both the boys and girls team titles.

In the boys race, Fort Wayne Concordia’s Vaughn Hendrickson won the individual title in 15:44 and helped his team score 85 points. Warsaw (101), Wabash (142), Angola (161) and Carroll (Fort Wayne) (188) also advanced to state.

Fort Wayne Concordia also had three of the eight fastest girls in scoring 46 points. Homestead (65), Carroll (Fort Wayne) (180), East Noble (202) and Warsaw (224) also made state.

New Haven girls regional results: Fort Wayne Concordia 46, Homestead 65, Carroll (Fort Wayne) 180, East Noble 202, Warsaw 224, Huntington North 231, Fort Wayne Northrop 245, Columbia City 271, Manchester 289, Leo 297, West Noble 337, Fort Wayne Dwenger 347, Adams Central 364, Norwell 425, Eastbrook 431, Yorktown 433, Monroe Central 437, Plymouth 450, Oak Hill 473, Woodlan 480, Marion 508, Prairie Heights 511, Daleville 530, Wapahani 567, Blue River Valley 610

Rochester results

107. Allyson Calloway – 21:23

Tippecanoe Valley results

27. Chesnee Miller – 19:20, 125. Bailey Bussard – 21:43

Top 15 individuals on non-advancing teams: 1. Nicki Southerland (Delta) – 17:31, 2. Alice Friesen (Huntington North) – 18:22, 3. Rowyn Norris (Leo) – 18:35, 4. Kenya Leitch (Columbia City) – 18:49, 5. Maren Wilson (Fort Wayne Northrop) – 18:52, 6. Sarah Maple (Fort Wayne Blackhawk) – 18:53, 7. Ayla Cashdollar (Manchester) – 18:55, 8. Sophie Wray (Plymouth) – 18:59, 9. Ella Colclesser (Huntington North) – 19:09, 10. Kadence Fox (Manchester) – 19:13, 11. Samantha Lickey (Columbia City) – 19:14, 12. Celeste Gram (Culver Academy) – 19:17, 13. Emily Bruns (Fort Wayne Dwenger) – 19:18, 14. Alayna Bruckner (Eastbrook) – 19:19, 15. Chesnee Miller (Valley) – 19:20

Individual champion: Nicki Southerland (Delta) – 17:31

New Haven boys regional results: Fort Wayne Concordia 85, Warsaw 101, Wabash 142, Angola 161, Carroll (Fort Wayne) 188, Columbia City 193, Wapahani 200, Oak Hill 207, Homestead 228, Culver Academy 255, Yorktown 266, Leo 272, Marion 348, Bluffton 409, Fort Wayne Northrop 415, East Noble 449, Garrett 475, Fort Wayne Dwenger 478, Fort Wayne Snider 506, Belmont 571, Manchester 577, Muncie Burris 579, Madison-Grant 616, Norwell 628, Southern Wells 634

Rochester results

93. Wes Steininger – 17:32, 147. Reece Johnson – 18:04, 218. Lane Shank – 19:13

Valley results

197. Christopher Marquez – 18:46

Top 15 individuals on non-advancing teams: 1. Nick Cook (Wapahani) – 15:46, 2. Owen Jackson (Oak Hill) – 15:55, 3. Will Ruszowski (Culver Academy) – 16:02, 4. Gavin Good (Columbia City) – 16:03, 5. Marcus Ridge (Columbia City) – 16:04, 6. Conyer Wilson (Fort Wayne Northrop) – 16:06, 7. Jaydon Steidinger (Leo) – 16:10, 8. Trenton Sweet (Oak Hill) – 16:11, 9. Zander Ritenour (Lakewood Park) – 16:14, 10. Memphis Martin (Lakeland) – 16:17, 11. Wyatt Turner (Yorktown) – 16:17, 12. Tyler Dillon (Delta) – 16:18, 13. Tyler Godwin (Bluffton) – 16:19, 14. Hunter Smith (Frankton) – 16:24, 15. Robert Warren (East Noble) – 16:25

Individual champion: Vaughn Hendrickson (Fort Wayne Concordia) – 15:44

Four Rochester runners competed at the New Haven regional at The Plex in Fort Wayne Saturday. From left – Wes Steininger, Allyson Calloway, Reece Johnson, Lane Shank. (photo provided by Amy Calloway)

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