- Val T.
Rochester’s Seward takes care of business, advances to state cross-country finals
Valley’s Miller improves from last year, Montgomery runs 20:43; Zebra boys take 18th; season ends for Meyer, Dodt, Dague
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
NEW CARLISLE — Rochester senior cross-country runner Zoe Seward ran the New Prairie course competitively for the eighth time at the semistate Saturday.
She knew how she wanted to traverse the course. She wanted to get off to a good start but not head for the lead too soon. Then she wanted to gain on the field on the dreaded Agony Hill.
Then she wanted to pick up the pace for the last mile.
It all worked out. Seward ran a 19:04 and finished in sixth place in the field of 174 runners and fourth among individuals on non-advancing teams to advance to the IHSAA state finals.
Seward will close out her career at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross-Country Course in Terre Haute at 1 p.m. this Saturday.
“I’m so excited,” Seward said. “Stoked.”
In other RTC area girls cross-country news, Tippecanoe Valley’s Chesnee Miller finished in 43rd place in 20:33, and Pioneer’s Violet Montgomery placed 50th in 20:43.
In the boys race, Rochester finished in 18th place in the 20-team field with 457 points. Chris Rohr, Rochester’s only senior, was the frontrunner, taking 51st place in 17:35.
Among other area runners competing as individuals, Pioneer’s Carson Meyer was 75th in 17:53, Pioneer’s Leighton Dodt was 82nd in 17:56, and Caston’s Austin Dague was 137th in 18:39.
But the only area runner advancing is Seward, who set a new personal best. She had run 19:05 at the Manchester sectional two weeks earlier.
“I just wanted to really pick it up the last two miles and really go as fast as I knew,” Seward said. “That’s what was going to make it or break it. … I think I stuck to my plan, and it worked out for me. … All the courses we’ve done this year, I’m really familiar with, so I think that helps.”
Seward was running in her fourth semistate after four New Prairie Invitationals. Rochester coach Alex Gudeman said Seward was confident in her strategy.
“Taking care of business there,” Rochester first-year coach Alex Gudeman said. “I think everyone knew she had it in her. She just had to go out and prove it today, and she did. … She’s ran this course plenty to know what a good plan is. She had her race plan figured out on Monday. The course definitely wasn’t something that she was going to let affect her today.”
Seward had run the daunting Agony Hill enough that she knew she could not attack it too early.
“I love to stay in control during the hill, and once I get up the hill, that’s when I kind of surge because that’s when people start dying,” Seward said.
Seward said she thinks she appreciates making state more as a senior because she “really had to work for it all throughout high school.” She ran a 20:01 at the 2021 semistate and missed making state by 14 seconds. Teammate Madilyn Calloway had advanced the previous three years.
Seward had four coaches in four years of high school cross-country: Allen Sayger her freshman year at Maconaquah followed by Scott Stalbaum, Eric Linn and Gudeman her last three years at Rochester.
“He tells us always to stay in control the first mile because the race doesn’t really begin until the second mile,” Seward said of Gudeman. “So I think that’s probably the best advice I’ve gotten.”
Miller finished in 91st place in 21:19 at the 2021 semistate. One year later, she was 46 seconds faster on the same course.
“My goal coming into today was to just place higher than I did here last year,” Miller said. “I placed like 90th here last year, so I knew I just needed to be faster. I was trying to work to be under 20, be in the 19s, low 19s. That didn’t work out, but I’ve been training all week with my friend Bailey (Bussard), and we’ve just been working on negative splits, so that’s what I did coming into this.”
Miller said she did not achieve negative splits, runner’s terminology for getting faster every mile in a 3.1-mile race. She said her first mile was a little fast and her second mile was a little slow but that those times evened out. She said she got “stuck” on the Agony Hill and Snakepit portions of the course, which makes it difficult to run negative splits.
“I’ve been running 20:30s consistently lately, and that’s what I ran today,” she said.
Montgomery finished 50th at the semistate one year after finishing 49th. She ran 20:38 at last year’s semistate.
Montgomery’s season was highlighted by a win at the Hoosier North meet at Winamac on Oct. 1, where she set a personal best of 19:44.
Rohr laid back before picking up speed in the second mile.
“Times weren’t great for any of us today, but Chris was ranked 62nd in the semistate coming in, so he beat his ranking, which is all you can ask for on a day like this,” Gudeman said.
Other Rochester times included Wes Steininger, who finished amidst a mad dash of runners in 77th in 17:54; Adrian Ochoa, who was 150th in 18:54; Reece Johnson, who was 157th in 19:14; and Lane Shank, who was 168th in 20:25.
Freshman Grant Bailey, an all-Three Rivers Conference runner who had been the team’s No. 2 runner at the regional, was unable to finish due to a right leg injury. Though he was bleeding from the lower leg injury after apparently being spiked, Gudeman said the issue was more of a shin injury that limited him in practice during the week.
“Anytime your number two runner goes down, your goals go out the window, no matter what they were,” Gudeman said. “You know, we were seeded 17th or 18th. … We finished 18th, which is not too bad considering we lost our number two runner. But not much you can do about that.”
Gudeman said he believes Bailey has potential to be better at track than cross-country.
Carson Meyer and Leighton Dodt
Meyer had a more measured start than his teammate Dodt but kept a consistent pace and placed 75th.
Dodt, the Culver Academy regional champion, strode out quickly at the gun and was leading the field after 200 meters and was within 20 seconds of the lead after one mile.
Due to the punishing pace and unusually warm October weather, Dodt settled for 82nd place overall.
Meyer and Dodt were two of 22 runners who crossed the line between 17:50 and 18:00.
Dague, the Caston senior who claimed the 10th and final individual semistate spot at the regional, was 101st at the 2021 semistate. He was 45 seconds slower at this year’s semistate as compared to last year’s.
New Prairie semistate notes
The Maconaquah girls team finished fourth out of 20 teams and advanced to the state finals as a team for the first time since 1988. (Maconaquah was not in the TRC in 1988, and it’s unclear when the last time a TRC girls team advanced to state prior to this year’s Maconaquah team.) Maconaquah coach Allen Sayger was a former Rochester Middle School coach and a former assistant coach at Rochester High School under Scott Stalbaum.
“Honestly, when I started out coaching middle school at Rochester, Alan Fulton was the head coach, and Vicki Onstott … those two were the middle school coaches that taught me what cross-country was about, and I worked through that for years,” Sayger said. “And then honestly, Scotty Stalbaum and I working together for nine years … We worked together. He taught me a lot about the sport because he ran. I’m not an athlete, but I’m an enthusiasm guy. So really, learning a lot of that with him being considerably younger and kind of figuring things out at the middle school level and then being able to take it to the high school level. I didn't know if I would be able to help the high schoolers. I’m good with puppies, but I didn’t know if we would be better with the teenagers. But so far it has worked out pretty well.”
Sayger did it with a young group. Maconaquah’s girls team has no seniors.
Chesterton won the boys semistate with 91 points. Valparaiso (127), Lake Central (159), West Lafayette (162), Warsaw (183) and LaPorte (187) also advanced to state. Munster, Stalbaum, was 11th with 292 points.
Valparaiso won the girls semistate with 105 points. Morgan Township (129), Warsaw (144), Maconaquah (172), Lake Central (178) and Crown Point (180) also advanced to state. Morgan Township has a listed enrollment of 236, and Maconaquah’s enrollment is 604.
Seward was not the only TRC runner to advance as an individual. Manchester’s Kadence Fox was 14th overall in 19:33 and also advanced.
Every girl who ran 19:33 or faster advanced to state. Every boy who ran 16:55 or faster advanced.
New Prairie’s Lillian Zelasko was the girls individual champion in 18:03, and Valparaiso’s James Dillabaugh won the boys race in 16:07.
New Prairie girls semistate results (points in parentheses; top six teams advance to state): Valparaiso 105, Morgan Township 129, warsaw 144, Maconaquah 172, Lake Central 178, Crown Point 180, West Lafayette 199, Kouts 199, Illiana Christian 229, Harrison (West Lafayette) 237, Portage 250, Chesterton 265, Western 301, Faith Christian 367, Manchester 377, Benton Central 411, Lafayette Jefferson 425, Winamac 431, Highland 438, Lowell 502
6. Zoe Seward – 19:04
Tippecanoe Valley results
43. Chesnee Miller – 20:33
50. Violet Montgomery – 20:43
Top 10 individuals on non-advancing teams: 1. Lillian Zelasko (New Prairie) – 18:03, 2. Hannah Moore (Northwestern) – 18:47, 3. Lila Gillisse (LaPorte) – 19:02, 4. Zoe Seward (Rochester) – 19:04, 5. Courtney Adams (Northwestern) – 19:12, 6. Janell Robson (Benton Central) – 19:19, 7. Ella Olthof (Illiana Christian) – 19:21, 8. Cassandra Cohen (Hobart) – 19:28.3, 9. Celeste Gram (Culver Academy) – 19:28.9, 10. Kadence Fox (Manchester) – 19:33
Individual champion: Lillian Zelasko (New Prairie) – 18:03
New Prairie boys semistate results (points in parentheses; top six teams advance to state): Chesterton 91, Valparaiso 127, Lake Central 159, West Lafayette 162, Warsaw 183, LaPorte 187, Crown Point 197, Harrison (West Lafayette) 213, Portage 262, Rensselaer 269, Munster 292, Clinton Prairie 313, McCutcheon 323, Lowell 323, Culver Academy 344, Illiana Christian 361, Maconaquah 425, Rochester 457, Lewis Cass 475, Frankfort 501
Rochester results (457 points, 18th place)
51. Chris Rohr – 17:35 (41), 77. Wes Steininger – 17:54 (60), 150. Adrian Ochoa – 18:54 (111), 157. Reece Johnson – 19:14 (117), 168. Lane Shank – 20:25 (128)
75. Carson Meyer – 17:53, 82. Leighton Dodt – 17:56
137. Austin Dague – 18:39
Top 10 individuals on non-advancing teams: 1. Ryan York (Hanover Central) – 16:12, 2. Joseph LaPatra (Griffith) – 16:19, 3. Hayden Kemple (Clinton Prairie) – 16:27, 4. Weston Hulen (Crown Point) – 16:32, 5. Tristen Wuethrich (Rensselaer) – 16:34, 6. Ralph Brown III (Munster) – 16:40, 7. Shane Conroy (Portage) – 16:41, 8. Jaiden Goins (Harrison (West Lafayette)) – 16:52, 9. Jalen Strietelmeier (Highland) – 16:54, 10. William Ruszkowski (Culver Academy) – 16:55
Individual champion: James Dillabaugh (Valparaiso) – 16:07
Rochester’s Zoe Seward finished sixth overall and fourth among individuals on non-advancing teams at the New Prairie semistate Saturday to advance to the IHSAA state finals, which will be held in Terre Haute at noon this Saturday.
Top Left: Caston's Austin Dague Top Center: Pioneer's Leighton Dodt Top Right: Rochester's Chris Rohr Bottom left: TVHS' Chesnee Miller Middle Center: Pioneer's Carson Meyer Bottom Right: Pioneer's Violet Montgomery Middle Bottom: Rochester's Zoe Seward