VIENNA — Hamilton County senior Maddie Karcher won her fourth straight Black Diamond girls cross country title on the 2.98 mile Trail of Tears course inside the Vienna Community Park on Thursday.
“It was a super nice day,” Karcher said. “I’ve won conference all three years and this being my last year my mindset had to be go out there, get in front and stay in front. I had a good mindset the whole race. It was a super nice course, super flat, just a down and back. It was a great day to run and I’m pretty happy with how I finished. There was a Fairfield girl running with me and about half a mile after the start I pulled away. Fourth year, fourth conference win, I couldn’t be any happier.”
Karcher won by 13 seconds with a time of 20:05 to lead her teammates to their second straight team title besting the host team by 18 points.
“The girls did real well winning three of the last four championships - I’m super proud of them,” said Hamilton County coach Sam Wilson. “We were a little nervous because we had an injury on the team though senior Jessica Hargrave ended up doing awesome. I didn’t even know if she was going to start the race and she ended up putting together a really good time.”
Senior Ashlee Wellen, who finished second (20:23) and senior Caroline Lueke fifth (21:33) also earned all-conference honors by finishing in the top five. Hargrave came in 10th (23:44) and freshman Saylor Brown 11th (23:53) to round out the Lady Foxes team scorers.
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Fairfield freshman Ella Sager finished third (21:18) and Flora senior Ada Peterman fourth (21:23) to round out the all-conference winners.
For the boys, Fairfield (25) also successfully defended its conference crown beating Carmi-White County (63), Hamilton County (67), Vienna (84) and Goreville (120).
“We lost two seniors from last year, but returned all the other runners,” said Fairfield coach Justin Sanders. “I was pretty confident what my boys could do, but you just never know what others have, so at the time of the race you always get a little bit nervous, but they did what I knew they could do and came away with an easy victory. All year we try to pack run in practices and that transfers to the meets. Low score wins and if you place four in the top 10 you have a great chance. I don’t have any seniors - we lose Diego Diaz with him being an exchange student - so we hope to repeat next year.”
Leading the Mules were juniors Diaz, who finished third (17:14), and Jonathan Paul fourth (17:31). Junior Griffen Hinkle (7th-17:58), sophomore Brenan Yingst (8th-18:00) and junior Chase Smith (11th-18:35) were the Mules other top five finishers.
With the graduation of Carmi-White County’s Ty Barbre, the boys conference didn’t have a defending champion and Flora senior Isaac Stanford more than lived up to Barbre’s legacy easily beating Barbre’s former teammate junior Tanner Spence by 45 seconds with a time of 16:14 in his first Black Diamond championship meet after the Wolves moved from the Little Illini conference this season to replace Chester.
“The game plan was to have a good race and try to win it,” Stanford said. “One of my other teammates I was encouraging to get in the top five for all-conference, but he got sixth. I separated from the pack around the first turn going out to the trails. Near the bridge is where I passed the guy. It was probably a quarter into the first mile. My season has been going great. Right now I’m ranked sixth in 1A. I’m hoping to get top five at state. This is my first conference title. I got second every year in the Little Illini. I had a really competitive older class above there and those older runners helped me push faster times, but always beat me. This year I finally had the opportunity to go out and win it.”
Joining the Stanford, Spence, Diaz and Paul on the all-conference honors was Hamilton County junior Braydon Middendorf in fifth place.