MUNCIE — “I am” written on one wrist, “Iron Man” on the other.
The upbeat song was the first thing to pop into Delta sophomore Cade Orchard’s head Saturday morning. So he grabbed a pen and jotted it down before leading his team to victory in the Delta Sectional with an overall first-place time of 16 minutes, 22 seconds.
“It keeps something in my mind,” Orchard said. “I just have something running through my head — not something slow, because that makes my pace slow down.”
Delta finished first with a team score of 56, ahead of Burris in second with 62 and Wapahani in third with 75. The second-place individual runner, Nathan Herbst of Wapahani, was a full seven seconds behind Orchard.
Orchard was playing “Iron Man” in his head through most of the race, but especially at the end. It helps him block out thoughts about other competitors, or how much longer he has to run. It’s a common trick for runners, mostly to keep focus.
He was certainly focused during Saturday’s race.
“I never doubted he was going to take this one from the time the gun went off,” Delta cross country coach Stephen Wray said. “He ran his race and didn’t get sucked into anyone else’s race.”
Once Orchard caught his breath after the race, Wray embraced him and said, “Poets write poetry that isn’t as beautiful as the race you just ran.”
Wray got a second win later in the day, too, as the Delta girls team took its sectional with a team score of 49, beating out second-place Union City’s 78 and Jay County’s 92.
Twins Brittany and Brandy Tuttle finished second and third — teammates say they always finish together — with times of 20:05.1 and 20:27.3, respectively. Taking the individual first-place honors was Jay County’s Megan Wellman.
She’s been to semistate three times, but it was the senior’s first individual sectional title. It’s also her sister’s first year as head coach at Jay County. It was a big victory.
“As a sister, I’m so proud. As a coach, I’m so happy for her,” said Jay County coach Leah Wellman. “She had a rough year last year, and she never thought she’d be in this spot.
“It’s just awesome to watch her all year get better and better.”
Megan Wellman said she “felt like crap” in the later parts of the race, but that’s how she knew she was doing well. She finished with a time of 19:24, about 30 seconds ahead of the Tuttle twins.
Her goal, as it has been since she was a freshman, is to make state. This is this first season she’s been at full health, and it’s her first time enjoying the ride with her sister.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m more of a cheerleader than a coach at times,” Leah Wellman said of her younger sister. “Sometimes you have to do that.”
Follow Ball State sports reporter Dakota Crawford on Twitter @DakotaCrawford_.