NOBLESVILLE — The drama didn’t unfold in the individual races at the loaded Noblesville cross-country regional Saturday at White River Elementary School. Carmel senior Sarah Leinheiser and Hamilton Southeastern junior Gabe Fendel, favorites based on their season times heading into the meet, cruised to respective girls and boys titles.
The top-ranked Carmel boys also won with relative ease, capturing their third regional championship in four years.
The real excitement came in the girls team scoring, where No. 10 Noblesville claimed its first regional title and ended No. 1 Carmel’s eight-year run in the process, winning 61-67.
The top five teams and top 10 individuals on non-qualifying teams advanced to next Saturday’s semistate at the Blue River Park course in Shelbyville.
Eighth-ranked Fishers, No. 17 Westfield and No. 14 Guerin Catholic – a first-time qualifier that helped end No. 18 Hamilton Southeastern’s season the week prior – also moved on to the girls semistate.
The defending state champion Greyhounds have alternated groups of runners during the postseason tournament and were without three of their top five Saturday. Still, Noblesville’s top-five finishers all placed in the top 20, led by junior Abi Little’s fourth-place run.
“It’s exciting,” said Noblesville 33-year veteran coach Dennis Scheele. “We just wanted to advance. Yeah, Carmel split their team up and that’s cool. But when you look at what happened to Southeastern last weekend; Fishers put it on us last weekend. It’s just up and down. You’ve got to be on top of your game all the time in our county and our conference, and that’s why the teams are as good as they are around here.”
Third-ranked Hamilton Southeastern (76) edged No. 8 Fishers (84) for the runner-up spot in the boys race, with the Greyhounds topping the field with 54 points. Sixth-ranked Brebeuf Jesuit and No. 17 Cathedral rounded out the top five to move on.
Leinheiser, the defending state champion, established an early lead in the girls race and was never pushed. She finished the 5,000-meter Chinquapin Ridge course in 17 minutes, 37 seconds. Her teammate, senior Christina Geisler, was 16 seconds behind to finish second. Still, Leinheiser said she expects better performances to come, which could spell trouble for the rest of the state contenders. She collapsed before exiting the blue timing mat at the finish line and needed help off before standing on her own.
“It wasn’t one of my best races,” Leinheiser said. “I felt really weak and tired. I felt good through the first mile, then after that it kind of just went downhill. It’s hard having no one out there (pushing you).”
Leinheiser hasn’t started tapering yet, noting she’ll start reducing her mileage this week, which usually triggers even faster times.
Fendel also didn’t feel much pressure throughout his race. He looked strong early, coasting to a 200-meter lead over Cathedral sophomore Cole Hocker and a pack of others. Hocker closed the gap to finish within five seconds of Fendel (15:22 to 15:27) but never seriously threatened.
“I’m feeling really strong,” Fendel said. “My last mile or last K isn’t exactly what I want it to be, but I’m working through it. I’m just kind of racing myself and trying to push myself.”
Girls team scores: Noblesville 61, Carmel 67, Fishers 85, Westfield 92, Guerin 100, Cathedral 135, Lawrence North 203, Brebeuf 203, North Central 249, Chatard 258.
Top five individuals: Sarah Leinheiser (Carmel) 17:37.04, Christina Geisler (Carmel) 17:53.31, Lulu Black (Hamilton Southeastern) 18:11.19, Abi Little (Noblesville) 18:18.49, Miya Wai (Fishers) 18:22.98.
Boys team scores: Carmel 54, Hamilton Southeastern 76, Fishers 84, Brebeuf 115, Cathedral 126, North Central 148, Westfield 157, Lawrence North 201, Guerin 212, Chatard 284.
Top five individuals: Gabe Fendel (Hamilton Southeastern) 15:22.39, Cole Hocker (Cathedral) 15:27.99, Colin Murphy (Carmel) 15:32.61, Eric Hoffman (Noblesville) 15:33.06, Ian Hunter (North Central) 15:35.51.