Everything is coming together for the Seymour boys cross-country team when it matters most — at the end of the season.
Following a turbulent start to their 2015 campaign, the Owls have distanced themselves from the pack over the past two weeks; claiming their first-ever Hoosier Hills Conference title and finishing second at the Brown County Sectional.
Last week, six of the Owls’ seven runners — including the top-five scorers — set personal-records to start postseason racing.
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“(Sectional) blew me away,” Owls coach Randy Fife said. “The conference meet was totally unexpected, and to build on that and shave off so much more time at the sectional — I would never have guessed it. This has been the most phenomenal season, as far as kids who didn’t seem like they were going to make it. They have really worked hard. They have all the sudden gained some confidence. I’m almost gonna say we’re a pretty good team now.”
Throughout their first three races to start of the season, the Owls finished with a different No. 1 runner in each invite to Fife’s dismay.
“It was just one of those seasons where we didn’t make a lot of progress,” Fife said. “We didn’t’ have a front-runner, and were for most part stuck in the mid-17 minutes and low 18’s: and that’s just not good enough for the competition we’re going to face.”
The Owls struggled to find an identity with no clear front-runner — until senior Tim Molinari regained his health and stepped-up to take the position.
Molinari missed the first race of the season, the Seymour Invitational, due to illness and struggled at the Bedford North Lawrence Invitational in week two.
However, things turned for Molinari at Brown County the following week, and he has led the Owls since.
At sectional, Molinari finished 11th in an impressive 16:36.57.
“Tim has been huge the last couple of weeks for us,” Fife said. “For him to run his time last week was phenomenal. He thinks he can go lower, and I’m not about to doubt him at this point. He’s full of confidence and has a lot of natural talent.”
Fife said that his No. 2 runner, senior Cam Deppen, has shaved-off substantial time and has also played a key role in scoring with times in recent weeks.
Last week, Deppen got 13th in 16:47.
Deppen said that the team has banded together to make a postseason run.
“I think, from conference to sectional, we’ve gained a team mentality,” Deppen said. “We ran as a group but didn’t race as a group. At sectional, I think we raced as a group and that’s what made us successful.
“I think the idea that we’re running together, and want to beat each other, is really helping us out.”
The Owls are close to finishing with three runners under 17 minutes, which pays dividends in team finishes.
At sectional, sophomore Jacob Voss placed 18th in 17:01.44 as the Owls’ No. 3 runner.
Voss said that the team has adapted a team-first mentality, and has pushed each other harder in workouts.
“We have more confidence,” Voss said. “We need to push each other a lot harder, and that will give us a better chance at making it to state. It’s all about the teamwork.”
Juniors Alex Lovins and Hunter Bauserman are pushing each other, neck-in-neck, in the final two scoring spots for the Owls.
Finishing in 23rd and 24th last week, respectively, the two are running under 17:25.
While sophomores Trent Hohenstreiter and Cooper Morrow aren’t scoring for the Owls — their roles have served plenty of importance to the team’s successes.
Fife said that Hohenstreiter and Morrow have been able to keep opposing teams’ No. 5 runners at bay.
“The nice thing is that a few of the teams we’ve looked at, they have front runners ahead of us but their No. 5 man isn’t that strong,” Fife said. “That’s where our No. 6 and No. 7 can really help us: by getting in and pushing a No. 5 back from another team. What i like is that its been a total team effort. The way our team has developed, they have a pack mentality now. They all know where each other are on the course. They feel like they’re a part of the team and not out there racing individually.”
If the Owls can repeat their times from sectional, they could find themselves as runners-up at regional.
Molinari said that the team needs to run a specific set of times to advance to the state championships, should they make it out of this Saturday’s races.
“As long as we keep executing like we did at sectionals, we will be just fine,” Molinari said. “It will be interesting come semistate. Cam (Deppen) and I will definitely have to be sub-16:30, and we will need the No. 3 and No. 4 guy to be right at 17 minutes or under. Our No. 5 guy will have to be around 17:10 — and that’s all doable.”
Moving forward, Fife believes his team has a legitimate chance at making it to the state meet.
“The times they have been running the last two meets, and the way they’ve been working out: I fully expect that we’re going to get better,” Fife said. “If we do (get better) there’s a possibility we can be runners-up in regional and be in the mix for a state opportunity.”