When the gun sounded to send the herd of runners across the grassy open field at Eagle Park, Vivienne Siefker let her feet rather than her head dictate her early pace.
It was only when the Seymour runner realized she was dead even with team No. 1 Kinsley Folsom and the front pack was in the vicinity, too, did she ask herself what she was doing.
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“I normally start out slower in races,” Siefker said. “I don’t know what it was. I just felt so good. I’ve never been up there. It was ‘Whoa.’”
Actually, Siefker, a freshman, has been running stronger by the week, and she finished ninth overall, giving the Owls a boost to claim third place in the cross-country sectional Saturday.
Before the race, coach Spencer Sunbury wondered if the girls could place in the top five as a team and advance. They did so with ease with 88 points, taking third behind Columbus North (22 points) and Brown County (65) in the eight-team event.
When the arithmetic was still being calculated, Sunbury wasn’t sure how the Owls fared, but he wasn’t nervous.
“All you need to do is top five,” he said. “We should be fourth at the worst.”
Folsom, a sophomore, has been the Owls’ lead runner all season, but going back some years, she and Siefker spent many miles running together. When she saw her old friend keeping pace, she was happy.
“She got right up there with me,” Folsom said. “We were all pretty close together. The pace was strong, and it was comfortable.”
Folsom finished eighth in 20:07 with Siefker hanging in with a best time of 20:18. Injured early in the season, Siefker said she is peaking now for the big meets.
“Now, I’m starting to feel stronger,” Siefker said.
Hayley Harpe, who has been running faster than Siefker until recently, despite being a newcomer to long-distance racing, was 11th in 20:35.
Back from injury but not at full strength was Samantha Jacobi. She was 19th in 22:33 after not running much for a few weeks.
“We needed another person,” Jacobi said, pledging to be on the starting line for the regional at Columbus North next Saturday.
Grace Lewis (35th in 24:09), Eliana Baker (36th in 25:12) and Savannah Stoffregen (37th in 25:18) were the other Seymour runners.
Brownstown Central did not advance as a team, but the Braves did send ahead two individual runners to the upcoming girls regional. Jazzlynn Yeadon was 26th overall in 23:12, and Tori Lokey was 43rd in 26:28.
Lokey was the last of the 10 individuals added to the field.
“At least we got those girls through,” said Brownstown coach Maria Conklin. “We made progress. We dropped time.”
Karcyn Trueblood was 45th for Brownstown in 27:16, Camryn Thompson 51st in 30:44, Rehgen Stuckwisch 52nd in 30:44.9 and Brooklyn Isaacs 56th in 35:43.
Trinity Lutheran’s one-girl team, Abby Hildreth, placed 44th in 27:10. That made her the 11th nonaligned individual finisher, so she just missed the cutoff for the regional.
“The second mile is what got me,” Hildreth said.
She was looking to run 30 seconds or so faster for a personal record under 26:27, though Hildreth already had improved by about two minutes this season.
“I was hoping to. Brown County’s always the best course,” she said.
The other area team competing in a sectional on the same day but elsewhere was Crothersville. The Tigers were at Austin.
Crothersville No. 1 runner Kaylyn Holman was edged for the individual title by Calli Alderman of Shawe Memorial.
Holman, who finished in 20:01, was five seconds behind Alderman’s 19:56, although she has beaten Alderman more than once this season. The two both advance to the same regional.
Crothersville junior Ella Plasse was the team’s second finisher in 26th in 23:59 but like Hildreth missed out on advancing as an individual by one place.
Also running for Crothersville on Saturday were sisters Kiarra Lakins, 38th in 25:23, and Kennadi Lakins, 40th in 25:41.