South Knox's girls cross country team has been behind Barr-Reeve since the start of the season.
But at the Pike Central Regional in Petersburg Saturday, the Lady Spartans merged into the left lane and blew past the Vikings. Led by the top-five finishes from Ava Like and Gretchen Carie, South Knox topped Barr-Reeve, 50-62, and collected their second consecutive regional championship.
The county is going to be well-represented at next Saturday's Brown County Semistate. The Spartans boys team advanced to their 10th semistate in Matt Toothman's 12 years of coaching, taking a runner-up finish. Also Lincoln's Keenan Clegg and Blake Meade, along with North Knox's Brittany Page, qualified as being top-10 runners among non-advancing teams.
But the biggest smiles of the day at the Prides Creek Park course belonged to the South Knox girls, as their high finishes combined with a 58-second split was too tough for the competition. Spartans coach Betsy Couchenour said all seven runners had career-best times, with Like tying her mark of 19:31 in her third-place showing.
Carie claimed fifth in 19:49; Macie Couchenour 13th, 20:08; Peyton Robbins 18th, 20:28; and Aubrey Nowaskie 19th, 20:29. The team had raced Barr-Reeve in each of the last three weeks, losing by seven, seven and two points before the 12-point win Saturday.
"I knew they could do it, if they ran like they're capable of at the same time, they were going to be amazing, and they were amazing," Couchenour said. "All seven of them came under 21 minutes, which is unbelievable. All of them looked strong while they were running and happy the whole time.
"Getting our second regional title, especially after not winning the sectional, is some neat history," she said. "This team was so hungry after being the sectional runner-up last week. They knew they had a shot, and they got Barr-Reeve by 12, not by two or three. We scored 48 at the sectional, then almost as low with 50 at the regional. This team is unbelievable, and I'm so proud of them."
Princeton's Heidi Meade was the winner in 19:09, with twin sister Haley Meade second in 19:11.
The other teams advancing are Gibson Southern 115, Evansville Reitz 116 and Princeton 123. They were followed by Pike Central 126, Castle 177, Evansville North 187, Evansville Mater Dei 221 and Evansville Harrison 254.
The Castle boys were the regional favorite coming in, and the Knights didn't disappoint with their score of 43, easily outdistancing South Knox's 69 and the rest of the field.
Like the girls, the Spartans had two top-10 finishers. Oliver Holscher took sixth in 16:26; and Jacob Siewers seventh, 16:31. Dylan Maeder was 19th, 17:01; Lane Garner 25th, 17:28; and Chase Staggs 26th, 17:29.
"We had a good run. Our 1-5 time gap was 53 seconds, which is real good and we were the only team from our sectional to advance to the semistate," South Knox coach Matt Toothman said. "I tip my hat to Castle. They absolutely brought it, with five in the top 14. We had five in the top 22, and our team average was 16:59. Breaking 17 minutes is huge for us going into next week's semistate."
Evansville Reitz's Alex Nolan was the winner in 15:59, one second faster than Castle's Tyler Spurling.
The other semistate qualifiers were Evansville Reitz 76, Evansville Central 124 and Evansville Memorial 145, followed by Gibson Southern 161, Evansville Mater Dei 166, Lincoln 180, Princeton 202 and Barr-Reeve 249
The Alices were without top runner Jason Ramirez, which severely hampered their chances to advance. They were strong among their first three runners with Clegg 16th, 17:02; Meade 20th, 17:20; and Daxx Weist 27th, 17:30. Nate Harris was 57th, 19:09; and Hunter Grostefon 60th, 20:04.
"This is certainly not how we wanted our season to end as a team, but we just didn't get it done," said Lincoln coach Craig Klitz, whose team was a semistate participant last year. "It's refreshing to know we have everyone coming back next season, and we have two moving on to next weekend, which will be good for them. I hope they can both break 17 minutes. That would be a great springboard to their senior years."
Page qualified for the semistate for the second straight year, finishing 30th in the girls race in 20:52. She was 10th among non-advancing teams.
The county had five other individual runners at the regional. North Knox's Alexis Petelle placed 48th, 22:10; Sidney Kahre 52nd, 22:32; and Lincoln's Gracie Kramer 61st, 23:00; for the girls; and North Knox's Calvin Crabtree ran 55th, 18:38; and Kade Groteguth 74th, 19:31, for the boys.