Boys Cross Country looks to win first-ever Semi State title

Bella Hodges, Staff Writer

When the boys cross country team takes to the Shelbyville Blue River Cross Country Course tomorrow, they will be fighting for Center Grove’s first semi-state title. Being in the most competitive semi-state in Indiana, the Trojans will be racing the best of the best, including the Carmel Greyhounds and the Brebeuf Jesuit Braves. Even though they will face their biggest competition at state finals in top-ranked Columbus North, tomorrow’s race will still be a challenge. 

After losing to Carmel at MIC this year 25-42,  the team turned the tables on the Greyhounds at the Nike Twilight Invitational, outscoring the Greyhounds by six points. 

The Trojans are putting an emphasis on winning semi-state, so they can build momentum toward their first state title. Junior Griffin Hennesy, the team’s number two runner, is confident in his team. 

“Carmel is a big competitor. We’re neck and neck, but CG does a good job of showing up when it matters,” Hennessy said. “As a team we are much more confident. Carmel was able to beat us [at MIC] the week before, head to head. But seeing that we were able to beat them in a race similar to state gave us a lot of confidence. If we are able to win semi state it would put us in a really good spot for state. If we win, I think we’d be the team to look out for at state.”

Already this season, the team has been county, sectional and regional champs, while only running their true top seven runners at MIC, Nike Twilight and the Ben Davis Invite. After MIC, Coach Howard Harrell redesigned the Trojan’s race plan and redirected their focus into only what they can control.

“At MIC, Carmel’s racing strategy was to run closer together than normal in hopes of pulling each other along to a victory and it worked,” Harrell said. “Right before the 1K, they made a move that we could not cover.  It’s a little deflating when four of your opponents pass you all at once.  The race was over by the 2K mark.  We’ve learned from this experience though.  What others do and how they race is out of our control.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is what we can control.  And what we can control is our race strategy.”

Center Grove, the top-ranked team in the Shelbyville semi state, is led by junior Parker Mimbela, who will compete for a top 5 finish.

“My goals are to get Top 3 individually and to get a PR,” Mimbela said. “It is a fast course with amazing competition, so I will be expecting these goals to be met.”

Ranked No. 2 in the semi state, the Carmel Greyhound pack is led by junior Kole Mathison, who is ranked as the top runner in the Shelbyville Semi-State and will be vying for an individual state title this year. 

Ranked No. 3 going into tomorrow’s race is Brebeuf Jesuit. Racing better and better as tournament season has progressed, the Braves are led by Krishna Thirunavukkarasu, who has run an average time of 15:29 according to IN CC stats and has dipped under the fifteen minute mark in the 5K, running a 14:56. 

CG has a strategy to overcome not just these teams, but all twenty entered in tomorrow’s race. 

Captain Raef Sauer is vital to Center Grove’s race strategy. Sauer knows escaping the “pack” is important if the Trojans want to come out on top. 

“I would say that we just have to make sure we get out fast and avoid getting stuck in the huge pack at the beginning,” Sauer said. “There’s always people that fall at the beginning of semi state, and we obviously want to try to avoid that as much as possible. Getting out fast also just puts us in a position to compete with the fastest guys in the race.”

Achieving their goal of winning semi-state will elevate the Center Grove boys cross country team’s confidence heading into IHSAA State Finals; however, tomorrow’s outcome will not make them hesitant next weekend. 

“If we win semi state, I think that will give us some extra confidence going into State next week. If we can beat Carmel two times in a row, then we can beat anybody in the state. Win or lose at semi state, though, we will still be confident in our ability to win State,” Sauer said. 

Center Grove looks to gain even more momentum than they already have in tomorrow’s race. Coach Harrell knows the team will have each other’s backs and will be motivated to run not just for themselves, but for each other.  

“The team is made of seven individuals working together in harmony to accomplish the team’s goal.  The team is only as good as its parts,” Harrell said. “Knowing that you are not really running for you, but rather you are running for your teammates is key to our success.  In every race there comes some point in time that one starts playing the mental gymnastics of ‘This hurts so I should slow down’ balance with ‘This hurts but I’ll press on’. When you’re a part of a Trojan Team you’re so much more motivated to press on. Trojan Pride is so much more than just two words — it’s how we race.”