PENDLETON — Lapel sophomore Luke Combs has a goal this season to make it to the state cross country meet.
At sectional Saturday, Oct. 7, he took an emphatic first step in that direction.
Combs held off Pendleton Heights junior Milan Jones by 35 seconds to claim the individual sectional title in the boys race in sectional 15 at Pendleton Heights.
The Arabians took first place in the team competition with 33 points, easily enough to outdistance Mt. Vernon, which had 60 points. Lapel placed third with 118 and will advance as a team to regional Saturday, Oct. 14, in Muncie.
Combs took the lead early and led throughout, finishing in a time of 16:19. The runner-up time for Jones was 16:54, while teammate junior Caleb Martin finished third in 17:04.
Lapel coach Darrell Richardson has run out of adjectives to describe Combs, who now adds a sectional title to go with the county championship he won early in the season.
“He’s pretty much a machine,” Richardson said. “I just can’t say enough about him.”
For the Arabians, freshman Sean Roan finished sixth, but it was junior Cole Buck, a newcomer to the cross-country varsity team, who drew praise from coach Alan Holden.
“I was really impressed with (Buck) who has gone from being a JV runner to being our fourth guy,” Holden said. “He ended up being ninth — that’s the one I’m really pleased with, considering where he started the year and this is his first year running.”
Freshman Andrew Alderman rounded out the Pendleton Heights scoring with a 13th place run.
For Lapel, sophomore Jesse McCurdy placed 16th, sophomore Carson Huber — despite a stumble during the run — finished 24th, sophomore Killian O’Connor was 28th, and sophomore Luke Rich finished off the Bulldog scoring in 49th place.
Lapel could be stronger at the regional, after McCurdy, fresh off the end of his tennis season, has a week of practice under his belt and junior Jakob Addington could return from injury.
For the girls, the day belonged to Pendleton Heights senior Christina Magers, who won the individual race and led the Arabians to a second-place team finish behind Yorktown.
The Arabians finished 27 points behind the Tigers, 53-26, as Magers finished ahead of a pack of four Tigers that had been running with her throughout the race. She pulled away late, finishing in 20:11, a solid 28 seconds ahead of Amberleigh Sorensen of Yorktown. Syd Parker of Pendleton Heights finished sixth and was able to break up the group of Yorktown runners, a key for Magers to finish out front.
Senior Grace Baer placed 12th for Pendleton Heights, while freshmen Maison McKee and Mycala Brinker rounded out the Arabian scoring with 13th-and 21st-place finishes, respectively.
The Lapel girls team also will advance to the regional with a fourth-place showing. It was led by juniors Kara Lutz (ninth), Lauren Smith (14th) and Noelle Loller (17th), as the Bulldogs finished with 120 points, 12 behind third-place Mt. Vernon.
The Bulldogs edged two teams that could challenge Lapel for a spot in the regional — fifth-place Frankton and sixth-place Elwood. They were aided by senior Keara Shelton, who sprinted past Shelby Hintz of Frankton down the final straightaway for 37th place.
“We were concerned coming in about Frankton and Elwood,” Richardson said. “That’s been our weakest point this year, the four and five (runners) — each week it’s been somebody different. They all ran well.”
Senior Baylee Everitt rounded out the scoring for Lapel with a 43rd place finish, just three spots ahead of junior teammate Sydney Rusche.