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NH freshman Byrne 15th, advances to state meet

NH freshman Byrne 15th, advances to state meet
NH freshman Byrne 15th, advances to state meet
North Harrison freshman Ryan Byrne (1758) fought for position with Bedford’s Geoffrey Bush (1628) and Mt. Vernon’s Seth Hildebrand (1848). Byrne made it into the state finals after Austin’s Carl Roberts, who was 15th at the time, fell to the ground just 20 meters from the finish line. (Photo by Wade Bell)

On a day of clear skies and warm temperatures, which felt more like late April than late October, the Floyd Central girls cross country team and North Harrison’s Ryan Byrne ran well enough to advance to Saturday’s state meet at the Indiana University course at Bloomington.
More than 150 runners began the girls race which began at a torrid pace as Brownstown’s Winter Holman took the lead followed by Evansville Central’s Heather Stembridge. Floyd Central’s Megan Rainville was also fighting to move up to a position to compete with the front runners. Meanwhile, Crawford’s Meghan Kelly and Corydon’s Sunny Hipple got caught in a traffic jam and were pushed back more than 40 positions behind.
Near the two kilometer mark Holman and Stembridge were still side by side and more than fifty meters ahead of rest of the field. With just over a kilometer to go the pair were still pacing each other with Rainville in the third spot and New Albany’s Sarah Bielski, winner of the Hanover Regional, back in fourth.
In the stretch run Stembridge finally broke away from Holman to win by almost sixteen seconds and Rainville came in at a strong third while Bielski was fourth.
Bloomington South dominated the team standings with five runners in the top twenty for 41 points. Floyd Central was second with 120 points.
The celebration for a second place semi-state finish, however, would only be brief with a week before Saturday’s state finals.
For Crawford’s Meghan Kelly and Corydon’s Sunny Hipple the day did not go as well as the pair would have liked. Kelly, who did not feel well during the race, finished 77th while Hipple moved up a little farther to the 62nd position.
Hipple said she just tried to run here usual race but the starting pace was quicker than expected and it was difficult to decide who to run with.
“I really didn’t know who to stay up with,” said Hipple. “They sprinted out really fast. I told myself I wanted to try to stay in the thirties the first mile and see where I could go from there, if I can move up.”
“It’s a good course. You just have a faster pace and more girls. The conditions felt pretty good. I can’t say anything had an affect on my run the way I ran today. Cross country is not usually my thing. I run it just to run it but this year is the hardest I’ve ever worked. I’m happy just to be up here and be a part of semi-state.”
The start of the boys run was even faster than the girls and the North Harrison team got pushed far back in the field with the exception of Ryan Byrne, who forced himself up with the lead group.
“If you get boxed in you might not do as well a you want to,” Byrne said. “I got out pretty fast up around fourth or fifth and fell back to fifteenth. I just dogged it out at the end.”
With just over a kilometer to go North Central’s Michial Jacob and Joshua Rogers, and Martinville’s Marcus Aguilar were battling for the top three positions with Nick Waninger of Heritage Hills fourth and New Albany’s Wes Seacat in fifth.
At that point Byrne was in a three-way battle for twelfth with Geoffrey Bush of Bedford and Seth Hildebrand of Mt. Vernon. At the finish Michial Jacob broke away to win by almost twelve seconds over Aguilar.
With 50 meters to go Byrne was in the position hated most at 16th. Suddenly just 20 meters from the finish line, a spent out Carl Roberts of Austin suddenly crashed to the ground in front of Byrne. Byrne picked up his pace and sped by, grabbing the last of the state qualifying berths at 15th.
“I thought if I passed him he probably couldn’t get back up in time and I could get into state,” Byrne said. “I felt a little adrenaline rush when we came around the last corner but I wouldn’t have made it if he hadn’t have fell. I knew I was 16th but thought if I could keep up with number fifteen I might be able to sprint him out at the finish. I feel sorry for the kid that fell. That’s got to be pretty harsh.”
“I thought Ryan was an individual that had a shot to get out after last week’s race because he looked like he was ready to run with the big boys,” said North Harrison coach Monte Schneider. “I told him before the race today I thought he had a shot to get out but you don’t want to go too crazy to start with. You need to not get in the lead pack but right off the lead pack.”
Schneider said he was able to keep track of Byrne’s progress from several vantage points but didn’t know about the finish till afterward.
“He was 12th with a kilometer to go but when he passed me about 500 yards from the finish he was 14th, then 15th, then the kid from Austin passed him,” said Schneider. “I said, ‘Ryan, you’ve got to beat him.’ The Austin kid was really digging in.”
“I knew Ryan had real good leg speed so I thought if he could keep up with him he might be able to out-kick him. I didn’t know till I got up here the Austin kid had collapsed and Ryan got by him. He finished strong. The Austin kid was really going hard and I think Ryan pushed him hard enough he just ran him to exhaustion.”
As for looking at the state meet, all the previous strategies there go out the window.
“He may not be on the awards stand next week but stranger things have happened,” said Schneider. “He’s just got to be careful. There’s some real runners next week that can keep going and he just needs to make sure he doesn’t go out too fast but also doesn’t get caught in the pack. The race in Bloomington is won down on the bottom, not on the top.”
As a team North Harrison finished well back than expected in the 14th spot with 314 points.
“It’s been a good season,” said Schneider. “I’m a little disappointed not to make (state as a team) but fortunately the kids are young and we can try it again next year. We do get to go (with Ryan) and that’s great. Probably Jeff Faith in the early 90’s was our last individual boy runner so that’s quite an accomplishment.”

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