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NH’s Byrne finishes in top-half at state final

When North Harrison freshman Ryan Byrne competed in Saturday’s 56th annual boys state cross country final at the Indiana University Cross Country Course in Bloomington, it was the first time he’d ever run at the facility. Normally competitors hit the course a couple of days before the final in order to get a feeling for what race-day will be like and ease some state final jitters.
Byrne was unable to do that, however he made the most of a bad situation by finishing in the top-half of the field in 86th place with a time of 17:04.3 for the 5k run.
Lawrence North’s Nef Araia won in a time of 15:34.5 over Kaleb Vanort of Dekalb. Franklin Community won the overall boys team title with 91 points over Columbus North.
Out of 174 runners, Byrne, who was part of the state final because Austin’s Carl Roberts fell just short of the finish at the semistate, became the first Cougar freshman harrier to advance individually to the state championship and first male to run there since 1993. He was the third-highest finishing freshman out of 16 that earned the right to run the race.
“It was a great experience and for a 9th-grader it was even better,” Byrne said. “This was the first time I’d run in a big meet at this distance. It was pretty neat with all of the spectators and everything cheering. I’ll never forget it.”
With some pre-race advice from head coach Monty Schneider, Byrne decided to take a conservative approach. Rather than attack a large hill 500 meters from the start, Byrne laid back and conserved energy for the last stage of the race, dubbed the “sinkhole loop.” The result was that the freshman was able to overtake a few runners down the final stretch.
“We thought (the Sinkhole Loop) was the most important part of the race and that’s probably the place on the course that I liked the best,” Byrne said.
“I thought it was a good finish for him,” Schneider said. “You might think ‘Well if he would have done this, this or this, he could have been 10 places higher’ but then again if he’d done that he might have finished 130th because of the difficulty of the course.
“He ran a smart race. We felt the best strategy was to conserve a little and I thought for a freshman it was a good race. He didn’t run over his head and he was in control of himself. I hope that he can get the opportunity to do it again.”
As a team, Byrne said North Harrison looks to repeat as sectional champions next year and try to make it to the state meet as a team. If that doesn’t happen, Byrne said he still has a personal goal to make it.
“We know we didn’t do our best at the semistate, but we have everyone coming back next year to try it again,” Byrne explained. “I feel sorry for the kid that fell down at semistate but that’s the way it goes. I was here and I hope to be here again next year.”
On the girls side, Carmel captured the team championship and West Lafayette’s Jessica Gall won the individual title in 14:08 at the 21st annual state finals.
Brownstown’s Winter Holman was ninth in 14:37 and Floyd Central’s Megan Rainville finished 18th in 14:55.