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50th Cougar Classic brings fireworks, Stewart victory

50th Cougar Classic brings fireworks, Stewart victory
50th Cougar Classic brings fireworks, Stewart victory
Corydon Central's Marcie Stewart powers toward the finish line to capture her second straight Cougar Classic individual title. Photos by Brian Smith

The 50th edition of the North Harrison Cougar Classic, a 5k cross-country meet featuring many teams in the Southern Indiana region, saw a runner hailing from just down the road capture her second straight individual title.
Marcie Stewart, a state qualifier a season ago, repeated as the girls’ individual champ on Thursday under a bright sun. The junior was pushed early on by Perry Central’s Jaelynn Etienne but broke free before holding off moves from the Jasper pair of Andi Vanmeter and Alyssa Skorge. Winning by an eight-second margin, Stewart posted a time of 20:08.7 for the victory.
‘I’m proud of the time,’ Stewart said. ‘I’ve put in a lot of summer training with some good workouts.’
Stewart had an idea of the field at the Cougar Classic, but a talented Forest Park not entering a team allowed for a tactical change.
‘She went out and took control of the race,’ Corydon Central coach Daniel Love said. ‘There were a few that came up on her late, but she sat tight and settled the middle part of the race. Our focus was to get to 4k in good position, but she took control from 2k to 4k. That’s what led her to have a big enough gap to win.’
Feeding off the crowd’s energy helped drive Stewart.
‘When there are more schools, there is more energy,’ she said. ‘I think everyone is excited to run. I like people cheering everywhere. It makes it easier to run; it eases the nerves.’
At the end of the meet, Stewart and the 233 boy and girl participants in the varsity races were greeted with a celebratory fireworks display.
Crawford County’s Christian Carlton is pulling off a double in the fall season. On Friday nights, he’s wearing football pads for the Wolfpack, but Thursday he was using his wheels to motor near the front of the field.
‘It’s fun doing both,’ Carlton said. ‘I run a race on Thursday then get up for a football game on Friday. I may go run another meet on Saturday.’
Carlton went out quick and, despite tweaking a knee injury at the mid-way point, chugged on to finish fifth in 17:39.
‘I haven’t practiced much lately because of my knee, but I went with the first pack and didn’t want let them go,’ he said. ‘I twisted my knee about halfway through the course, but I wanted to keep going. I’ve been playing football and doing cross-country. I can get through it. I’ve got basketball coming up too.’
Two of the three highest placing freshmen were Harrison County harriers. North Harrison’s Jacob Wenning sat behind early runners who pushed the pace to eventually close strong for seventh place, going in a time of 17:58. Corydon Central’s black and gold saw Bryce Weber place 14th overall in 18:20.
‘Jacob Wenning is going to be a very special runner,’ North Harrison coach Jeff Balmer said. ‘He’s a great kid.’
‘Bryce was a great runner in eighth grade and ran well tonight,’ Love said. ‘Early in the season, we are working on race tactics. This race went out super fast. He did a great job, especially as a freshman, to hold back and wait for the race to come to him. He’s such a great athlete. We want him to spend energy early on because he’s going to have enough competitiveness and athleticism to finish strong. He did that perfectly.’
North Harrison’s Chase Long, a junior, ran well to place 15th in 18:23.
‘Jacob ran a super smart race, and Chase figured he was about 50th at the mile and finished 15th,’ Balmer said. ‘He was so tickled with his race. I wanted them to go out smart, and he did. We had a few go out too fast. They are learning to race.’
Jasper was the overall boys’ champion by scoring 53 points with the runner-up Southridge (92). South Central, of the 17 complete teams, placed eighth with 218 points.
The Rebels were guided by brothers Maddox and Jude Baker who finished in 32nd (19:05) and 40th (19:41), respectively. Boasting a team of all underclassmen, South Central also sent out Preston Martin (46th, 19:41), Cody Liebert (50th, 19:47), Gavin Schweitzer (71st, 20:33), Garret Day (79th, 21:05) and Dylan Davis (85th, 21:11).
Crawford County didn’t field a full team, but, in addition to Carlton, they sent out Wyatt Gall (66th, 20:23) and Blake Hammond (96th, 21:59).
Corydon Central, 10th as a team, raced Zachary Houghland (37th, 19:12), Dylen Lawson (63rd, 20:20), Bryson Rowley (68th, 20:28), Brian Sharp (70th, 20:32), Trey Saulman (95th, 21:35) and Dustin Bachman (97th, 22:05).
Runners to complete North Harrison’s team included Caden Smith (69th, 20:31), Michael Kays (102nd, 22:32), Collin McCullem (103rd, 22:43) and Matt Jones (112th, 25:28).
‘The numbers are better this year and, once we get everybody together, I’m tickled with our team,’ Balmer said. ‘We are a month away still. There is no need to peak early.’
Lanesville placed 16th as a team, led by a 56th-place effort from Aiden Byers (20:02). Also running for the Eagles were Justin Bailey (89th, 21:24), Thomas Elder (100th, 22:15), Nathan Romeo (110th, 24:03) and Nick Gordon (116th, 25:46).
In the girls’ race, Jasper made it a team sweep by scoring 75 points. North Oldham (Ky.) was second five points back with 80.
Corydon Central, backed by the first-place effort of Stewart, came in fifth with 184 points. The Lady Panthers ran without Sarah Bailey, who sat out with an injury.
Picking up the pace for the Lady Panthers was sophomore Emily Armstrong. She stayed near the lead pack for much of the race, eventually placing sixth in 21:23.
‘We were really proud of everyone today,’ Love said. ‘Emily had a great race. One of the teams we wanted to focus on, she was able to pass at the end.’
Also running for Corydon Central were Lexi Orme (51st, 25:08), Jillian Wise (61st, 25:39), Emily Bruce (80th, 27:23) and Sarah Grimes (112th, 35:25).
‘Lexi ran great, and Jillian really stepped up,’ Love said.
Lanesville sent out five freshmen in the girls’ race, coming up with a 16th-place team finish. The top Lady Eagles’ runner was Grace Smith (49th, 24:59) followed by Kennedy Gordon (83rd, 27:36), Mackenzi Lewis (95th, 29:23), Hailey Gowens (98th, 29:40) and Marissa Elder (109th, 32:55).
South Central took 18th place, led by Macey Kidd’s 70th-place showing in 26:20. Also running for the Lady Rebels were Chloe Kidd (91st, 28:57), Lily Boley (96th, 29:24), Lily Grinar (102nd, 30:58) and Marie Goodwin (110th, 34:35).
Crawford County sent out three girl competitors with Gabi Gaines running in 22:54 for 19th place. Kloee Grizzel (56th, 25:22) and Aimsley Logsdon (57th, 25:24) also represented the Lady Pack.
50th anniversary celebrated
The North Harrison cross-country program hosted the Cougar Classic for a 50th time and, at the completion of competition, fireworks popped off in the western sky.
‘We’re trying to do it right,’ said Balmer, in his second year as the North Harrison boys’ cross-country coach.
Balmer, who also is the track and field coach at Crawford County, said he has fond memories of the Cougar Classic, but one that jumps to the front of his mind quickly revolved around the famed Floyd Central ‘Super Hicks.’
‘My first memory is 1976 when Tom Foushee and Ed Metka finished one and two for Floyd Central,’ Balmer said. ‘I remember Floyd Central in their bib overalls warming up and wearing capes. It was the ‘Super Hicks.’ It stuck with me. I remember The Courier-Journal had a picture of those guys coming across the line. It was neat to have cross-country on the front page of the Courier.’
To go with music played between races to pump up runners, a few Cougar Classic alumni returned as well. No year was faster at the Cougar Classic than 2009 when Tyler Byrne (North Harrison) and Erika Wilson (Eastern Pekin) set the course records. Byrne’s blistering time of 15:35.9 still stands, while Wilson’s 19:09.4 remains the fastest mark.
Both runners returned to the 50th anniversary to be honorary starters of the race.
‘Having Tyler back today and we have Jonathan Reynolds (another North Harrison cross country alum) on our Corydon staff are things I remember the most,’ Corydon Central coach Daniel Love said. ‘Those guys had something special. It’ll be a long time before a team comes close to what they could do.’
Love competed for North Harrison in high school, and his father, Jerry Love, was the North Harrison coach at one time.
‘It’s a dream of mine to be coaching and a lot has to do with the success Dad had at North Harrison,’ Daniel said. ‘He did a lot of work with a lot of people to make this a big meet. It’s been around for a long time, but it hasn’t been a big meet for real long. The extras with music, fireworks and it’s such a good spectator course with the mile and two-mile accessible to everyone. It’s fun to coach at this meet.’

Boys’ team scores: 1. Jasper 53, 2. Southridge 92, 3. Eastern (Pekin) 98, 4. Borden 183, 5. Brownstown Central 197, 6. Northeast Dubois 199, 7. Perry Central 212, 8. South Central 218, 9. Henryville 221, 10. Corydon Central 231, 11. Jeffersonville 248, 12. Scottsburg 265, 13. North Harrison 272, 14. Springs Valley 299, 15. Charlestown 353, 16. Lanesville 433, 17. West Washington 492.
Boys’ individual results: 1. Jackson Miller (Jasper) 16:33.5, 2. Drew O’Neil (Jasper), 3. Uriah Guthrie (Eastern Pekin), 4. Dylan Bland (Southridge), 5. Christian Carlton (Crawford County), 6. Gavin Just (Borden), 7. Jacob Wenning (North Harrison), 8. Nathan Schnell (Northeast Dubois), 9. Logan Hunter (Southridge), 10. Abe Eckman (Jasper).
Girls’ team results: 1. Jasper 75, 2. North Oldham (Ky.) 80, 3. Bedford North Lawrence 94, 4. Brownstown Central 157, 5. Corydon Central 184, 6. Perry Central 197, 7. Southridge 208, 8. Charlestown 217, 9. Northeast Dubois 261, 10. Eastern Pekin) 273, 11. Borden 281, 12. Paoli 303, 13. Jeffersonville 308, 14. Southridge 317, 15. Salem 332, 16. Lanesville 401, 17. West Washington 416, 18. South Central 431.
Girls’ individual results: 1. Marcie Stewart (Corydon) 20:08.7, 2. Andi Vanmeter (Jasper), 3. Alyssa Skorge (Jasper), 4. Jaelynn Etinenne (Perry Central), 5. Myra Roberts (Bedford North Lawrence), 6. Emily Armstrong (Corydon), 7. Katie Giles (North Oldham), 8. Shelby Livingston (Northest Dubois), 9. Autumn Spence (Bedford North Lawrence), 10. Amanda Schnell (Jasper).