FORT WAYNE — Six DeKalb County runners — five from Garrett and one from Lakewood Park — advanced out of a tough Northrop Sectional meet Saturday.
Garrett senior Nataley Armstrong was the top local finisher, placing 11th in the girls’ race at 20 minutes, 50.5 seconds.
She’ll be joined at Saturday’s West Noble Regional by sophomore teammate McKenna Malcolm, who was 38th at 23:12.1.
Lakewood Park senior Danielle Lesser became the first girls’ regional qualifier in school history, finishing 27th overall at 22:19.7.
On the boys’ side, Garrett will send three runners to Saturday’s regional meet.
Senior Tanner McMain led the Railroader contingent, placing 25th at 18:09.1. Sophomore Luke Coffman finished 30th at 18:28.9. Sophomore Gavin Weller placed 36th, grabbing the last individual regional spot at 18:38.7.
Sophomore Nate Presswood (57th, 19:27.3), freshman Malachi Malcolm (58th, 19:29.3), junior Landon Davis (59th, 19:35.6) and senior Keegan Angel (77th, 21:06.3) rounded out Garrett’s seven runners.
On the girls’ side, junior Samantha Liechty (60th, 25:30.6), sophomore Addison Ebert (64th, 26:04.3), junior Aida Haynes (74th, 28:31.6), sophomore Brooklyn Jacobs (75th, 28:38.1) and freshman Ayla Gilbert (80th, 30:10.8) were Garrett’s top finishers.
Staying on your feet — not to mention keeping your cleats on — was a challenge on a very wet and muddy course around newly remodeled Spuller Stadium.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Garrett coach Jim Petre said. “You saw the course. It’s a muddy mess.
“I told them, ‘Times aren’t going to be great today. You just have to run for a place and run smart,” he said. “They executed and did a great job.
“To get three boys and two girls out of one of the toughest sectionals in the state, it’s an awesome feeling.”
After the races concluded but before official results were announced, Garrett coaches tried to calculate if either Weller, Malcolm or both would be able to join their teammates. Petre said they had both runners in the 10th and final individual qualifying spots, but were anxious until their names were announced.
“I kind of knew but I didn’t want to tell them because I wanted to make sure I didn’t make a mistake,” Petre said. “To see their excitement, it’s all worth it. I’m very proud of them.”
Homestead sophomore Addison Knoblauch was the class of the field in the girls’ race, leading from the start. She built a comfortable lead to finish at 19:07.9. Concordia sophomore Alexa Panning was second at 19:53.5.
With five finishers in the top 15 places, Carroll won the team title with 44 points. Homestead put four finishers in the top 10, but its fifth runner was 23rd. The Spartans were second with 49 points.
Concordia (92 points), Leo (105) and Columbia City (153) earned the last three team regional spots. Garrett finished ninth with 243 points.
In the boys’ race, Columbia City senior Austin Hall posted a winning time of 16:24.3 Carroll’s Robert Lohman was second at 16:35.8.
Concordia, with three runners in the top 10 and five in the top 20, won the team title with 58 points. Homestead was second with 74 and Carroll was third with 77.
Columbia City (99) and Leo (113) also qualified for the regional meet. Garrett finished eighth with 206 points. Lakewood Park, which finished 11th with 344, was led by junior Braeson Kruse, who was 48th at 19:13.2.