Brown County cross-country pushes through small-school woes

Almost 1,200 runners from as far away as Kentucky competed and placed Saturday in Brown County High School’s 15th Eagle Classic cross-country invitational.

For Head Coach Rob Abraham, the stress is double leading into the classic. Both as a coach and as an organizer, he is looking for the best out of himself and his teams.

Despite the rain that came before and after the classic, the weather did little to deter competitors.

A few runners crossed the finish wearing some of the course, and junior Wyatt Wyman — whose 17:15 placed him second in the boys varsity group — said the mud probably hurt his time some with the slipping and sliding.

“I’ve seen people fall the whole time,” Wyman said. “Footing was horrible, but, it’s still fun. It’s what cross-country is.”

Not far behind Wyman in sixth place with a 17:49 — just four seconds slower than his best time — senior Job Lawson has taken well to cross country after deciding to switch from football, which he played the previous three years.

While Lawson, who also runs track, expects more benefit for his winter-season wrestling from cross country, he’s not just in it for the conditioning, he said.

“I’m for sure looking to get through sectionals,” Lawson said. “My goal is to get to semi-state — I don’t know how realistic that is, but I’d love to get to semi-state.”

The boys team has some strong athletes this year, Abraham said. In addition to returning runners such as Wyman and senior Nathan Kilburn, the team has picked up several multisport athletes, including Lawson, seniors Cameron Flesher and Jordan Samples and sophomore Jackson McPheeters.

“We’ve got some pretty good athletes, but we’re not that deep right now,” Abraham said. With a full four minutes between the team’s fifth and sixth runners at the classic, the current spread could cost the team a win if they encounter a tie.

The boys are also working on tightening up the almost three-minute spread among the top five runners, Abraham said.

“I think we’re doing a pretty good job,” he said. “They’re learning, and that’s all you can ask them to do right now. Three weeks from today we have conference here. Hopefully some good things can happen that day.”

The boys know they have a shot at winning the Western Indiana Conference Championship on Saturday, Oct. 1, and they want to take that shot, Flesher said.

There’s still a lot to work on in that time, though.

Kilburn said he has been working on slowing down at the start so he doesn’t run himself out too early. But he also has to work through the mental struggle of not being where he has been in the past, and not letting that discourage him.

Wyman said he has peaked at the classic in the last two years, but he knows he can shave more time off before conference and sectional.

There’s a lot to be encouraged about, Wyman said. Even compared to the summer, when they only had two runners at practice, simply having the five they need to make a team score has been a big deal.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “You pull together a bunch of non-runners — basketball players, football players — and we have a team and we’re actually pretty decent.”

The girls weren’t as lucky as the boys to fill out their numbers in the early part of the season, but that will be changing within the next weeks, Abraham said.

As of the classic, the Eagles only had four girls to run, which is one short of being able to score as a team.

But, with the addition of returning senior Molly Austin and freshman Mica Shelby, that will be changing, and Abraham anticipates six runners at Silver Creek on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

Still, after losing several seniors who lead the girls’ times, as well as one runner Abraham had expected back, but whose family moved out of the area, there is going to be a lot of rebuilding to do.

“We lost so many people, it was just a big hit for the team,” Abraham said. “It is what it is. It’s just one of those years where you’ve just gotta grin and bear it and get through it.”

At a small school like Brown County, and with a student population that has shrunk noticeably since he first started, it can be difficult to sell enough kids on cross country to be able to field a large team, Abraham said.

As the leading runner and an upperclassman, senior Haley Abraham has been filling a role she didn’t anticipate before the season started.

“It’s a lot of pressure, I guess, just carrying the traditions down,” she said.

At the classic, she led the girls team with a 24:15. Freshmen Maris Wyman and Cassidy Davis and sophomore Coralynne Robinson came in with a five-minute spread behind her.

Wyman started running cross with her brother, Wyatt, when she was in sixth grade, she said. Yet, as a freshman, she is still getting to know her team.

Robinson and Davis are completely new to cross country this year, they said.

Abraham’s teammates said they think she’s doing a good job as the upperclassman over the past weeks, always stepping up with tips and encouragement.

Ultimately, they are making what they can out of what they have, and there is potential there, Haley Abraham said.

“We have been dropping times — not like we’ve been wanting to, but we’ve been killing workouts, and training so much faster than what we’ve been running,” she said.

Eagles cross country 2016 roster

Senior boys

  • Job Lawson
  • Cameron Flesher
  • Nathan Kilburn
  • Jordon Samples

Junior boys

  • Michael Southerland
  • Wyatt Wyman

Sophomore boys

  • Jackson McPheeters

Freshman boys

  • Billy Webb
  • Tim Kilburn

Senior girls

  • Haley Abraham
  • Molly Austin

Sophomore girls

  • Coralynne Robinson

Freshman girls

  • Maris Wyman
  • Cassidy Davis
  • Mica Shelby
Author photo
Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.