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Butche aiming for more history entering 2018 boys XC season

CONTENDER: Mississinewa’s Brennan Butche (left) runs alongside Raven Fisher during Indians’s cross country practice Thursday. Butche returns as one of the top runners in the state and plans on battling for the state championship in late October.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

Brennan Butche has had the boys state cross country champion within his sight in each of the past two seasons.

Not a day has passed since the cold, damp day in Terre Haute late last October that the Mississinewa senior hasn’t thought about his fifth-place finish in the 2017 state championship.

It was great day. Butche ran a great race, then shared tears of joy and satisfaction with his family and coaches immediately afterwards.

But the fire that burns constantly within Brennan Butche was only stoked.

Fifth isn’t first. And Butche enters the 2018 season wanting all the eyes of more than 200 racers and couple thousand spectators on him a little after 2 p.m. on October 27.

Around 350 miles on the road. Weights four days a week. Running hills for sprint training. Tabata interval training. Were what Butche’s summer consisted of and everything was done with one goal in mind. 

“I want to win it,” said Butche Thursday evening. “Ever since the state meet last year, not a day passes where I haven’t been thinking about it , visualizing the race and how I want it to go. That’s my big goal.”

But not the only lofty goal Butche will chase starting next week at Yorktown in the Grant County/Delaware County challenge.

“I want to run under 15 minute this year. I’ve seen a couple of high schoolers do it, and only a handful have in Indiana,” Butche said.

He feels stronger and faster and Butche enters 2018 with a lot of confidence. He’s also shortened his stride and is also sprinting faster than in the past.

“He’s got a better kick,” said Ole Miss coach Ean Van Winkle. “He needs to start getting on his toes and be more of a sprinter at the end of races. And he’s doing what he’s supposed to do. He’s on his toes and he’s turned into quite a sprinter. His 400 was low 50s and for a distance runner that’s excellent.”

Butche has also started hearing from a lot of colleges. He visited Indiana a couple weeks ago and will spend a weekend at Purdue in coming weeks. He mentioned Butler, Illinois State and East Carolina as other schools that have reached out, but none have put any offers on the table as yet.

If Butche reaches his goals, those offers are sure to come.

“I’m very determined. I just look back at all the workouts we’ve done and the workouts we’ve done at the dunes and I know I haven’t lost anything,” Butche said. “Since the middle of June I’ve been running everyday except Sundays.

“I’m very confident and I believe I have a very good shot at winning the state meet,” he added. “That’s the biggest goal and the biggest dream I have right now.” 

Van Winkle added, “It’s just awesome that he can put himself in the position to even think that. He has a lot of right to think that. It’s doable. Not many people can say, ‘Hey I think I can win the state.’ He actually can say that and be pretty confident that he’s got a shot.”   

While everyone in Grant County, and most everyone around the state will be chasing Butche, all five country schools are optimistic about the prospects for their upcoming season. 

Oak Hill appears to be the team to beat and will have Eastbrook and Ole Miss in hot pursuit. Marion and Madison-Grant may not yet be ready to compete for team titles, but numbers are coming up for the Giants and Argylls and both will be able to compete.

Following are brief previews for all five Grant County boys cross country teams.

Oak Hill

Golden Eagle coach Paige Brunner returns his top eight runners from last season’s semistate qualifier, adds a couple of talented freshman into the mix and Oak Hill appears primed to win its third straight Grant Four, and 19th in the past 20 years.

Juniors Tahj Johnson, Raffi Fry and Dillon Mitchell will likely fill the top three spots in Oak Hill’s lineup, but there will be competition to see who fills out the rest of the top seven for big meets.

“Those three are triple-headed monster up front.” Brunner said. “Then we have a collection of seven guys that any one of them could fill in top four, five, six spots. We’re at the point in the season where I’m somewhat hesitant to really get excited because all I’m watching us do is really beat up on each in practice.

“The workouts we did at camp were so much better than we did last year and you’ve got really close knit group of guys. It’s a young group that’s still hungry.”

Seniors Colin Harts and Julian Garcia could figure into the scoring mix, along with junior Danny Nally and freshman Sol O’Blenis and Landon Ashley. 

“We’ve got 10 guys rolling in right now that we’re really confident in and are really pushing each other,” Brunner said. “The biggest thing with our boys is are we going to be able and mentally ready to race each other. We’re fully capable of being a team that’s very scary this year and maybe sneak up on some people on a bigger scale. But were still young enough, maybe inconsistent enough where we might be where we’ve been the last couple of years.”

Eastbrook

The Panthers endured the loss of standout Connor White, who will don spikes for Taylor University this fall. But coach Ethan Evans believes his all underclass team is close to being able to give Oak Hill a runs for its top spot.

Juniors Ben Neideck and Zane Callison appear to have a firm grasp on the top two spots in Eastbrook’s lineup, while juniors Nathan Brainer, Isaac Brown and Jack Hammond will be pushed by freshmen Logan Kennedy and Damion Jones.

Eastbrook has 10 boys out for the season and Evans is excited to have depth, something his past teams have lacked. 

“In the past we’ve had issues with depth and we don’t anymore,” Evans said. “Eight out of the 10 are going to be in the top five at different times. Outside of Connor, we won’t replace him with just one guy, but our one, two, three are going to be a lot stronger than last year.”

Evans has five juniors, one sophomore and four freshman competing this season and the youthful experience the team has will help them challenge for the top spot in the county, and he hopes beyond. 

“It could make for some tough decisions towards the postseason but it’s a very good problem to have,” Evans said of his depth. “The competitiveness (in practice) is there, but they’re working together to get better.

“The last two weeks of practice we’ve had some solid workouts and every workout we have it gets us more excited to just get out and race,” he added. “They’re itching to get out and race and I’m itching to get them out and race.” 

Mississinewa

Van Winkle also will have some depth with the Indians roster. As of now the Indians have 13 runners out and may have more by early in the season.

Senior Jacob Ehmer returns as do juniors Raven Fisher, Zac Huffman and Noah Drake. Van Winkle also believes sophomores Jon Alsup and Tony Parrish along with freshman Zach Luchetti will battle for scoring positions during the season.

Van Winkle said because of Butche’s talent, its been hard to have the rest of the team workout with him, but they’ve figured out a way this preseason.

“We send kids out ahead of him and he has to catch them,” Van Winkle said. “And it works. That’s what we have to do.” 

But for Ole Miss to have team success, those following Butche will have to improve. Van Winkle believes the potential is there.

“I think we can get some kids that can possibly get in the 17s this year and in the past we haven’t had that other than Brennan,” Van Winkle said. “Hopefully most of those boys will all be 18 (minutes) and under.” 

Marion

New Marion coach Sarina Lashbrook returns two runners to the Giants boys team that tasted some success last season.

Seniors Joel Barnes and Tyler Morgan both ran their way out of the Marion Sectional last season and Barnes qualified for the New Haven semistate. Morgan was just two finishing position behind Barnes in the Marion Regional to narrowly miss going to semistate and both have that in their sights entering this season.

“They have been very consistent in training. They’ve been there everyday working hard and pushing each other,” Lashbrook said of her senior duo. “They’ve done every workout together and they run on their own together.

“They’ve also been great with our younger guys and explaining the sport to kids that have never ran before,” she added. “I’m just trying to get behind them and help them get there, help them achieve those goals the best I can.”

Lashbrook has seven boys total, with senior Latrell Guerrero, juniors Logan Carrico and Austin Warpool and sophomores Matthew Kelly and Jackson Vice. She said she’ll use the first few days of school to try and recruit both boys and girls.

The goals early in the season for the Giants will simply be learning and looking for improvement.

“For some of these kids, they’ve never raced a 5K before so its hard to know what to expect coming into this season,” Lashbrook said. “I would love to see us just perform well at the NCC meet then comeback and perform well the next week at the sectional.” 

Madison-Grant

New Argyll coach TJ Herniak has eight runners starting the season but thinks M-G’s numbers may grow once school starts.

Herniak has added some athletes from other sports to his roster, namely varsity basketball players Wyatt Rudy and Kaden Howell and varsity baseball player Cole Hasty.

“We’ve got some great athletes on that boys team and a large group right now,” Herniak said. “Cole, Kaden and Wyatt are just excellent athletes. I’m just blown away by Cole Hasty’s leadership. He was voted team captain as sophomore. He’s just a tireless worker”

Seniors Rudy, Sinjin Turner and Steven Frye will compete alongside sophomores Hasty, Howell, Zeb Taylor and Gavin DeDecker as well as freshman Steven Frye. And Herniak thinks the Argylls will be able to compete.

“I think that they can compete as team in some meets this year,” he said. “We’re not gong to beat the powerhouse schools but we might surprise some people because are guys are working hard and they’re getting better. I can see drastic improvement for what we saw at the beginning of summer to now. They’re running much faster and running at a much better pace and they have the competitive fire to just go get it.”