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Butche works and races to top fall athlete, again

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PRESSING: Brennan Butche goes through a set of leg presses during a workout in the Mississinewa weight room on Wednesday as he prepares for the upcoming track season and his college running career at IUPUI.
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ALL-TIME INDIAN: Mississinewa’s Brennan Butche capped the greatest cross country career in county history with a third-place run at the state championship, a win in the Mid-East Classic All Star race and being the Chronicle-Tribune’s top fall athlete for the third-straight year.
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RESISTANCE: Mississinewa Assistant Cross Country Coach Aaron Robinson (right) puts Brennan Butche through resistance training workout Wednesday at the school.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

GAS CITY — Brennan Butche was mostly alone on Wednesday afternoon, except for having Assistant Cross Country Coach Aaron Robinson by his side and a few school mates finishing workouts in the Mississinewa High School weight room.

Butche was learning some new-to-him strength building exercises from Robinson, and like with everything else he’s done in his high school running career, he was pushing himself has hard as he possibly could.

It’s the only way Butche knows. Full-bore, full-time.

That’s the way he trains. That’s the way he races. And it all adds up to Brennan Butche being the Chronicle-Tribune’s top fall high school athlete for the third-straight year.

Butche spent a lot of time alone during races his senior season, firing off the starting line, sprinting to the front of the pack, and most days simply running away from everyone.

Much of his success can be attributed to the time Butche spends alone or with coaches when he’s not racing, like Wednesday with Robinson, in what was otherwise an empty weight room.  

Everything he’s done and all he’s doing is with the same goal in mind – run faster.

Wednesday’s workout was a different beast, as had been the one on Monday with Robinson. 

“It was probably the worst workout I’ve ever had in high school. It was brutal, pain,” Butche said of Monday, no hint of a smile. “I had to hold back some tears, but they were coming.” 

It was explosive lifting and resistance training, done with the intent of getting to those hard to reach muscles in Butche’s legs. Ones that will only aide his ability to go faster and for longer.

Standard leg presses were involved, so was a step stool with 10 pound weights is each hand. Another activity included big rubber bands strapped to a weight machine on one end and the harness Butche was wearing on the other. 

The training was specific and intense, and in less than an hour Butche was finished. Breathing harder, at times, than he did at the end of some of his 5K races.  

“I started focusing on healthy lifting that will take care of my body and won’t destroy me or get me real bulky,” Butche said. “After this weight program, I think I can really break some records, and I think it will really help me at the end of a race.”

Butche said he’d replayed the state championship race over-and-over since Oct. 27. He ran exactly the race he wanted, stalking heavy pre-race favorite Cole Hocker in second place for more than four of the five kilometers. 

“I knew he was the favorite coming in and he’s a great runner,” Butche said of the champion from Indianapolis Cathedral. “But I told myself before the race no one ever gives this guy any competition so I’m going to get on his shoulder and see how deals with someone with him practically the whole race.

“I’m just going to fight with him and try to beat him up the hills and surge past him,” he continued. “He pushed me to run my best race. That was the game plan all along was to get up there and hang with him and see how that goes. In my opinion, it worked out pretty good.”

Quite well indeed, as Butche finished third, losing a spot less than 100 yards from the finish line. Hence part of the urgency to keep developing those kicking and finishing muscles.

“I’ve replayed many different images in my head almost daily,” Butche said. “I picture (Hocker) and his long hair right there in front of me, I can hear the crowd screaming. It’s almost like I zone out and I’m right there again.

“I’ll have that dream in the middle of the night with about 50 yards to go, and I’ll get passed and get third,” he added. “That’s a little upsetting, but it just pushes me to work harder and harder for this track season.”

Plans had been in place for Butche to start Robinson’s workout regimen since mere hours after the state meet. The start of the program was delayed because of Butche racing in a pair of national championship qualifiers and the Mid-East Meet of Champions, a meet for the top seniors from Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.

Butche finished 11th in a field of 350 in the Nike Midwest Regional on the same LaVern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute the state championship was contested on, missing a trip to nationals by a single spot. He battled through miserable cold and muddy conditions at the Foot Locker event in Kenosha, Wisconsin to finish 38th out 205.

The capper of Butche’s high school cross country career came in Kettering, Ohio in the Mid-East Meet of Champions, and fittingly he was the first to cross the finish line, two seconds ahead of a runner from Michigan.     

“In the middle of that race I thought to myself, there’s four different states here, the top 12 seniors from each state. If I get top 10 that’s great,” Butche said. “I was sitting in fifth about two miles in and I was like top-5 that’s amazing. Right after that, thought something just clicked and I surged. I kept running and kept pushing and I came across the finish line crossing the tape first. I was so excited because I never thought I had a chance at doing it.”

When Butche first started running, around the age of 10, and through middle school, he admitted thinking none of the accomplishments he’s attained were possible. Most weren’t even thoughts for him. 

He won his first meet, his first Grant Four, his first CIC, and each win fueled the desire for more wins, faster times, bigger goals and dreams.

“People always told me, Brennan you can do big things, you can win state one day,” he said. “There’s a lot of runners in this state and I was thinking maybe top-15 by my senior year, that would be great.”

He did that as a sophomore, then finished fifth as a junior.

Butche’s high school cross country career ended with four Grant Four championships, three CIC championships, four sectionals, two regionals and a runner-up along with three-straight top-10 finishes in the semistate. Three-consecutive podium finishes at state and the accompanying all-state honors.

This season Butche was Indiana’s Class 3A Runner of the Year, only the second Grant County runner to earn such an honor. He joined Oak Hill’s Cameron Balser who won the 2A version of the award in 2009.

Butche’s desire to be the best comes from within his slender frame and lion’s heart, but the direction he’s taken to get where he is and where he wants to go have come from many minds. He was quick to credit several men in helping.

“I’ve had the great coaching. (Mississinewa) Coach (Ean) Van Winkle, he’s given it all to me, Coach Robinson, my dad (Chris Butche), even (Oak Hill) coach (Paige) Brunner,” Butche said. “He’s given me workouts and advice. I wouldn’t be here today without any of those guys. Even Coach (Cody) Turner, he’s here everyday, and he puts a smile on my face most days and is really encouraging.

“Oak Hill, I’ll admit, is one of my biggest rivals in the county. Always out to beat Oak Hill,” he added. “But coach Brunner, he’s a great guy. We’re rivals and all but he helps me with workouts, and I love it. I love how the community comes together to support other athletes. I think that’s the definition of sportsmanship.”

Butche’s final days at Mississinewa are quickly flying by, and he recently put his plans in place for college, signing to run at IUPUI in the fall of 2019. Like many high school athletes trying to decide where they best fit in, Butche’s decision took time, many phone conversations with coaches and a handful of visits to various Division I-level schools. 

He said his dad assured him he’d know which school felt right, and in the end, IUPUI was that fit.

“It was very difficult and very stressful. My dad had told me many times, hey you’ll know the college you want, you’ll just feel it in you,” he said. “I was like what’s that feeling going to be like? ... I was bouncing back and forth a lot. IUPUI made one last call and told me they really want me and they’re really trying to build a program. I just felt like that’s where I belong and where I’ll do my best in college.”

Butche plans to study exercise science and coaching, and hopes to someday return to Mississinewa to train and coach young Indians, a way to give back to the community that’s helped raise him. He’s already started mentoring some middle school runners.

But first, winter training then spring track season. Butche has plans for a mighty big finish to his high school days.

“I would like to surprise people. I’ve always been known to be the longer the better, Brennan Butche, the longer race the better he is,” he said. “My goal is to get every record from the 400 to the two mile and really put a stamp on my senior season and career. Shatter as many records as possible.”

The plan today is the same as it was yesterday: full-bore, full-time, trying to be the fastest man he can possibly be.

“Yeah, it’s about as simple as that. I just want to get from point A to B as fast as possible,” Butche said.

“I know you’ve got to take it day-by-day and work hard, eat the right things, drink the right things, workout the right way.

“I just take it one step at a time, just like in a race, one mile at a time.”