TERRE HAUTE – The race was long over, but the Concordia boys cross country team weren't sure where they had finished at the cross country state championships on Saturday afternoon at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course. Some sat with their faces in their hands, waiting as the announcer counted down the team standings.
When he reached the runner-up, confirming that Carmel had taken second place, some of the Cadets pumped their fists, realizing they had just won Concordia's first boys cross country state championship. A wide grin spread over senior Reece Gibson's face, and some of his teammates stumbled as they jumped to their feet.
"I think that's probably the greatest feeling I've ever felt," Gibson said. "I think all the guys were really nervous. I checked my watch and my heart rate was at 120, so it was pretty exciting."
They had beaten Carmel, 93 points to 112. Homestead was sixth with 215 points, West Noble was 21st and Columbia City finished 23rd.
"These guys have worked so hard," Concordia coach Scott Steffen, his voice filled with emotion while his runners took pictures with their new trophy. "They were recognized on Friday, and the school couldn't be more proud of them. Any time a school wins a state championship, in anything, it's special. This is my first one, but it's a big thing, in a single class sport where we're running against Carmel and we're running against Homestead and Carroll and other really large schools. It's special."
Gibson was the top Cadet, finishing fifth in 15 minutes, 44.5 seconds.
"My plan was to go out with the lead pack, and I think we did," Gibson said. "I think it went out a little slow, the first mile was around 4:58. But I knew someone was going to make a move at 3K, and I think Luke (Combs, of Lapel) made the first move. And I saw Lucas Guerra (of Highland) go with him, and I tried as hard as I could to stay up with them. But they got the best of me today."
Gabriel Sanchez, a Lowell senior, won the race in 15:28.7, followed by Guerra and Combs, then Jesus Garcia of Zionsville. Angola sophomore Izaiah Steury was seventh in 15:49.9, while seniors Drake Kropf and Wilson Wicker took 17th and 18th.
"I knew they would be special, but so many things have to come together," Steffen said of his senior class. "We're running two sophomores on this team. That's kind of crazy. Our No. 4 runner today is a sophomore, our No. 5 is a junior. So we're excited about next year, too."
Homestead was led by Jarred Neff, who finished 24th. Kobe Milledge, a Snider junior, was 34th.
"It's really a blessing to come in here – I don't think we were really expecting to do as well here as we did today," Gibson said. "We're just blessed that we've had a great season with no injuries."