TERRE HAUTE – The Carmel High School athletic programs have enjoyed unprecedented success, with 127 championships in sports sanctioned by the Indiana High School Athletic Association.
The boys and girls cross-country programs had combined for 29 of those heading into Saturday’s state finals. Yet, for all the Greyhounds’ success, they managed to achieve something that no team had done before.
Carmel came away with the cross-country equivalent of a grand slam, winning the individual and team titles at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course.
Senior Ben Veatch defended his title with a commanding run, completing the 5,000-meter course in the first sub-15-minute time in four years and only the third in the past 30. Carmel’s boys won with 115 points to 158 for runner-up Fishers. The Indiana-bound Veatch – who placed fifth as a sophomore and 27th as a freshman – finished in 14:59.8, a 4:49 pace per mile over the 3.1-mile course.
Junior Sarah Leinheiser pulled away at the 4K mark in the girls race to win in 17:30.8, a 5:38 pace and third fastest in state finals history. Carmel’s girls ran away with their sixth consecutive team title – another state record – with 70 points. Runner-up Fort Wayne Carroll was second with 158.
“I think one thing that a lot of people (outside the sport) wouldn’t understand is just how big a program it is and all the people that contribute to a day like this,” said Carmel boys coach Colin Altevogt, whose team had 121 boys this year.
Indeed, the Greyhounds distance program has built a dynasty rivaled only by their girls swim team, which has 29 straight championships. It starts at the elementary level with buy-in from the runners, their families and the behind-the-scenes contributors.
“I’ve been around since the heyday of (former coach) Chuck Koeppen and the ‘80s, and the community is really behind it,” said girls coach Mark Ellington. “We have so many families that understand what a positive aspect running is for their kids, and they plug them in. It doesn’t matter if they’re the fastest kid. They’re with other good kids, and together they do great things.”
In the boys race, Veatch was never seriously challenged beyond the midway point and seemed to find an extra burst at each marker. At 3,000 meters, he stretched his lead to 10 meters and pulled away from the field at the 4K mark. Homestead’s Brayden Law was seven seconds behind to finish as the runner-up.
Carmel’s second through fifth scoring runners – Ben Miller, Evan Bouillet, Calvin Bates and Trey Harris – were separated by 23 seconds (15:57-16:20).
“We have great coaches,” Veatch said. “We love the girls team. We practice with them every day. We just have a different atmosphere at Carmel. We go about it in a special way. We do it for the team. I think that’s the special part, is the team aspect and how much of a focal point that is in practice.”
Leinheiser faced a much more competitive girls race. Greencastle freshman Emma Wilson went out strong as she did in the semistate and led early before Leinheiser, Cathedral’s Katherine Free and Pendleton Heights’ Alex Buck moved to the front of the pack. Buck held tight with Leinheiser at the 4K mark as Free began to fade, but then Leinheiser found another gear and surged ahead. Buck, meanwhile, fell off and Leinheiser coasted to the finish unchallenged. Free was nearly 22 seconds behind to finish second.
Carmel placed four in the top 20, with senior Stacy Morozov fifth (18:11), junior Christina Geisler 15th (18:26) and sophomore Maddie Dalton 17th (18:28).
“I was hoping to get (the grand slam) today,” Leinheiser said. “I was pretty sure our team could pull through this year. I was thinking, hopefully I could do it and complete the puzzle and Carmel could make history.”