Covenant Christian’s Kohler Peterson was determined to make memories in their final Rensselaer Central cross country sectional runs Saturday.
Peterson withstood challenges from a pair of Kankakee Valley runners — sophomore Justin Hoffman and senior Ethan Tillema — to win his first individual title and the first ever by a Knights runner. His time of 16 minutes, 40.34 seconds was nearly six seconds better than Hoffman’s 16:46.21.
Both are considered fast times on a crisp, cool day that featured strong winds that pushed and pulled runners over the 3.1-mile layout.
“Justin Hoffman, I knew he would be one of those guys who would try to keep up with me,” Peterson said. “We’ve been competing this whole season and we have that back-and-forth mentality. I just had to keep an eye on him.”
Tillema was third in 17:10.11. He was one of five KVHS runners in the top 17, helping the Kougars claim their second straight sectional title.
“Morgan ran well today,” KV coach Tim Adams said. “We were concerned there at the finish. I think they’re pretty young, so they are absolutely on the ascent. They made it a very challenging race.”
Hoffman came into the race with laser focus after he was inadvertently tripped by Peterson in the two-mile race at Rensselaer’s track sectional last year.
“Jacob was a little motivated,” Adams said. “He had that in his mind as a motivator all year.”
Peterson finished fourth at sectional last year, with former teammate Carson Bakker, who was on hand Saturday to give Peterson vocal support, finishing second. Bakker, a 2019 graduate, joined the cross country team to give the Knights another body in practice.
Bakker would go on to qualify for the state meet last fall.
However, Peterson becomes the first cross country sectional champion at Covenant.
“When I started I never thought I’d ever be a sectional champion one day,” he said. “Carson helped me with that the last two years. He was a person who kept pushing me to get faster, and now it’s nice to be able to say thanks for the help. Here is the result. It was nice to show him he’s more than just a teammate.”
Other Kougars to score in the boys’ race included senior Micah Adams (10th in 18:04.48), senior Trenten Thomas (12th in 18:10.48) and sophomore Adam Collard (17th in 18:39.64).
“Micah’s been fighting some kind of illness and he’s been 45, 50 seconds off his time and it wears on him,” Adams said of his son. “But he fights tremendously well between his ears. Trenton Thomas has been our story. He’s really come a long way in a year’s time. And then you have Adam Collard, another sophomore.
“We were hoping to be here.”
Adams now hopes his team can break through at the regional level on Saturday. KV has been unable to reach the semistate over the past decade or so.
“It’s no secret that the next step at regional has evaded us the last 13 years, since this sectional was reassigned to a northern regional,” Adams said. “We’ve got to run better than we did today to give ourselves the best shot to take the next step. It looks to be more manageable this year, but you never know.”
A four-year runner at KVHS, senior Sam Martin led her team with a fourth-place finish in 20:26.72. Teammate Halle Frieden, a junior, finished 11th in 21:23.74 and sophomore Emilee Wilson (14th in 22:13.03) and freshman Keely DeKock (22:55.65) also scored for the Kougars. Junior Samantha Sullivan’s 26th-place finish was the team’s fifth score.
Morgan Township was the second team to score in the boys’ race, followed by Rensselaer Central, Kouts and Knox.
Locally, RCHS freshman Tristen Wuethrich overcame a bruised toe to finish fifth overall in 17:35.01. He was one of only two freshmen to finish in the top 10, with Ty Ivanyo of Morgan Township (eighth in 17:45.53) the other.
Senior Jacob Parrish added a top 10 finish for the Bombers, placing ninth in 17:52.58. Classmate Camden Chapman was 14th in 18:25.56 and Will Messman, a junior, was 21st in 19:19.79. Junior Geoffrey Hopkins was RCHS’s fifth scorer, finishing 28th in 19:40.90.
“JP, he’s a master at work,” Dobson said of Parrish. “His work ethic is second to none. He’s a football player really and today he’s running ninth on a windy day. He can crack open a high 16 just like Tristen can.”
Dobson praised the performance of his boys’ runners, from one to seven.
“Camden has been more solid, more consistent in his times,” he said. “Our seniors have been great. Rodney (Woudema) put in a lot of work this year. They are some of the best leaders I’ve ever had in cross country. And Nolan (Potts), Will, Geoffrey and Conner (Parker), they just close that pack up and magic happens.”
Local runners to finish in the top 20 included North Newton’s Ryan Williams, a sophomore who finished 19th, and South Newton junior Kyle Hall, who placed 20th.
North Newton teammates Gavin Secviar (25th), Joseph Smith (26th) and Isaac Knight (39th) will also compete at regional, as well as South Newton’s Nolan Ganz.
Zander Deutscher was West Central’s top finisher in 44th place.
Set to join the Bombers at Saturday’s girls’ regional meet in Chesterton are Morgan Township, Kankakee Valley, Kouts and North Judson. The top five teams and top 10 individuals not on a qualifying team will compete at Sunset Hills County Park, which is hosting a regional meet for the first time.