Madison’s girls cross country team won the sectional title on Saturday. Members of the team are (from left): Isabel Wilber, Cameran Cahall, Chloe Ferris, Brett Cahall, Ava Spencer and Cadence Traylor. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
Madison’s girls cross country team won the sectional title on Saturday. Members of the team are (from left): Isabel Wilber, Cameran Cahall, Chloe Ferris, Brett Cahall, Ava Spencer and Cadence Traylor. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
SCOTTSBURG — Shawe's Calli Alderman and the Madison girls cross country team both bested personal rivals to win championships at the 2020 IHSAA Cross Country Sectional at Hardy Lake on Saturday.

Alderman led her personal rival, Kaylyn Holman of Crothersville, nearly wire-to-wire to win her first sectional title while the Madison girls finally came out on top of runner-up Charlestown, doing so by 22 points, to win their first sectional crown since 2010.

Overall, three local teams and an additional 10 individuals qualified for the regional round after strong runs on a perfect day by the lake.

No run was as good as Alderman's, the Shawe sophomore who followed up her Ohio River Valley Conference championship with a win in the sectional a week later.

Like the ORVC race, which saw Alderman finally beat South Ripley's Lanie Nicholson after three tries this season, Alderman needed to best a personal rival that has come out on top nearly every time they've competed, including last year's sectional at Hanover College.

Holman, a junior, led out of the starting blocks but Alderman caught her soon enough and spent the rest of the way out front, with Holman right on her heels.

"That was my strategy. I wanted to get out in front but not too far out in front because I knew that I would get tired," Alderman said. "I wanted to keep her close."

That strategy paid off when the two entered the final 100 meters nearly neck-to-neck, but Alderman quickly pulled away to win with a time of 19:56.5, five seconds ahead of Holman.

Alderman's teammate, senior Eliza Weston, was 22 seconds back of the leaders but came across third in 21:23.2 to earn a regional berth. Weston was a mainstay in the Kentucky State Finals as the leader of the Trimble County squad and will now get her first chance to compete in the Indiana regionals.

"I was ranked seventh so I wasn't quite sure how it was going to turn out since it was only my third race. I think third has been my lucky number so far," said Weston, who also finished third in the ORVC meet. "I think there was better competition for this one, so I was glad that I was able to maintain that third spot."

Alderman, Holman and Weston each competed in the race without full teams and that situation played right into Madison's hands. Jennings County sophomore Halle Franks came in fourth and following her was a slew of Lady Cubs that powered Madison to the title.

Freshman Ava Spencer, sophomore Cadence Traylor and senior Brett Cahall all nearly came across the line at the same time, with Spencer finishing fifth in 22:14.2, Traylor sixth in 22:15.5 and Cahall seventh in 22:16.2. But team-wise, they scored two, three and four points, respectively, a close pack that was going to be hard to beat.

"Running in a pack like that wasn't our intention," Traylor said. "It just worked out that way."

The Cubs weren't done. Junior Isabel Wilber came across 16th — 10th in team scoring — in 22:52.7 and fifth runner Cameran Cahall was 29th overall in 24:22.4. Senior Chloe Ferris was 35th in 25:12.0 and although her place didn't count in the standings, the Cubs would still have won the crown had it been her score that was needed instead of Cahall's.

The victory was Madison's first since 2010 when the Cubs won the last of five-straight sectional titles. It's been a long road back for the program, making this win all the more sweet.

"We felt like we had a pretty good team at the beginning of the year but we had a lot of new runners and you just weren't sure how it would work out," Madison coach Josh Wilber said. "You thought maybe this would be a learning year but as the season went on and they got more confidence and starting winning invitationals, you thought that they might have a chance. It's been a fun ride."

Southwestern's girls team overcame a season of illness and injury to score 119 points and sneak into the regional as the fifth-place team. Kirsten Geary led the Rebels with an 18th-place finish in 23:11.2 and was followed by: Patricia Smith, 27th, 24:03.6; Lily Douglas, 34th, 25:08.6; Aleea Crumley, 44th, 27:02.0; and Kaelin Fink, 53rd, 35:45.1.

"I'm super excited. We expected our boys to get out and we felt like the girls had a chance, they just needed to be healthy and have a full team on the right day," Southwestern coach Zac Nussbaum said. "Kaelin Fink really gutted one out. She has a stress fracture on her foot and we told her we just needed her to finish. Props to her. She was awesome."

Switzerland County had only two runners in the girls race but both qualified for the regional. Sophomore Gracie White was 10th in 22:39.6 and junior Alisha Detmer was 13th in 22:45.0.

Shawe sophomore Katie Jacobs was 51st in 33:28.5 and missed the regional cut.

Southwestern's boys placed third overall with 104 points in the very strong field to move onto the next level. It was a satisfying result for a Rebel team that began the season with hopes of winning a sectional title and ended it just hoping they could field a complete team.

"I'm shocked that we got to this point as a sport. Going into conference, we had our full team once all year," said Nussbaum, whose squad has battled exposure to COVID-19 all year. "It's been hard but I give my kids credit. There were plenty distractions for these kids but they stayed focus and worked through it."

Finishes for Southwestern's boys were: Caleb Geary, 15th, 18:51.2; Colton Cloud, 21st, 19:10.0; Joe Drossart, 23rd, 19:15.9; Brandon Smith, 27th, 19:33.7; Jamison Lewis, 32nd, 19:52.8; Owen Bates, 54th, 22:04.08; and Braylin Miller, 55th, 22:20.7.

Madison's boys scored 144 points to place sixth and miss the regional cut by five points. But the Cbs had three runners earn berths to the regional with Noah Burkhardt placing 28th in 19:38.0, Trevor Hoffman 30th in 19:47.0 and Logan Ferris 31st in 19:49.2. Other runners for the Cubs were: Lane Brawner, 37th, 20:08.7; Neel Mistry, 38th, 20:08.8; Liam Murphy, 45th, 20:45.9; and Luke McCarty, 47th, 21:05.4.

"The boys did exactly what was asked of them all season and put themselves in position to qualify for regionals. We would have liked a different team result but we are proud of our three individual qualifiers," Madison boys coach Kris Sandlin said. "We know this shortcoming will make the guys during the off season and for the 2021 season. The boys' running has increased tremendously and they will continue to improve. This sets us up for great things in the future. I'm very proud and excited for every single guy on our team."

Shawe did not field a complete team but two of its three runners qualified for the regional. Louis Liu was 22nd in 19:11.0, Sam Fewell was 25th in 19:29.0 and Wyatt Lundergan was 53rd in 21:37.5.

Switzerland County also did not field a complete team but Nathan Furnish placed 16th in 18:56.3 to qualify for the regional. Dylan Sullivan was 39th in 20:23.7 and Myles Covington was 52nd in 21:33.6.

The IHSAA Regional will be held at Ceraland near Columbus on Saturday. The first race begins at 10:30 a.m.