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Running it down

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Jacob Sanders was one of four seniors competing for the Connersville cross country team. Sanders and the CHS boys finished fifth at the sectional and qualified to run at the Rushville regional.
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Members of the Connersville High School cross country team at a team photo prior to the 2019 season. Those representing the Spartans this season included (alphabetical) Adam Arndt, Owen Baker, Tylissa Beckner, Sean Brown, Conner Greenwell, LaTerrian Harrison, Andrew Isaac, Jeremy Jergensen, Sara Kalkhoff, Logan Lynch, Michael Milano, A.J. Napier, Amelia Ross, Jacob Sanders and Austin Wenta. Managers for the team were Chloe Bowling, Haylee Perry and Lexi Showalter. Head coach of the team was Glenn Arndt. He was assisted by Victoria Collins.
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Connersville’s Tylissa Beckner approaches the finish line at the 2018 IHSAA regional cross country meet in Rushville. In 2019, the CHS senior qualified for her thirdconsecutive semistate meet.
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Connersville’s Michael Milano, shown here at the 2018 IHSAA sectional meet at CHS, closed out his cross country career this fall for the Spartans. Milano and the Spartan boys were regional qualifiers this season.
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Connersville’s Michael Milano, shown here at the 2018 IHSAA sectional meet at CHS, closed out his cross country career this fall for the Spartans. Milano and the Spartan boys were regional qualifiers this season.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

To say that the 2019 cross country season for the Connersville High School team went completely to plan would be over-doing it a little bit.

The season did have its flaws.

From low numbers on the girls team, to some key injuries preventing the boys team from reaching its true potential, there were hurdles for the Spartans to clear.

In spite of that, the team found plenty to get inspired about throughout the season, and the Spartans rode that to turn in some impressive performances throughout.

For instance, the three Connersville girls, Tylissa Beckner, Sara Kalkhoff and Amelia Ross, all turned in personal bests and accomplished those times as the season was winding down.

“They posted those times at the sectional on our course, which I promise you is the toughest course that they ran on all year,” Connersville head coach Glenn Arndt said. “All three of them just came on strong when it counted the most.”

Those weren’t the only performances that gave the fourth-year coach reason to smile throughout the fall, as his boys team impressed as well.

“Toward the end of the season, the freshmen and sophomores really stepped up,” he said, referring to ninth-graders Owen Baker and Andrew Isaac, and 10-graders Jeremy Jergensen, Logan Lynch and Austin Wenta. “They were out there posting personal bests throughout the last three weeks of the season.”

One of them took his improvement to another level, Arndt noted.

“Owen improved his time by more than a minute during that three-week period,” he said.

That push by the Spartans led to the team’s most impressive race — again, when it counted most.

“Our best race was at the sectional,” the CHS coach said without hesitation. “I believe that we were projected to finish sixth, maybe even seventh, as a team. But the kids ran so well, we were able to move up to fifth and advance to the regional.”

Running in that sectional, held at Connersville High School, were Adam Arndt (9th), Sean Brown (29th), Baker (32nd), Wenta (37th), Jergensen (38th), Isaac (51st) and A.J. Napier (56th).

One week later, at the Rushville regional, the Spartans finished 10th, ending their season. At that race, Adam Arndt was taking aim at his second consecutive semistate qualification, but the junior fell short in his bid.

“Adam’s season didn’t end the way he wanted it to,” coach Arndt said. “He was really battling some illness at that point in the season, and it just wasn’t to be.”

That wasn’t the only physical drawback the Spartan boys were forced to deal with this season.

“We really missed Conner Greenwell the entire year,” coach Arndt said. “He would have been our No. 2 runner, had he been able to compete.”

One Connersville runner did manage to escape the regional and earn one more race in her 2019 campaign.

Beckner, closing out her final season, qualified for the regional, missing a win at the sectional by 400 meters (she finished second). Also qualifying for the regional was Ross.

Then, at Rushville, Beckner rounded the course in a time of 20:22.9, finishing ninth.

Her goal of breaking the 20-minute barrier at the semistate one week later was washed away in an extremely cold race, ran in a driving rain. 

In spite of that instance, it didn’t take away from what was an amazing career at CHS.

“She was a three-time semistate qualifier for us, and that doesn’t happen often,” coach Arndt said. “Tylissa is just a competitor in everything she does, whether it’s running, basketball, or even just playing euchre during the team camp. If she is doing something, she wants to win at it.

“Throughout her years running here, she set some lofty goals and achieved most of them.”

Three of his boys also ran competitively for the final time in the cross country ranks.

“LaTerrian Harrison, Michael Milano, Jacob Sanders and Tylissa made up my first group that has been with me since I started coaching here,” Arndt said. “They’re a special group for me, and it is going to be sad to see them go. They were all really good leaders for the team, and they continued what the seniors that had come before them had started.”

Moving forward, improved numbers for the girls team is the focus at the moment.

“We do have a few girls at the high school who have shown an interest in running.” Arndt said. “We also have some girls coming in from the middle school next year, so hopefully, we’ll have a full squad going next season.”

For the boys, getting them to achieve their potential will be the objective.

“We have all seven of our top runners back next season,” the CHS mentor said. “All of them have been race-tested, so we’re expecting 2020 to be a really big year for us.”

As far as what he looks for, not just this past season, but in the years to come, Arndt is clear.

“I love seeing the kids get excited about running really well,” he said. “It’s great seeing the kids forge these relationships with one another throughout the season. Watching them grow together is an awesome thing for me.”