Switzerland County Lady Pacer Leah Anders made history on Saturday, becoming the first female runner and only the second Switzerland County runner in school history to win the individual championship of the cross country Sectional.
The junior joins Devin Scudder, who won the boys Sectional race as a sophomore in 1996, as the only runners to win those prestigious individual titles. Anders now looks to join Clay Meyer at an even higher level, as she looks to win an individual Regional title this Saturday, October 14th, at Brown County. Meyer won the boys Regional individual title in 2008.
On Saturday, Anders - who has dominated area competition all season long - moved out to her easy pace and steadily pulled away from the runners of the nine other teams competing in the Southwestern Sectional - winning the race with a time of 20:11.6.
Second place Emma Morrison of Jennings County finished her race in a time of 20:42.6 - over 30 seconds behind Anders.
It was a dominating performance.
Adding to the excitement on Saturday was that the Switzerland County Lady Pacers as a team also qualified for the Regional, finishing fifth overall to nab the final team slot.
Jennings County won the Sectional with a score of 29; followed by Charlestown with 55; Madison with 73; Silver Creek with 136; and Switzerland County with 148.
Southwestern was sixth with a score of 152; Scottsburg finished with 165; Austin had a score of 171; and Shawe Memorial had a score of 233. New Washington did not have enough runners to post a team score.
Along with the champion, coach Kris Sandlin's Lady Pacers saw Kierstan Oeffinger finish 24th in a time of 23:53.4; Aleiah Thomas finish 38th in a time of 25:28.3; Brianna Vinup was 42nd in a time of 25:40; Zoe Cole was 43rd in a time of 25:54.5; Allison Detmer was 44th in a time of 26:00.2; and Mikailah Peterson was 52nd in a time of 29:08.4.
The Brown County Regional is fed by just two Sectionals: the teams and individual qualifiers from the Southwestern Sectional and the Brown County Sectional, where those runners will again compete on the same course that they ran their Sectional on.
Anders is among the elite runners funneling into Brown County, which is headlined by a strong Columbus North team coming from the Brown County Sectional.
At Brown County on Saturday, Arig Tong of Columbus North won the Sectional in a time of 19:17.69; Ashton Chase of Seymour was second in a time of 19:22.7; and Olivia Morlok of Columbus North was third with a time of 19:28.46.
Anders' Sectional time would have been sixth fastest at Brown County, but the nature of cross country is that all courses have a personality and a unique terrain; so it's nearly impossible to judge runners against each other until they maneuver the same course under the same conditions.
Saturday's Regional is being run at Eagle Park in Nashville, Indiana, which is just off of Highway 46 West as fans come into Nashville from Columbus. The boys Regional is set to start at 10:30 a.m.; with Anders and her Lady Pacer teammates scheduled to start their Regional race at 11:15 a.m.
In the boys Sectional, Switzerland County did not have enough runners to post a team score. Jennings County also won the boys Sectional with a score of 25; followed by Austin with 54; Southwestern with 83; Silver Creek with 97; and Scottsburg claimed the final Regional qualifying spot by finishing fifth with 148.
For the Pacers, Garrett Demaree led the team with a 39th place finish in a time of 20:18.4.
Coby Manbeck finished 42nd in a time of 20:27.3; Nathan Scudder was 59th in 22:41.2; and Kaymen McElheny was 62nd in a time of 23:36.4.