The season was a successful one. Really successful.
That was good news for the 2016 Cathedral High School boys cross-country team, but the best news may involve the future.
That’s because as good as 2016 was for the Irish boys – and it was very, very good – the young makeup of the team could make the future even stronger and brighter than the present.
“We’ll be back,” Irish boys cross-country coach Jim Nohl said.
The Irish in 2016 turned in a slew of solid performances against very good competition.
They first won the City Title and finished second at the All-Catholic meet, then followed those performances with a second-place finish at the sectional meet and a fifth-place finish at the regional meet. They finished seventh at semi-state meet to miss qualifying for the state meet by one place.
The Irish compete in what is traditionally one of the state’s toughest regional and semi-state brackets, making their postseason accomplishments this season particularly significant.
They also did all of that with a team that featured no seniors among the top seven runners.
That makes for what could be a bright future, with early projections indicating that the Irish could be a Top 5 team in the state next season.
“We’ve gotten a little better talent with more experience coming in,” Nohl said. “It makes it where we’re not starting from scratch. It helps in that regard.”
Nohl said the Irish’s young runners also have flourished with a training method – the Five Speed Method — that he has begun implementing in recent seasons.
“We’ve put together a plan and truthfully, it really works well,” Nohl said.
The Irish this season were led by a deep group of underclassmen that included sophomore Cole Hocker, who finished 11th at the state meet.
Hocker won the October 8 Brebeuf Sectional with a time of 15:57.7, followed by junior Morris Kimble (16:24.0) in fourth, sophomore Ryan Pehlman (16:38.4) in 10th, freshman Nick Hruskoci (16:44.3) in 11th, junior Greyson Turner (17:33.6) in 34th, freshman Joseph Mathioudakis (17:36.6) in 35th and freshman George Wajda (18:07.5) in 47th.
Hocker then finished second at the October 15 Noblesville Regional with a time of 15:27.99, followed by Hruskoci (16:06.71) in 22nd, Kimble (16:11.60) in 25th, Pehlman (16:13.45) in 27th, Turner (17:05.86) in 64th, Mathioudakis (17:18.31) in 73rd and Wajda (18:11.80) in 90th.
Hocker finished third at the October 22nd Shelbyville Semi-State meet with a time of 15:20.9 followed by Kimble (15:57.40) in 32nd, Pehlman (16:08.3) in 56th, Mathioudakis (17:09.3) in 119th, Hruskoci (17:09.6) in 120th, Turner (17:05.86) in 64th and Wajda (17:46.3) in 151st.
Hocker’s 11th-place finish at the October 29 Indiana High School Athletic Association state meet at LaVern Gibson Championship Cross-Country Course in Terre Haute came in 16:05.1.
“He has a PR [personal record] of 15.20, which is about a second or so off the school record,” Nohl said.
The Irish also improved as a team late in the season, a process that Nohl said may have been hindered a bit by the rains that hampered many cross-country teams throughout Indiana this season.
“We got better and better as the season went on and were right there at the end,” Nohl said.
Nohl called Hocker, Kimble, Pehlman and Hruskoci the “meat and potatoes” of a returning team that could be poised for a strong 2017 season, and added that the Irish also should be deep beyond that foursome as the program moves to what could be a bright future.
“We should have four runners who can make us even stronger,” Nohl said. “It was there for us this year, and we had a chance to get out of semi-state. We’re already talking about [the future]. We should have gotten out of semi-state and [a strong run at the state meet next season] isn’t an unrealistic goal at all.”