They Cathedral High School boys cross-country team is good. And it’s young.
That’s an exciting combination for the future — and Irish cross-country coach Jim Nohl said recently that that future no doubt has a chance to be very, very bright.
But Nohl said something else when discussing the 2017 Irish:
The present has a chance to be very bright, too.
“We want to win it all,” Nohl said recently.
Nohl was talking about the Indiana High School Athletic Association state title, and while that’s obviously a lofty goal – one the program never has attained – Nohl said the talent in the Irish program merits such hopes and aspirations.
The Irish, long one of the top cross-country programs in the state and in Central Indiana, are ranked No. 4 in the state through September 17 according to inccstats.com, and are led this season by one of the state’s top runners. That’s junior Cole Hocker, who finished 11th at the state meet as a sophomore in 2016.
Hocker set a school record with a winning time of 15:18.7 at the THSB Invitational on the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course on September 2, and he followed that with a runner-up finish at the prestigious, competitive Flashrock Invitational at Northview Christian Life Church in Carmel on September 16.
Hocker re-set his school record in the Flashrock event.
Nohl said Hocker’s performance on the state course was an impressive one against a competitive field that included runner-up Matthew Yoder, a senior from Westview. Hocker won the event by 8.8 seconds over Yoder.
“He [Hocker] literally took off from the beginning, ran about a 4:42 first mile, and had a lead of about 30 meters,” Nohl said. “He held it through four kilometers on the hill. The kid from Westview made a surge to catch him and surged in front with a half mile remaining. Cole surged back, and pulled away.”
The Irish won the Flashrock as a team with 66 points, well ahead of runner-up North Central with 92 points and Zionsville with points.
Hocker finished just behind Hamilton Southeastern senior Gabe Fendel at Flashrock, with Hocker finishing in a school-record 15:13.9 and Fendel finishing in 15:05.9. Hocker finished nearly 30 seconds ahead of the third-place finisher. Fendel was the state runner-up last season.
Nohl said it’s competitiveness and desire as much as talent that makes Hocker one of the state’s best.
“He hates to lose,” Nohl said.
Junior Ryan Pehlman finished sixth for the Irish at Flashrock in 16:04, with senior Morris Kimble finishing 12th in 16:16.6, freshman Jackson Carlile finishing 22nd in 16:33.9, sophomore Nick Hruskoci finishing 24th in 16:35.1, junior Rodney O’Neal finishing 48th in 17:04.7 and junior Josh Hoeft finishing 99th in 17:40.9.
The Irish the week before Flashrock won the All-Catholic meet with Hocker (15:25.6) winning the title and Hruskoci (15:53.2), Pehlman (16:02.4) and Kimble (16:12.3) finishing third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
The Irish, who also won the Rushville Invitational on August 26 with Hocker winning with a time of 16:15.07, finished fourth as a team at the THSB Invitational on September 2 when Hocker won with his school-record time. That meet often is used as a midseason gauge for top area teams, and Nohl was the Irish’s finish there was encouraging.
“There were some extra teams that came in that were some pretty good teams and we beat a lot of them,” Nohl said. “We lost to No. 1, No. 2 and got beat by No. 5.”
Nohl said while the Irish have been strong early in the season, they have the potential to improve. He said the Irish have yet to train for maximum speed, and that they will continue to trend in that area toward the postseason.
“We’re really going to still probably improve quite a bit,” Nohl said. “We’ll continue to get better.”
Nohl said that’s true not only because of Hocker, who Nohl said has a legitimate chance to win the state title sometime in the next two seasons. The Irish overall are a hard-working team that Nohl said could improve during the postseason stretch.
“There’s always someone who might mess it up for you, who wants to play around,” Nohl said. “I don’t have anybody like that this year. They all went into the race at the state course waiting to run really well. Normally, when we go to the state course guys are saying, ‘Oh, this course is terrible … blah, blah blah’ … So they don’t run hard and we run slow. We literally ran about 40 to 50 seconds faster than we normally run on that course in terms of top people.
“We’re good enough to win the whole thing. People have predicted us to win it next year. I’m not waiting for next year. I’m waiting for this year.”
The Irish’s postseason will begin October 7 in the Brebeuf Sectional.