The Irish were very good, and they could have been better.
That was the story of the 2017 Cathedral High School boys cross-country season – and coach Jim Nohl said that says a lot of good things about the Irish program.
Yes, the Irish finished fifth in the state – their highest finish in more than 50 seasons and the program’s best finish in the modern era. But the potential was there for more, and Nohl said that says much about the state of the program.
“I was angry, to be truthful,” Nohl said with a laugh shortly after the Irish’s fifth-place finish at the 2017 Indiana High School Athletic Association state meet in Terre Haute on October 28.
“Don’t get me wrong: it was better than we’ve done in ages and ages, but for how we had run all season, it wasn’t anywhere close to where we were.”
The Irish, led by junior standout Cole Hocker, finished the state meet with 213 points – behind Carmel (94), Fishers (152), Westview (171) and Valpraiso (200). That was the Irish’s best finish since Indiana cross-country moved to its current 3.1-mile format.
Hocker finished as the state runner-up with a second-place finish in 15:19.5 behind state champion senior Gabe Fendel (15:17.2) of Hamilton Southeastern. Irish freshman Jackson Carlile finished 41st at the state meet in 16:10.8, with junior Ryan Pehlman finishing 68th in 16:23.5, sophomore Nick Hruskoci finishing 89th in 16:31.3, senior Morris Kimble finishing 125th in 16:46.6, junior Rodney O’Neal finishing 154th in 17:06.0 and sophomore Joe Mathioudakis finishing 185th in 17:32.4.
“The goal was to win,” Nohl said. “When we stood on the podium for pictures after the meet, I could hear people saying, ‘Look, they’re not even happy.’ We weren’t. We weren’t happy that we got fifth place. We thought we should have gotten first, second or third.
“Don’t get me wrong: It’s great to finish there, but we felt like we could have done better. There was more potential.”
The Irish qualified for the state meet with a second-place finish at the Shelbyville Semi state meet, finishing with 64 points to 46 for Carmel. Hocker finished second at semistate with a time of 15:15.3 with Kimble finishing 10th in 15:47.1, Hruskoci finishing 15th in 15:52.3, Pehlman finishing 21st in 16:00.5, Carlile finishing 30th in 16:12.4, O’Neal finishing 70th in 16:39.9 and Josh Hoeft finishing 135th in 17:30.6.
“When we ran semistate, we ran almost all PR (personal records),” Nohl said.
Hocker won the Noblesville Regional to lead the Irish to a third-place finish that qualified them as a team for the semi-state meet. He won the regional with a school-record time of 15:08.0 ahead of Fendel, who finished in 15:14.7.
Fendel was the state’s top runner this season, with his only loss to a runner from the state coming to Hocker at the sectional meet. Nohl said Hocker likely will enter 2018 as the state favorite.
“He’s on the radar,” Nohl said of Hocker.“Pretty much all the top [collegiate cross-country] programs have sent him some type of contact information.”
Pehlman finished 13th at the sectional meet in 16:07.03, with Kimble finishing 14th in 16:10.03, Carlile finishing 35th in 16:52.6, O’Neal finishing 43rd in 16:58.2, Hruskoci finishing 53rd in 17:10.2 and Mathioudakis finishing 65th in 17:32.2. The Irish finished with 98 points at the regional behind Carmel (41) and Fishers (72).
The Irish boys dominated the October 7 Brebeuf Sectional, winning with 54 points ahead of runner-up North Central with 57 points. Hocker won the sectional in 15:49.9, with Pehlman finishing second in 16:16.0 and Kimble finishing third in 16:23.3. Hruskoci finished seventh in 16:45.8 with Carlile finishing 11th in 16:57.7.O’Neal finished 18th in 17:17.8 and Mathioudakis finished 22nd in 17:44.6.
“We bring back almost the whole team, and we bring back out No. 1,” Nohl said. “My younger runners – as they get more experienced at bigger meets obviously the better results we’re going to get. We may not be the top-ranked team going in, but I can’t see by the end of the year us not being the top team next year.”
The Irish also competed in the Nike NXR Midwest Regional in Terre Haute on November 11, with Hocker finishing 27th in 15:42.6, Kimble finishing 176th in 16:39.7, Carlile finishing 182nd in 16:41.9, O’Neal finishing 207th in 16:50.2, Pehlman finishing 221st in 16:54.0, Hruskoci finishing 300th in 17:23.00 and Hoeft finishing 305th in 17:25.8.
The Irish were the second-highest team from Indiana in the event, finishing 20th overall.