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  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Carroll girls cross-country runners Megan Hathaway, left, and Abby Green practice on Monday. Green, a senior, is hoping to return to the state meet after missing it last season.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Carroll High School girls cross-country runner Abby Green during practice on Monday 10.01.18  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Carroll High School girls cross-country runner Megan Hathaway during practice on Monday 10.01.18  

Friday, October 05, 2018 1:00 am

Carroll healthy, hungry

Girls strive to get over hump as state runners-up

VICTORIA JACOBSEN | The Journal Gazette

Back in 2015, when the Carroll girls cross country team claimed its first of three consecutive runner-up finishes at the state meet, the result was a surprise, at least to Abby Green, who was a freshman.

“It was totally unexpected,” said Green, who is now a senior. “We got second place, and we were totally over the moon. I think someone said we were more happy than Carmel, who won, and that was totally true. We were so overjoyed.”

Last season, when the Chargers were again runners-up, the second-place finish was a reminder of Carroll's potential, and what could have been if the team hadn't been hit by a rash of injuries.

“Three of our top five were hurt, and we still got second, and I think that's a reflection of how much of a team we are,” Green said. “Every team has a low stick, a very fast runner. But not every team, or any other team, could say that they could get to state and have their top two be out and still be able to be carried through.”

Phil Yoder, the coach of the Carroll girls team, said this season has been more of the same. Green, who had foot surgery and was out for four months as a junior, has been limited in the number of races she has been able to run this year.

A number of other runners are also returning from injury as the team prepares for its sectional meet at Northrop on Saturday. Still, the Chargers are the top-ranked team in the state, according to the final regular season coaches' poll released Tuesday.

“No, absolutely not, because everything is just a little bit different,” Yoder said when asked whether he and his team had mastered how to manage injuries. “It's not like we have the same injury for every girl. One's an SI (pelvic) joint. One, she grew 5 inches in four months. The other one strained her calf. It's been random things, and we're learning a lot. We've still got a lot to learn, though.”

Green, who finished second in the state meet as a sophomore but was not healthy enough to run in the race last year, has found some consolation in the time she has spent recovering on the stationary bike and in the pool.

“Being hurt, I've raced one or two times, that's definitely not what I expected” from my senior year, Green said. “But I've gotten closer to girls I wouldn't have just because we spent so much time cross training. So in a way, that's a silver lining. I ended up getting closer with people in my final year.”

Meagan Hathaway, a senior who finished seventh at the state meet as a sophomore, said the team is starting to turn its attention to the championship – and what it would take to break past a second-place finish.

“In the post-season now, we've started to address state and our finishes more,” Hathaway said. “I think it's a good motivator. It gives us confidence, I think, that the past couple years we've been runner-up. And I think it attracts girls to the program who are kind of interested in maybe running.”

But Carroll boys coach David Brooks wants to keep his team's sights a little closer. The Chargers won the boys state title in 2016, but Brooks said that just qualifying for the state meet will be significantly more challenging this season. At least six competitive teams including Carroll are expected to advance to the Noble Regional, but only five move on. The same dynamic will be in place at the semi-state meet in New Haven.

“So the message to the boys, the challenge is, don't assume that won't be us (left out),” Brooks said. “We could run well at state, and I think we could go anywhere from potentially challenging for the podium to not even making the state meet. It really depends on the day, and not only what we do but also what other teams do.”

Brooks said that he has been largely disappointed with the way his team has run in the middle part of the season after showing flashes of potential in August. The Carroll boys are ranked ninth in the state, behind Homestead in sixth place and Concordia in eighth.

But the good news for cross country teams that underachieved through September is that none of those results matter now that the postseason is here. The bad news is that success in past seasons doesn't carry over, either.

“We do have a tendency to run well when it counts,” Brooks said. “But this year I'm trying to help the guys see that that doesn't mean anything. That's the past.”

vjacobsen@jg.net