By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Autumn Spence was in glide mode, running at ease, chasing a record. Grace Tanksley was in pure panic mode, afraid of being trampled, sure she was in trouble.
They ran completely different races on the same familiar ground and ended up at the exact same destination. Bedford North Lawrence’s top duo earned coveted invitations to the IHSAA semistate race during the turbulent regional on Saturday morning.
Spence, spurred by her final chance to beat the school record on her home course, finished 10th overall while Tanksley crossed in 25th. Both advanced as members of top 10 individuals who were not part of advancing teams. The top five in the 10-team regional moved on, and the Stars – gutted by illnesses – finished ninth.
That didn’t slow down Spence and Tanksley. Spence completed the 5K event in 19:46.04, just a whisper off the team mark of 19:45.58 (set by Samantha Sheldon in 2010), while Tanksley bounced up from an early-race crash to clock 20:58.22.
In her final race at BNL, Spence was superb. She was back in the pack during the first half of the race, then made her move and dashed into the top 10. Coming up 0.46 short of the school record for the course was a little agonizing, but in big-picture terms, she was right on pace for her first semistate appearance.
”I knew if I started in the back, it was fine,” Spence said. “This is my course, I know where I can pick people up. So starting slow doesn’t worry me too much.
“I’m super excited. It’s finally my senior year and stuff is happening. I feel like I’ve worked hard enough for it. It’s still kind of surreal.”
The surreal moment slapped Tanksley across the face. She got caught in the early calvary charge away from the starting line, falling when one of the competitors in front of her went down and caused a chain reaction. Just call her “Crash” from now on.
“I was scared,” Tanksley said. “I got up pretty quick. I thought ‘I’m done, I screwed up bad.’ My breathing was all messed up.”
Tanksley caught her breath and churned ahead, qualifying for the semistate for the second straight year.
“I’m pretty proud, especially to fall and still make it,” she said. “That’s pretty cool.”
BNL could count on the frontrunners, but any shot at earning one of the five team invites to the third stage of the state tournament series was shattered when Myra Roberts and Kaitlyn Phillips missed the race with illnesses. At full strength, the Stars were predicted in sixth place.
”It was a tough day,” BNL coach Jill Vance said. “We knew at the beginning of the day it wasn’t going to happen for our team. But Autumn and Grace were in position. I’m really proud of Autumn. She made a good attempt at that record. She fell short and that happens. She has nothing to regret.”
BNL totaled 223 points. No.16 Northview won the team crown with 43, followed by No.9 Bloomington North (56) and No.19 Bloomington South (72). Edgewood’s Clara Crain was the individual winner in 18:34.48, while her sister Annalyssa – the undefeated pre-race favorite – battled through the race with a sore foot and settled for seventh.
In the boys race, No.14 Bloomington North won the crown with 50 points, followed by No.11 Northview (65) and No.13 Bloomington South (75). Terre Haute South’s Matt Gambill won the individual race in 15:56.95.
BNL had three individuals in the meet, with Cole Baker finishing 45th in 17:57.26. He missed the cut for the semistate by five places (17 seconds off the pace). Colton Sons was 55th in 18:36.49, and Cameron Haste was 87th in 20:23.58.
“To make it out, we knew they’d have to run a perfect race,” BNL coach Jonathan Calhoun said. “They were on pace for the first lap, then lost steam. They went for it, but unfortunately we were a couple of individuals away.
”Today showed what it takes to move on. It was exciting to see the growth, since we were very young. It also shows the drive that needs to take place between now and a year from now. We have to have a stronger mentality and find a way to be stronger runners.”
Spence and Tanksley will compete in the semistate at Brown County on Oct. 24, with action set to start at 11:30 a.m. The top six teams and top 10 individuals who are not members of qualifying teams will advance to the state finals in Terre Haute on Oct. 31.
Saturday at BNL
Team scores – Bloomington North 50, Northview 65, Bloomington South 75, TH North 76, TH South 101, Bloomfield 179, Eastern Pekin 207, Eastern Greene 243, Sullivan 246, Clay City 249
Top performances – 1. Matt Gambill, THS 15:56.95; 2. Nolan Bailey, BN 16:07.90; 3. Cael Light, THS 16:14.41; 4. Kyle Clark, BN 16:20.49; 5. John Asplund, BS 16:21.97
Individual qualifiers – 20. William King, Sullivan 16:57.22; 21. Wyatt Frye, Bloomfield 17:00.17; 28. Tate Hall, Orleans 17:19.50; 29. Kaden Temple, Pekin 17:21.74; 32. Elliott Gough, Edgewood 17:25.61; 33. Jacob Hogg, Clay City 17:27.64; 34. Landen Myers, Bloomfield 17:29.37; 38. Bryce Stateler, West Vigo 17:37.48; 39. Dustin Lester, EG 17:40.28; 40. Justin Beard, Bloomfield 17:40.64
BNL – 45. Cole Baker 17:57.26; 55. Colton Sons 18:36.49; 87. Cameron Haste 20:23.58
Team scores – Northview 43, Bloomington North 56, Bloomington South 72, TH South 107, Edgewood 107, TH North 200, Owen Valley 216, Mitchell 220, BNL 223, Clay City 233
Top performances – 1. Clara Crain, Edgewood 18:34.48; 2. Gnister Grant, Northview 18:56.10; 3. Ellia Hayes, Northview 19:07.71; 4. Bea Cakmak, BN 19:09.05; 5. Lily Myers, BS 19:10.56
Individual qualifiers – 10. Autumn Spence, BNL 19:46.04; 18. Macy Tucker,. Clay City 20:28.92; 19. Peyton Smith, Linton 20:35.93; 23. Lanie Roberts, Salem 20:49.64; 25. Grace Tanksley, BNL 20:58.22; 28. Carly Reynolds, Shakamak 21:15.55; 31. Hannah Burkhart, Sullivan 21:35.35; 32. Allison Hughett, Orleans 21:36.25; 34. Adalyn Wiseman, Bloomfield 21:37.03; 36. Ashley Hudson, EG 21:44.59
BNL – 81. Ella Peek 25:55.40; 83. Emily Bartlett 27:51.42; 86. Emma Baumgart 30:18.93; 87. Shelby Slaughter 34:36.89