By GREG MENGELT
Silver Creek coach Darrell Kingery wasn’t going to settle for second place.
Neither were his Dragons.
Silver Creek’s boys and girls swept the Southwestern Cross Country Regional Tuesday. The girls crushed the competition, beating runner-up Madison by 38 points. The Dragon topped the runner-up Cubs, 33-47.
“I told the kids on the bus that we are not going to accept second place,” Kingery recalled. “We came out here to win. If we got second, then we failed. The kids stepped up to the challenge I thought.”
Kingery spent 27 years at Clarksville before making the tough decision to take the Silver Creek job two years ago. Days like Tuesday made the move with it.
“I was looking for kids who wanted to run and wanted to be successful, and Silver Creek had a group that seemed to want to do that,” Kingery said. “This is what you coach for.”
Henryville junior Sadie Spears continued a phenomenal junior season with her first individual sectional title.
Spears pulled away from Silver Creek sophomore Maggie Shields with about a mile to go and beat Shields to the finish line by 19 seconds to win the title.
“I was kind of expecting to come in first, but you never know,” Spears said. “Any girls can come from anywhere and just get you, but I pulled it off and it feels really good.”
Spears followed her Southern Athletic Conference championship and Providence Invitational title with a winning time of 20:22.79.
“I do feel like I’ve been pretty strong,” Spears said. “The last couple of weeks have been pretty awesome.”
Spears did more than win the race. She actually motivated her top competition. She and Silver Creek’s Maggie Shields ran together for over two miles. With less than a mile to go, Spears implored Shields to keep up with her.
“She started to leave me and she said, ‘Don’t leave me,’ but I just couldn’t keep up,” Shields recalled. “She’s a great motivator to run with.”
“For me, it’s not all about winning,” Spears said. “I like to make friends when I’m running. I talk to everybody. I like to encourage people.”
“She’s phenomenal,” Henryville coach Brad Nifong said of Spears. “She’s been awesome. She’s the ultimate kid that you want to have run cross country for you.”
Shields entered the race hoping for her first sectional title, but she was satisfied after crossing the line second.
“I was happy that Sadie beat me, if anybody,” Shields said.
Shields led a Silver Creek onslaught following Spears. Brittany Sharp finished third in 20:47, Mackenzie Crouch came in fourth, Jessica Backherms was eighth and Miranda Coats was 19th to help the Dragon girls repeat as sectional champions.
“It’s the greatest ever coming back and winning a second time,” Shields said.
Spears and Hornets’ teammate Megan O’Lone, who finished 14th, and Charlestown’s Whitney Andrews, who placed seventh, will join Silver Creek at the Brown County Regional on Saturday.
“It’s going to be tough competition,” Shields said, “but we’re hoping to come out of it. Our team’s working hard to pull through.”
Silver Creek had four runners in the top seven, led by Isaak Haas’s 16:58 runner-up finish to Madison’s Landon Perry.
Jason Fruits finished fourth in 17:16, Drew Roberts came in sixth in 17:32 and Evan Strom placed seventh in 17:36.
“It feels really good to go out and get it,” Dragon senior Isaak Haas said.
“It means a lot to us to come out and be a part of a championship team,” said sophomore Morgan Davidson, who placed 14th in 18:25.
As important as having four runners in the top seven was the performance of the Dragons’ next three runners.
Davidson finished ahead of Madison’s Alex Nunan in 17th, Tanner Coots’s 19th- and Andrew Westfall’s 21st-place finishes beat the Cubs’ Josh Howell (27th) and Kevin Stewart (28th).
“Our strategy was to stick next to Madison because we knew they were our main competition,” Davidson said. “Andrew Westfall, Tanner Coots and I, our goal was to stick right next to [Madison’s] fourth and fifth man and out-kick them at the end, and that’s what we did.”
Henryville’s boys finished in the top-five, advancing to the Brown County Regional for the first time in coach Brad Nifong’s seven-year tenure.
The Hornets, who were led by Jacob Hedrick’s 13th-place result, edged Austin by two points for the final regional spot.
“Our goal was to come in fifth,” Nifong said. “We knew about where everyone would finish. We thought we had to beat Austin. We’ve been beating them [throughout the season] and, fortunately, we beat them by two today.”
Christian Smith was 16th, Zach Knox 30th and Koleton Freitas 36th for the Hornets.
“We’ve met every goal we’ve set for ourselves this year,” Nifong said. “[Advancing] is everything to them.”
Silver Creek and Henryville will be joined by New Washington’s Adan Diaz at Brown County. Diaz finished in the 15th and final advancing position.
The Dragons hope to compete for their first regional title since 2006 and their fifth in school history on Saturday.
“We expect everyone to run their hardest and get out of regional and get as far as we can,” Davidson said.
Team scores: Silver Creek 28, Madison 66, Southwestern 92, Jennings County 101, Scottsburg 105, Switzerland County 154, Madison Shawe 159, New Washington 201.
Individual champion: Sadie Spears, Henryville, 20:22.
Silver Creek: 2. Maggie Shields 20: 41, 3. Brittany Sharp 20:47, 4. Mackenzie Crouch 21:29, 8. Jessica Backherms 21:48, 19. Miranda Coats 23:26, 28. Paris Brock 23:51, 36. Jacklyn Helton 24:46.
New Washington: 42. Kayla Sexton 26:14, 43. Kelsey Rhoten 26:27, 45. Emilee Holloway 26:34, 51. Tori Wiggam 29:52, 56. Grace Spiegelder 34:00, 57. Courtney Roberts 34:43.
Henryville: 1. Spears, 14. Megan O’Lone 22:16, 50. Madison Cox 28:24.
Charlestown: 7. Whitney Andrews 21:45, 24. Alysha Flaget 23:39, 38. Mary Hoff 25:05, 41. Lauren Crowe 26:01.
Rock Creek: 44. Christi Scholl 26:29.
Team scores: Silver Creek 33, Madison 47, Jennings County 104, Switzerland County 125, Henryville 143, Austin 145, Southwestern 156, New Washington 196, Scottsburg 2255, Rock Creek 284.
Individual champion: Landon Perry, Madison, 16:53.
Silver Creek: 2. Isaak Haas 16:58, 4. Jason Fruits 17:16, 6. Drew Roberts 17:32, 7. Evan Strom 17:36, 14. Morgan Davidson 18:25, 19. Tanner Coots 18:55, 21. Andrew Westfall 19:06,
Henryville: 13. Jacob Hedricks 18:11, 16. Christian Smith 18:39, 30. Zach Knox 19:50, 36. Koleton Freitas 20:10, 50. Tyler Jenkins 21:27, 60. Chris Flaherty 22:26.
New Washington: 15. Adan Diaz 18:28, 29. Ian Hughes 19:49, 38. Devin Herron 20:13, 55. Matthew Mosley 21:51, 63. Cameron Marshall 23:17.
Rock Creek: 39. Jake Cundiff 20:14, 40. Isaac McGuire 20:15, 70. Gabe Pearson 27:00, 71. Ethan Roberts 27:12, Isaiah Pearson 27:17.
Charlestown: 34. Tyler Peterson 20:07, 61. Brett Brooks 22:28.