For The Tribune

It’s been a record-setting season for the Crothersville girls cross-country team.

Juniors Breanna Barger and Tristan Maschino and freshman Piper Hensley will compete Saturday at Brown County — and it’s the first time the Tigers have sent three runners to regional.

This will be Barger’s third straight trip to the regional, while it’s the first time for the other two to compete at that level.

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They earned the trip to Nashville after turning in strong performances this past Saturday in the Brown County Sectional.

Tigers coach Carl Bowman said Barger qualified for the regional by herself as a freshman, then Barger and a teammate qualified last year, and this year there are the three.

Bowman hopes the results translate to the rest of the program.

“That was real exciting,” Bowman said. “I want to use that as recruiting idea or strategy for some of these younger girls and say, ‘These three girls made it out this year. They were conference champions this year if that interests you at all. I’ve lost four seniors. If I could get you to join I don’t know what might happen next year.’

“I think Chris (Mains) is trying to use that down in elementary to try and get some younger girls to start looking at running. I think this is one of our best opportunities. For them to see the (school) wall (display with pictures of the runners), and for them to see the sign down at the fire station, there may be some parents out there that say ‘my daughter runs all the time. Maybe I ought to just put her in that situation.’”

Barger ran 20:21, Maschino 22:13, and Hensley 22:43 at the sectional.

All three earned All-Southern Athletic Conference honors after Barger placed third, Maschino finished fifth and Hensley seventh the previous week.

Barger and Maschino helped the Tigers girls win the conference track meet in the spring. They were members of the 4×800 relay team that placed first, and Barger also won the 400-meter run, and has been a regional qualifier in the 400 the past two years.

Maschino and Barger have been running cross-country all three years at Crothersville.

“This season has meant a lot to me because last year I didn’t get to run cross-country because of an injury,” Maschino said. “So coming back and being this strong and making it to regional means a lot to me.

“I’ve been trying to keep my first mile at a good pace. I’ve recently dropped it to about seven minutes, or lower than that. My second mile I usually want to keep that same pace so I don’t die out for my third mile.

Barger said she likes to get off to a good start and stay up with the leaders from the other schools.

“When I start it I like to get right up front so I don’t have to worry about catching anybody,” she said. “My pace for my first mile is usually the low 6s. My second mile is usually my highest, like 6:45 or something, and then I drop back down to the low 6s.

“I definitely want to make it to semistate. It will take a low 20 or 19. Brown County is my favorite course.”

Hensley said, “This is especially great because I’m a freshman, and the second freshman ever to make it to regional.” Barger was the first CHS freshman girl to qualify for regional.

This season, Hensley said she has taken big step going from running 1.8 miles in middle school to 3.1 this fall.

“It was really tough because you have to work on your mile more,” she said. “Your mile time would go up. I usually try to run between 6:50 to 7:15 for the first mile. Your middle mile is usually your slowest.

“On the third mile I try to pick up my pace because I know it’s getting to where I need to pick it up to pass girls to get a good place. I usually pass a few girls.”

Bowman said the girls have put in the work to advance to regional.

“I kind of want to stress to some of these people is that it’s not that these girls have been given anything,” Bowman said. “We were up (at Brown County) and we ran against Columbus North, Seymour, Martinsville and Brown County.

“We ran against teams that are pretty good-sized schools. Of the teams that didn’t make it, to have three that made it, Breanna was first that wasn’t on a team that made it, Tristan was sixth and Piper was 10th. I had three girls in the top 37 and for a school of this size to come this far is something.”

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Arv Koontz is a sports correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.