Over the past two fall seasons, Ashton Chase and Makenna Sunbury have pushed each other on cross-country courses across the state.
Seymour’s one-two punch has challenged, but more importantly supported, one another during races.
While both girls advanced as individuals to this weekend’s state finals, they are anything but that.
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They’re teammates and will help each other any way they can at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute on Saturday.
“They don’t always just push each other, they also help each other,” Owls coach Spencer Sunbury said. “Ashton feels Makenna coming, and it keeps her moving. Makenna sees Ashton and is always motivated to get up and push her. On the days when one of them isn’t feeling the best, it helps. The gap has closed a little bit this year, but they’ve been great teammates.”
Chase, a junior, will make her third state meet appearance and Sunbury, a sophomore, will run at state for the second time.
At last year’s state meet, temperatures were unseasonably high which boosted the race times.
With forecasts predicted around the mid-40s, times should drop.
“It’s going to be much cooler this year, but I’m sure the notorious wind will still be there,” coach Sunbury said. “It’s a tough course. You see it, and it’s a wide-open course, but there are a lot of rolling hills and it’s a difficult race. It’s a fast race, and you have to be careful with downhill start.
“I’ve seen runners blow out in the first kilometer. It’s a tough, fast race and a tough course. We talk a lot about the course and how to stick to our game plan. It’s a funny course because you could run a (personal record) there as easily as you could be a minute to two minutes off your PR”
At practices this week, coach Sunbury is focusing on mental preparation with the girls.
“I’m going to listen to them and see how they’re feeling,” Sunbury said. “They’ve done a good job the past couple weeks of letting me know how they feel, and giving their input on workouts they want to do. We will do a workout early in the week and then see how they feel after that. We will do a few things to keep their bodies ready to race and give them time to recover and rest.”
Last year, Chase finished 33rd of 248 runners with a time of 19-minutes, 11-seconds at state. Her freshman year, Chase was 42nd in 19:04.
While she hasn’t bested last year’s time of 18:38 — a personal record, set at the Brown County Sectional — Chase ran a season-best time of 19:11 at semi-state this past weekend.
“I’ve improved every race so far this year,” Chase said. “ I’m a little further behind than I wanted to be compared to last year with my times. Overall, I feel more confident in my running. This is my third state appearance and I’m proud of that.”
With a pair of appearances behind her, Chase knows how to attack the state course.
“I want to get out fast,” Chase said. “I don’t want to get boxed in. There will be at least 200 runners in this race. At the finish line, I just want to give it my all.”
Coach Sunbury said that he thinks Chase will attack the course with a solid game plan.
“I’m looking forward to seeing (Ashton) run a strong, smart race and come out with a time she’s happy with,” he said. “She needs to focus on herself.”
Chase said she aims to time 19-minutes flat or in the high 18-minutes frame, and is proud to represent the Seymour community.
“It’s just amazing,” she said. “I love representing this small town. It’s a great community to be a part of, and I love every moment I get here.”
For Makenna, this year’s race is another experience to add to her resume.
At last year’s state race, Sunbury placed 99th in 20:19.
Sunbury’s peaking at the right time of the season, setting a lifetime best at semistate last week in 19:11.
“I think I’ve been getting better, but I would of liked my times to be a little faster,” Sunbury said. “I’m still happy, I set a (personal record) last week.”
She said that she’s excited to go back to state, and looks forward to the grand stage.
“It’s a little overwhelming, but then you realize how big the event is and it’s amazing,” Sunbury said. “”I like the environment. It’s such a nice course. The crowd and everything gets you riled up.”
Sunbury said she’s aiming for a time of 19:30 this weekend.
“For Makenna, she has a little experience,” coach Sunbury said. “It’s a great chance for her to get more experience. It’s a big, tight race. It’s an opportunity for her to get in there and race in a tight setting.”
The boys will run at 1 p.m. followed by the girls at 1:45 p.m. in Terre Haute.