GIRLS AND BOYS XC: Griffin, Smith, Dodt excel at state meet

Nov. 1—TERRE HAUTE — In her first state meet, Lewis Cass sophomore Aftin Griffin finished 51st in 18:55.4 — taking more than 10 seconds off her personal best and breaking 19:00 for the first time.

The event was held Saturday at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course.

"Saturday before my race I wasn't really sure how it was going to go," Griffin said. "My coach had looked up rankings and stats for the race and I was ranked as low as 80th place with my average time. I knew I would have to run a good time if I wanted to place above that. Going into the race Saturday, I wasn't as much worried about my place as my time. My only goal for Saturday was to run a PR and get under 19 minutes. I knew it was going to be challenging, but I knew it was possible on such a good course like Lavern Gibson.

"When the race started, I was feeling good. But as it went on I kept getting passed and I knew I would have to pick up the pace if I wanted to pr. At the 2-mile mark, I heard my time and I knew I was on track to go under 19 so I had to push myself to not slow down. With 400 to go, I could see the finish. I would have to sprint the last 200 if I wanted to get under 19 minutes. I gave it all I had and ended up running an 18:55 with a 51st-place finish. I was proud of myself and knew I had accomplished my goal and moved up 30 places than what I was originally ranked at.

"I couldn't have asked for better weather to run Saturday and the talented girls I had to run against helped me reach my goal of sub 19. It was a perfect day and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to run at state this year."

Cass coach Denise Rush was happy to see Griffin PR at state.

"Aftin has ran her best time at the biggest race of the year. That is always the goal: to run your best and move up in place," Rush said. "Aftin's goal was to break 19:00 this year and she did. She was projected to get 83rd on some websites and she moved up to 51st. She was awesome in that she was confident at the starting line, raced against the packs of runners and found position and stayed strong to the end. She beat 11 girls who beat her at the regional last week.

"Aftin's hard work paid off. Aftin and I are so are so thankful to those teammates, friends, fans and family who came down to Terre Haute to cheer her on. I am excited to coach Aftin two more years. She is going to be a great leader next year on our team."

Winamac senior Maggie Smith closed out her high school cross country career with a 159th-place finish with a time of 19:56.1 at her first state finals.

"Overall it was a really fun day. I was grateful for the chance to even race there," Smith said. "I met a lot of really cool girls and great runners. The race started off fast but I picked out a couple girls that I was going to try to stay with and I did that for about a mile. After that I got settled in and just ran my race. I did what I always do at the end of my races and finished strong.

"It felt like it went by so fast. I was happy with my time especially with my first mile being fast and running on only grass and hills. My favorite part was throwing my spikes up on the 'shoe tree' afterward. It only took me two tries! I had a lot of teammates and family there to support me and I am super thankful for all of them. I had a really great time and I'm glad I was able to experience it."

Pioneer junior Leighton Dodt also competed at his first state finals on the boys side. He placed 109th with a time of 16:17.8.

"That race really shows how gifted and quick those runners are. The atmosphere of the meet was like no other," Dodt said. "The course is fast, but challenging. It just feels great knowing that hard work leads to a state finals appearance. This season was very different but it worked out in the end. I'm proud of myself and my team for what we accomplished together. Those early morning and late night runs paid off. You can train all you want, but you have to know how to race correctly.

"I would also like to thank Coach Rush from Lewis Cass for coordinating some things before the race. This was a great year for cross country, and there's still one more to go for me."