Trevor Braden wants to take Morgan Township to new heights in cross country

Trevor Braden is the No. 1 runner for a team with a lofty goal: qualify for the state meet for the first time in school

There's a quiet confidence building in the Morgan Township cross country program, and junior Trevor Braden is brimming with it.

"We were young last year," Braden said. "We knew coming into this year that it was going to be something special. We just put in a ton of miles over the summer."

Braden is the No. 1 runner for a team with a lofty goal: qualify for the state meet for the first time in school history.

Braden's been there before as an individual qualifier. As a sophomore, he finished 72nd overall in 16 minutes, 52 seconds.

"His goal was to get back to state after last year," Morgan Township coach Bob Witt said. "But now he's even more pumped about the prospect of us having a whole team there."

Reaching the state meet is a steep mountain for Morgan Township to climb, considering the size of its school. The Cherokees compete in Class 1A in every high school sport that uses the classification system.

But in cross country, Morgan Township — with an enrollment of 244 — will have to compete against teams like Crown Point (enrollment 2,763), Valparaiso (2.082) and Warsaw (2,176) at the New Prairie Semistate.

"It could be a tremendous thing, for a school our size, if we can make it there," Witt said of qualifying for state.

Recent results suggest the Cherokees' dreams could become reality. At the Bob Thomas Invitational in Lowell on Sept. 9, Morgan Township finished second and beat bigger programs Crown Point, Chesterton and Lake Central.

At last Saturday's New Prairie Invitational, which has three classes, Morgan Township opted to run in Class AAA after winning the Class A race in 2016.

"They ran well in the other invitationals and believed this would get us ready for the postseason," Witt said. "These are the teams we'll be racing at semistate. That's why we moved up to see how we would fare."

Morgan Township will need to finish sixth or higher at the New Prairie Semistate in October to advance to state. At the New Prairie Invitational, Morgan Township finished fourth.

"We've been on the bubble for a while now," Braden said. "This proves that we're there with all of the other schools. We just need to repeat that in a semistate race."

Morgan Township boasts surprising depth for a small school. Behind Braden, the senior trio of Luke Lemmons, Cameron Chapman and Casey Abbett give the Cherokees a top four that can compete with the state's biggest programs.

But Witt, who's in his first year as the head coach after serving as an assistant, said he's made sure his team hasn't spent too much time dwelling on its accomplishments this season.

"Everybody tells them how good they are," Witt said. "I keep telling them don't drink the Kool-Aid yet."

Dave Melton is a freelance writer for the Post-Tribune.

Boys Cross Country Top 5

With last week's rankings in parentheses

1. Valparaiso (2)

2. Lowell (1)

3. Morgan Township (NR)

4. Crown Point (3)

5. Chesterton (5)

Runner of the Week: Covenant Christian junior Carson Bakker won the Class A race at Saturday's New Prairie Invitational with a time of 16:27.

Girls Cross Country Top 5

With last week's rankings in parentheses

1. Valparaiso (1)

2. Lowell (2)

3. Chesterton (NR)

4. LaPorte (4)

5. Crown Point (3)

Runner of the Week: Morgan Township junior Kiersten Duzan was fifth in 20:21 at the Class A race at Saturday's New Prairie Invitational, part of the Cherokees' first-place finish.

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