This was a season for new faces – and for those faces achieving big things.
Cathedral High School’s boys cross-country team wasn’t young, exactly, in 2020 – but the team was an inexperienced group. It also was a group that dealt with adversity.
The Irish ran well through it all, with the result being a strong postseason performance – with three individuals advancing to the semi-state meet and the team maturing as the season continued.
And Irish cross-country coach Jim Nohl said that made the fall a success.
“We were almost starting from scratch, if you want to put it that way,” Nohl said.
A team that lost multiple Division I-bound runners in recent seasons in 2020 not only placed three individuals – sophomore Liam Eifert, junior Jack Wadja and senior Collin Monesmith – in the semi-state meet, the Irish finished third at sectional and narrowly missed advancing to the semi-state meet as a team.
The Irish varsity also won the City Championship, with the junior varsity finishing second to Bishop Chatard and the freshman team winning the freshman meet.
“We got better as the season went on,” Nohl said. “They ran well. We feel good about it.”
The Irish in 2020 featured double-digit seniors, many of whom played the biggest roles of their cross-country careers and many of whom ran varsity for the first time.
“They were young in the fact of not a lot of varsity experience,” Nohl said. “We had a large group of really smart seniors. This was an extremely smart team.”
Irish boys cross country, like many sports at all levels, also had to adjust not only in preparation but during the season because of COVID-19. For Irish cross country, that meant not only missing the spring track season but delaying summer preparation – and facing an uncertain early schedule that featured multiple late cancellations and additions of meets.
“You wondered if you were going to get through the season with all the craziness,” Nohl said. “I probably made a mistake on my part. I put us in a meet we had never gone to before. We went to Seymour and ran on a really hot night. I never run meets during the week ever; we always run Saturday meets. I made a mistake on that.
“We didn’t run very good and I think mentally it killed us, as crazy as it sounds. A lot of early meets were being cut off. In hindsight, I wish I wouldn’t have gone. But that’s easy to say now.”
The Irish ran stronger as the season continued, winning the city with a strong performance ahead of runner-up Chatard; Monesmith led the Irish at that meet with a fourth-place finish and a time of 17:11.10.
Eifert was among three Irish boys runners advancing to the semi-state meet at Shelbyville, finishing 43rd there with a time of 16:36.7. Wadja finished 57th at the semi-state meet in 16:49.5 and Monesmith finished 70th in 16:57.4.
The Irish narrowly missed advancing to the semi-state meet as a team with a seventh-place finish at the Section 10 meet at Noblesville; the Irish finished with 197 points – 37 behind sixth-place North Central (160) and well behind sectional champion Brebeuf (41 points). Eifert advanced to the semi-state meet with a 24th place finish in 16:25.1, with Monesmith advancing with a 31st place finish in 16:32.4 and Wajda advancing with 40th place finish in 16:39.5. Senior Nathan Fiedeldey finished 47th at the semi-state meet in 16:52.2, with senior Tobin Bradshaw finishing 72nd in 17:53.6, senior Kyle Pehlman finishing 79th in 18:11.6 and senior Andrew de la Alas finishing 80th in 18:17.5.
The Irish advanced to the regional with a third-place finish at the Section 20 meet at Brebeuf, scoring 90 points to finish behind sectional champion Brebeuf. Wajda finished seventh with a time of 16:41, with Monesmith finishing 11th in 17:02, Eifert finishing 16th in 17:08, Fiedeldey finishing 22nd in 17:14, Bradshaw finishing 34th in 17:49, Pehlman finishing 46th in 18:18 and senior Avery Preston finishing 38th in 18:34.
Nohl said the future for Irish boys cross-country is bright. Not only will Wajda and Eifert return, but Nohl said a strong freshman class could form the core of a strong program moving forward.
“We have talent and its young,” Nohl said. “With the two returners and the freshman, we can build a pretty good team for the future. There’s a good nucleus. There’s a good group of sophomores, some freshman and we’ve even got some juniors.
“There’s talent. We just have to see how much they’re willing to work.”