Brownsburg High School’s Alex Freeman is all smiles as he has been the Bulldogs’ top runner the past three season. (Photo by Rick Myers)
Freeman leads Brownsburg to first trip to state cross country finals
By Mike Beas
Abysmal weather conditions provided an unlikely stage for one of the best moments in Brownsburg boys cross country history.
Leading the way was Bulldogs senior Alex Freeman, a runner whose previous close calls with a state berth on the line made last weekend’s Shelbyville Semistate that much sweeter.
Freeman’s ninth-place effort on a cold and rainy morning at Blue River Park propelled Brownburg to a fourth-place team finish, good enough to qualify coach Nick Balbach’s squad to the program’s first state meet in school history.
Brownsburg’s 120 points was only one behind third-place Brebeuf Jesuit. The team’s other seniors, Panin Skiles and Brett Heckman, finished 39th and 108th, respectively. The Bulldogs are one of 24 teams qualified for state on Saturday afternoon in Terre Haute.
“These seniors are a really special class because they were freshmen when I took over as coach,” said Balbach. “It’s cool to see that maturation process and them deciding they’re going to be good.”
No one exemplifies this drive like Freeman, who was on the outer fringes of Balbach’s top seven runners as a freshman. He improved enough to become the Bulldogs’ No. 1 runner the past three seasons, barely missing out on a state finals berth as a junior.
“It was very disappointing. It really hurt,” said Freeman, who experienced the same fate in the spring by barely missing out on making the state track and field finals in the 1,600-meter run. “But I stay positive because the training I’ve been doing put me in the position to maybe get to state. I just had to trust the process.”
Freeman laughs remembering his first Hoosier Crossroads Conference cross country meet. As a freshman, he placed second to last.
“My freshman year, my best time was 17:37 toward the end of the season at the Golden Bear Invitational (at Shelbyville). I started that season with a 20:06,” he said. “I was just happy with the time. I didn’t know what was a good time and what was a bad time.”
Compare that to Freeman’s postseason times the past few weeks. He clocked a 15:53.9 to win sectional, a 15:46.7 to place fifth at regional and 15:53.1 at semistate. Considering the slop he ran and his teammates competed in, the latter time might be the most impressive.
Freeman, who first became interested in running as a fifth-grader, is drawing interest from college programs such as the University of Indianapolis, IUPUI, Indiana State and Southern Indiana. Regardless of where he ends up, Balbach anticipates success in all facets of college life.
“Alex doesn’t have to say much. He’s just a natural born leader. You look at what he’s done over the last three or four years, and it’s easy to see why they follow him,” Balbach said. “He’s kind of turned himself into one of the better runners in the state of Indiana.”
Now, finally, Freeman has earned the platform on which to prove it.