By SCOTT DAVIDSON
The Warsaw boys and girls track teams owned the Northern Lakes Conference during dominating, undefeated runs through the regular season.
It’s a trend both state-ranked squads look to continue Tuesday night as the NLC Meets unfold at WCHS.
The No. 7 boys team and the No. 14 girls team are heavy favorites to win when action unfolds at the TAC at 5 p.m.
The Tiger boys squad, 9-1 overall and 7-0 in the NLC, is looking to claim its first outright title in 11 years. Coach Matt Thacker has his deep and talented team ready to go. They are not taking anything for granted, however.
“It is a good feeling to have that recognition, but Concord came into last year’s meet as the team to beat and we were able to pull off a big win for us,” said Thacker. “Plus, Fairfield went into their conference meet last year highly favored and were upset by Churubusco. So recent history indicates being the favorite doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot in the end. We have had to share the NLC and Goshen Relays this year and realize that we have some more work to do.
As a team we are looking to claim our first outright title in eleven years. However, individually there are some records that we will try to get by the end of the night, but that kind of depends on how the weather goes. In the end we expect to run some great times and stay healthy heading into sectionals.”
Thacker, whose team went on to win both sectional and regional championships in the postseason in 2011, does not expect the mindset of his talented team to change.
“Our team’s effort in all aspects of preparation has been very good throughout the season and I don’t expect that to change heading into the post-season,” he said. This team has been one of the most focused teams that I have been a part of and it is truly impressive to see. We have met some team goals and broken some records along the way, but realize there is still more for this team to accomplish.
Winning the NLC meet is very important in setting the tone for our post-season aspirations. The winner of our conference usually is in a pretty good position to win the sectional and compete for the regional. Hopefully, we will be in that position again, but nothing is guaranteed.
We are healthy heading into the conference meet and hopefully, we will stay that way. We have been very fortunate this year, but a lot of that is attributed to our depth and not having to run guys into the ground before the postseason gets here. These young men have been a joy to watch and be around.”
The Tigers closest NLC dual was a 79-53 win over Goshen. Warsaw also tied for top honors at the Goshen Relays and won its own Max Truex Invitational championship.
The list of defending champs for WCHS includes Jacob Poyner (1,600), Stephen Kolbe (high jump) and Zack Rooney (long jump). Standout Spencer Rheinhardt of the Tigers recently signed to compete at Notre Dame next season.
The Warsaw girls team will look to make it seven straight NLC Meet titles in a row at home Tuesday under coach Scott Erba. If the heavy favorites do, it will eclipse the record of six straight set by Warsaw from 1988-93.
“Our approach for the NLC Meet is to perform at our season’s highest level thus far,” said coach Erba. A Championship meet is scored differently than a dual meet so the emphasis is on quality performances first, and then depth second. This NLC meet meet has the potential to be one of the best, most competitive meets in a number of years with a potential for several NLC records to be broken.
Our goal is to be undefeated NLC champions in 2012 and help Warsaw win a third straight NLC All-Sports trophy. For all of the girls, they are all aiming to be point-scorers and we have the potential to end the meet with several NLC All-Conference selections.
The NLC meet will give us a good idea of how we are transitioning from a dual meet team to a tournament team. After the meet, we will evaluate the line up and determine if changes are necessary for the following meet (Sectionals) and we will look at training for each girl to help get them ready for an even better performance at that time.”
Warsaw, which has won 25 straight NLC dual meets, is 11-0 this spring. The team, which also won the Kokomo Relays and the Churubusco Invitational, is led by Ashley Erba. The junior won the individual state cross country championship this past fall. Erba won the 800 and 1,600 in the NLC Meet in 2011.
The Tigers, who boast a young team, also rely on Ann Harvuot. The sophomore sprinter is the defending NLC champion in the 100.