In the end, depth made the difference as the No. 9 Raiders eked out a win over the No. 15 Tigers in the final league meet of the season.
Warsaw senior superstar Ashley Erba dominated the race to no one’s surprise and teammate Sarah Ray placed second for the Tigers in the triangular which included host NorthWood at Stauffer Park.
The Raiders, however, placed third, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth to win 28-30 and give coach Ryan McClane’s squad a perfect 7-0 NLC mark and the regular-season championship. Warsaw defeated NorthWood 15-49 to finish 6-1 in NLC action. Northridge beat NorthWood 15-50.
“We knew it was going to be close,” said Warsaw coach Scott Erba. “They have a deeper team and that paid off for them tonight. We were close. It was just a matter of seconds between spots.
“I’m disappointed we did not win, but I’m not disappointed in our girls. They went out and ran tough and competed well. Today was a good thing for us in that we can gain a lot from this loss. We have the championship components. We just need a couple tweaks. But this should give our girls a lot of encouragement for Saturday (the NLC Meet).”
Ashley Erba, fresh off winning the Culver Academies Invitational Saturday in a new state record time of 17:13.7, put it on cruise control Tuesday night. The elite distance star, one of the country’s top runners, seemingly used more energy cheering on her teammates after finishing than she did in dominating yet another race. Erba still broke the course record by 57 seconds Tuesday night. Ray was just three seconds off the course record with her second-place performance.
“The big thing tonight for Ashley was to make sure we took 1-2 with her and Sarah,” said father/coach Scott Erba. “She didn’t push it. We’re primed for good races down the road.”Warsaw, led by state champion Erba, placed 11th at the State Finals in 2011. The Raiders were 14th at State a year ago. The pair of rivals will clash again Saturday in the NLC Meet at Ox Bow Park.
Hannah Thompson was fifth overall for the Tigers Tuesday in a time of 20:19. Emma Hayward was 10th in 21:02, with Madeline Hooks 12th (21:23), Brooke Rhodes 13th (21:50) and Tennie Worrell 16th (22:03).
Olivia Golden and Jennifer Schrock led the way for the champion Raiders. Golden was third in 19:43 and Schrock placed fourth in 20:05.
McKayla Fielstra was the top finisher for NorthWood as she was 14th overall in a time of 22:00.
Warsaw competes Saturday in the NLC Meet at Ox Bow Park. The NLC girls race is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m.