Whoever came up with that catchy commercial phrase obviously never saw Ashley Erba fly across a cross country course at a blistering pace that would make any real deer envious.
The Warsaw phenom was working her postseason magic again Tuesday night to the tune of a sectional record-setting performance at Culver Academies.
Erba’s seemingly relaxed, yet record-shattering effort helped the No. 15 Tigers repeat as sectional champions for the first time in program history and capture their third overall title.
The only drama to be answered Tuesday with defending state champion Erba locked in on cruise control was who would finish second and would Erba actually outrun the John Deere motorized four-wheeler that served as the “pace car” so to speak for the runners.
For the record, Erba never did pass the John Deere. She did cross the finish line in 17:29.7 for her third individual sectional title and well ahead of the previous sectional standard of 18:32.3 set by Waverly Neer from Culver Academies in 2010. Erba had set the state record on this course on Sept. 22 when she won the Culver Academies Invitational in 17:13.Erba’s time Tuesday would have placed her 11th overall in the field of 68 runners in the boys race, which followed the girls 5K.
The Tigers had another great performance from Sarah Ray. The senior, competing in her first sectional as this is her first year on the team, placed third in 18:56. She was just behind runner-up Anna Bearss of Rochester (who ran for Warsaw last year) who hit the line in 18:55. Emma Hayward was ninth overall in a time of 20:43 for the Tigers.
Warsaw won the team title with a score of 42. Rochester was runner-up in the eight-team field at 56. The top five teams, which also included Triton, and the top 15 individuals return to Culver Academies on Saturday for the regional.
The ever-improving Tigers have had a great season with a host of new faces. Erba was the only runner in the sectional lineup of seven Tuesday who ran at State in 2011 when her individual state title helped Warsaw earn an 11th-place team finish.
“We switched our lineup up a little today and emphasized having a strong second half of the race,” said Warsaw coach Scott Erba. “The sectionals are always a slower race so it’s really encouraging for us to see so many of our girls close to their best times today.”
The Tigers won the sectional, a much stronger one, at Elkhart in 2011.
“The change coming here certainly helps us in terms of winning again,” Erba said. “The girls like this course and it’s fun to come to a different venue and race against some new teams instead of the same ones that you see 4-5 times in a season.
“Two sectionals in a row for the first time is something that is big for us. It’s a streak we want to continue. Winning the sectional is still a big deal to us. To get to take that trophy back to the school.”Warsaw also got a 14th-place finish from Madeline Hooks in a time of 20:57 and Brooke Rhodes placed 15th in 21:18 to complete the team’s scoring totals. Hannah Thompson was 17th in 21:32 and Tennie Worrell took 18th place in 21:36.
Ashley Erba just returned late Sunday from her second official college visit, this time to the University of Washington. Washington is ranked No. 3 in the latest NCAA women’s cross country poll after previously checking in at No. 1.
“It was a long weekend for her and Monday was kind of a rough day getting back into it,” said coach Erba of his star daughter. “After she got past the mile tonight, it smoothed out.”
The younger Erba now has just three high school races left as one of the state’s best-ever distance runners.
“I try not to be too nostalgic right now because there are still so many things Ashley wants to accomplish,” said coach/father Erba. “It’s like let’s go out with a bang and feel great about what she’s done.”Alexandra Kann notched an 11th-place finish to lead Triton to a regional berth.
Brittany Childers placed 39th overall to lead Tippecanoe Valley, which finished seventh in the final team standings.
The Culver Academies Regional Saturday begins at 10:30 a.m. Warsaw will look to win the program’s second regional title after claiming the first in 2011.
CULVER ACADEMIES SECTIONAL
Warsaw 42, Rochester 56, Plymouth 59, Culver Academies 76, Triton 150, Manchester 180, Tippecanoe Valley 193, North Miami 219.
TOP 15 INDIVIDUALS
1. Ashley Erba (W) 17:29 (new sectional record, replace 18:32 set by Waverly Neer in 2010); 2. Anna Bearss (R) 18:55; 3. Sarah Ray (W) 18:56; 4. Anna Meyer (R) 19:39; 5. Libby Read (P) 20:28; 6. Megan Fisher (P) 20:35; 7. Samantha Ruppert (R) 20:39; 8. Olivia Martinez (CA) 20:42; 9. Emma Hayward (W) 20:43; 10. Hannah Buggeln (CA) 20:44; 11. Alexandra Kann (T) 20:55; 12. Sarah Jamieson (CA) 20:56; 13. Abby Patrick (P) 20:56; 14. Madeline Hooks (W) 20:57; 15. Brooke Rhodes (W) 21:18.
1. Ashley Erba 17:29 (new sectional record, replaces 18:32 set by Waverly Neer in 2010); 3. Sarah Ray 18:56; 9. Emma Hayward 20:43; 14. Madeline Hooks 20:57; 15. Brooke Rhodes 21:18; 17. Hannah Thompson 21:32; 18. Tennie Worrell 21:36.
11. Alexandra Kann 20:55; 23. Alexis Miller 22:00; 36. Kayleigh Craig 23:41; 40. Taylor Hatfield 24:10; 53. Autumn Kann 26:44; 56. Brooklyn Beatty 28:35.
39. Brittany Childers 24:04; 42. Brooklyn Conley 24:50; 43. Emily Childers 24:55; 44. Karly Kitch 24:55; 45. Breelyn Conley 24:56; 49. Kayla Long 25:59; 52. Robyn Erkin 26:17.
LAKELAND CHRISTIAN ACADEMY
26. Hannah Remington 22:17; 35. Emilee Catron 23:40; 60. Gabby Catron 30:54.