The No. 1 goal though for the No. 14 Tigers at the New Prairie Semistate is to earn the program’s third ever trip to the State Finals.
Warsaw, led by phenom Ashley Erba, needs a top six team finish in the 20-team field to head back to the State Finals in Terre Haute on Oct. 27 for the second straight year.
“Our season long goal of making it to the state meet is the top priority,” said coach Erba. “After that, a top three finish as a team. After West Lafayette and Eastern, there is a tight group that should battle for third place in Valparaiso, Chesterton, Warsaw and LaPorte.”
“We want to run the fastest combined varsity five time (first five runners’ times added up) in school history. We have run 1:37:38 so far, the best ever is 1:37:07 (at regionals in 2011). And we want to run the fastest combined varsity seven time ever. We have run 2:20:23, the best ever is 2:19:32 from NLC in 2011.”
Ashley Erba is coming off a state record performance in the Culver Academies Regional. The defending individual state champion blazed to a victory in 17:12, the fastest time in state history for the 3.1 mile course. A year ago, Erba won the semi state title in the New Haven Semistate at IPFW in a time of 18:07 as the Tigers finished third in the team standings. She then won the state championship in a then state best performance of 18:05.
The younger Erba, who is being recruited by a host of the top college cross country programs in the country, suffered her lone loss in the past two seasons on the New Prairie course on Sept. 15. Sophomore Anna Rohrer of Mishawaka won the race in a time of 17:14, while Erba placed second in 17:25. Rohrer will run Saturday in the New Haven Semistate.
“I expect her to win the meet and run a very fast time, weather and course conditions allowing,” said coach Erba of his daughter. “Fast times can certainly be run at New Prairie as evidenced this season already. It is a great environment and well-marked course with plenty of long straightaways to maintain speed. Bobby Burgess (West Lafayette) has the thrid fastest time in the state (18:36) that she ran at Sectionals. She is a tough competitior and will not back down from the competition.”
“We have talked to the girls about what to expect at the pressure-filled meet with girls running to extend their seasons or ending it. Having so many first year runners like we do can be a blessing as they may not fully understand the ramifications of the meet: they are just going out to run their race. The girls understand what position we are in right now and what we need to do to reach our goals. If we run strong, we are going to State; if we run great, we can be one of the best teams coming out of the Semi-State. Nothing is guaranteed as we have seen week to week and from prior years, but we feel confident in what we should be able to do at New Prairie.”
The girls race begins at 11:30 a.m. (EST) on Saturday in New Carlisle. The top six teams and top 15 individuals advance to the State Finals Oct. 27 in Terre Haute.