That’s the rallying cry for the No. 6 Warsaw boys cross country team come Saturday in the New Prairie Semistate.
The Tigers need just a top six finish in the 20-team field to earn a berth back in the State Finals on Oct. 27 in Terre Haute. Warsaw placed 15th at state in 2011 after earning a fourth place finish at the New Haven Semistate.
“The first goal on Saturday is just to make it out of there,” said Warsaw coach Jim Mills. “There are six or seven teams that are good, so you can stumble if you are off and they are on.”
The Tigers are fresh off sectional and regional championships in dominating both meets at Culver Academies. Warsaw went 1-2-3 on Saturday in the regional as senior Jake Poyner won, followed by Ellis Coon in second and senior Robert Murphy in third. Poyner, who placed seventh at the semi state a year ago, was strong Saturday after being held out of the sectional lineup. He won in a time of 15:54 on a windy day, while Coon was second in 16:00 and Murphy third in 16:01.
No. 2 Valparaiso, due to its depth, is the team to beat on Saturday. The Vikings and Tigers raced together on the New Prairie course back on Sept. 15 in the New Prairie Invitational. Valparaiso easily won the team title with a score of 49, while Warsaw was second with a 104.
Valparaiso won the New Prairie Regional this past Saturday with a dominating effort. The Vikings had five runners in the top 10 in posting a team score of 28. Peyton Reed, one of six seniors for Valpo, won the regional race in a time of 15:37. Valpo won the New Prairie Semistate title a year ago and went on to place seventh at the State Finals.
Poyner, who is still sorting through his college options, won the race at the New Prairie Invite in a time of 15:35. Coon was fifth in the big school race, while Murphy placed 10th.
“We are currently not as good as Valpo,” said Mills. “However, you never know. They could be off and we could rip one off. We are not beating Valpo the way our 4-5 guys are currently running.”
The Tigers’ 1-2-3 punch of Poyner, Coon and Murphy are arguably as good as any in the state. Mills knows it’s the rest of the pack that needs to step it up Saturday and then again in the State Finals. The Warsaw regional championship lineup included sophomore Daniel Messenger, senior Brysten James, junior Tyler Houvener and senior Nate Haller.
Mills says that the realignment this year that moved his team from the Elkhart Sectional and Regional at Ox Bow Park to Culver Academies and from the New Haven Semistate at IPFW to New Prairie is a good thing.
“I don’t think running at Culver was a bad thing as it allowed us to rest a little,” said Mills. “The competition at New Prairie is about the same as New Haven so it doesn’t matter where we run. I hope to have all three (Jake, Ellis and Robert) in the top 10 Saturday. Ellis was sick earlier in the week, but hopefully will be fine for Saturday. We just have the normal aches for the rest of the team. You expect it this late in the season.”
The field at New Prairie includes the top five teams from regionals at Culver Academies, Crown Point, New Prairie and Harrison (West Lafayette). The other ranked teams in the field include No. 15 Crown Point, No. 20 West Lafayette and No. 24 Hobart.
The top six teams and the top 15 individuals on Saturday earn a spot in the State Finals in Terre Haute on Oct. 27. The girls race starts Saturday at New Prairie at 11:30 a.m. (EST) with the boys race to follow.