WARSAW – Madeline Hooks hopes one day to become a pilot.
For now, though, the WCHS senior wants to soar high in her final cross country season this fall.
Hooks will be a key performer as the Tigers look to continue their success of the last couple of years.
“I think we have a lot of great potential on this team this year,” said Hooks recently after her team returned from camp. “We have a young team and I feel a responsibility to be a leader and set a good example.”
Warsaw will sport a much different look and approach from the team that finished 19th at the State Finals in Terre Haute last October. Coach Scott Erba’s program is missing four runners from his state lineup, including star Ashley Erba and Sarah Ray. Erba was second at State in 2012 after winning the individual title in 2011. Ray, in her first season running cross country last fall, was 33rd overall at the State Finals. Erba is now at Providence College and Ray is at Olivet Nazarene University.
“The tradition of the program is not a bad thing,” Hooks said. “It’s really exciting to be a part of for me. I like to run and I like the atmosphere of the team and the bonding part of it.”
Hooks, now entering her fourth season on the varsity, thinks this group can surprise some people despite the graduation losses.
“I think people will not expect us to do well this year, but we have a lot of good runners on this team,” said Hooks. “I think we can surprise some people and go far again as a team.”
Hooks is one of four seniors this fall for the Tigers. The trio of Courtney Etchison, Aletheia Burritt, who moved to Warsaw from Marion in January, and Claire Hickerson, a first-year cross country runner are also seniors. The Tigers do return sophomores Hannah Dawson and Emma Hayward, both who competed at State as freshmen in 2012.
Hooks, who had a strong track season in the spring, has high goals for herself this fall. She was the fifth runner for Warsaw at the State Finals last year, clocking in at 21:25.
“I want to pr this year and break 20:30,” said Hooks. “My big goal though is to run sub 20.”
Coach Erba, whose team won the sectional and was second at the regional in 2012, expects a strong season from Hooks.
“She’s very motivated and has put in the time for her senior year,” said Erba. “She’s been very steady for us the past three years and it’s been neat to see her progress. She should be in the top 3-4 runners for us this year. She’s become more confident each year.”
Erba knows his team will feature a different look and a different approach this fall.
“We’re a different team this year, no doubt about that,” Erba said. “But, we have a good mixture of girls and they have some aggressive team goals they want to reach.
“We’re ranked somewhere in the 40’s in the preseason, but that doesn’t bother me. Our motto this year is to Pack It Up. Our strength is that we should have a lot of girls together at the finish. We have to do it this year by sticking together. But, I feel confident about this team and what they can do.”
Warsaw has reached the State Finals as a team each of the last two seasons under Erba. The Tigers’ only other appearance at State as a team came in 1999.
Hooks and her team open the season in the Huntington North Invitational on Aug. 24.