WARSAW – The Warsaw cross country teams continued to do what they have done so well in the past few years. Beat Wawasee and build steam heading into the postseason.
The Tiger boys made it six in a row over Wawasee and, more importantly to them, moved to 5-0 in the Northern Lakes Conference standings with a 19-41 win. The Lady Tigers posted its ninth consecutive win over the Lady Warriors with a 20-37 scoreline, pushing its NLC mark to 4-1 and remaining in the conference hunt. Both Wawasee clubs fell to 3-2 in the NLC with the losses.
The boys toed the line first, and fittingly for Warsaw’s senior day, Ellis Coon was back in the fold after missing the New Prairie Invite with an unspecified hampering. Tuesday, Coon looked like he hadn’t missed a beat, sprinting away from the pack as the swarm headed into the first woods and never was opposed again. Running by himself for most of the final 2,000 meters, Coon raised his arms in triumph with a time of 16:13. But more importantly for Tiger head coach Jim Mills, Tyler Houvener placed second at 16:29 and Owen Glogovsky was three seconds back for third place.
“We really have run consistent most of the year,” said Mills. “We are thin, so we are trying to keep kids healthy. With Ellis Saturday, New Prairie was a big race but it’s not that important when you think down the line.
“What I liked for us was Tyler Houvener ran number two for us,” Mills continued. “You don’t know who is going to be our number two or three runner. It could be our four or five guys from the week before. That makes you feel confident that they’ve got it in them. That they can jump up to that number two spot if they have to. We have just been consistent.”
Warsaw would take six of the top eight places in the race, with Jonathon Beres (17:05), Nick Bergen (17:07) and Daniel Messesnger (17:14) taking sixth through eighth place.
Wawasee’s Adam Doll looked to have the pace to keep with Coon as the runners reached the 2,000-meter mark, but Doll fell back and eventually was passed by both Houvner and Glogovsky after the second woods trail. Doll would place fourth at 16:37 with Zach Cockrill taking fifth with a personal best time of 16:44.
Wawasee’s next three in were Austin Yoder (ninth, 17:18), Austin Krizman (11th, 17:35) and Jaxon Bame (12th, 17:36).
At a point of the year where the NLC tournament is fast approaching – looming Oct. 5 – and the sectional soon thereafter (Oct. 15), finding moral victories is nice, but shaving time is much preferred.
“I thought our guys had a decent night,” said Wawasee head coach Doug Slabaugh. “We went out and put ourselves into the group with the Warsaw guys. Hats off to them, they are an awesome team, very well coached. They went out and executed tonight. I was happy with a lot of our guys. I thought a lot of guys went out and put themselves in position and had good races.”
The girls were up next, with not nearly the flair of the boys race. Allison Miller had a lot to do with that, continuing her powerful freshman campaign for Warsaw with a winning time of 19:20. The rocket right from the gate had Miller run without hearing footsteps for most all of the race, including the finish where teammate Brooke Rhodes was second at 19:53, well after Miller had left the finish chute and had recomposed herself.
Hannah Dawson made it home third for Warsaw at 20:05 and Madeline Hooks was fifth at 20:27. Alethia Burritt concluded her senior day with a point-scoring time of 21:09, taking ninth place overall.
“The good thing at the NLC is that everyone will get to race, even if its in the reserve race,” stated Warsaw girls head coach Scott Erba. “The bad news is when we get to sectional, I can only go with seven and five will have to sit out. In the past we have had to rotate girls through our six and seven runners, and that has worked out well.
“Just get every girl a chance, even in advance that you are going to run,” Erba continued. “That gives them one more turn for us, and that worked out. But it’s going to be tight, someone is not going to run because they finished a step behind someone else in a couple of races.”
Wawasee would make it a competitive race, just not challenge Warsaw directly in sprints to the finish.
Bre Robinson would again lead Wawasee, running with Dawson and Hooks before splitting the difference with a fourth-place time of 20:23. Bridgette Yoder couldn’t quite keep pace with the aforementioned pack, landing in sixth at 20:43 with teammates Molly Swartz at 20:57 and Courtney Linnemeier at 21:00 in the next two spots. Abigail Mejia jumped up into the point scorers with a time of 21:42, her time as well as Swartz’s both personal bests.
“Tonight wasn’t our sharpest night, but we’ll be OK,” Slabaugh said. “I think it was a good learning experience for such a young team. We got a good, competitive, pressured meet for them.”
Warsaw’s boys will shoot for a perfect 7-0 NLC mark when it travels to Ox Bow Park next Tuesday for a triple with Concord and Plymouth while the girls look to keep itself in the NLC discussion the same night at Ox Bow. Northridge currently is 5-0 in the girls NLC round robin. Wawasee will host its only home meet of the season next Tuesday when Goshen and NorthWood come calling.
But up first for both Warsaw and Wawasee is Saturday’s Culver Academy Invite, a gigantic bonanza of cross country frontrunners. Mills listed 12 of the top 14 teams in the state running in the boys divisions, as well as Brebeuf star Zack Snider and 2012 state runner-up Zack Panning of Fort Wayne Concordia should be present. The event should be a great meter stick heading into the final days before the postseason.
“There is a whole slew of good runners there,” Mills said. “Ellis hammered the first mile tonight to get a feel for what it’s going to be like Saturday. Panning, he will run a 4:45 in the first mile and then just keeps on going. In the state meet, he almost got away with it.”