CULVER – Scott Erba decided to shuffle his lineup for the regional round of the state tournament series Saturday.
The Warsaw girls cross country coach still had the winning hand.
The young, but deep and talented Tigers, looked like postseason veterans in claiming the Culver Academies Regional championship.
Warsaw, which finished second to Eastern a year ago, reversed the results this time around. The No. 25 Tigers, despite having their top runner slowed by illness, posted a winning team total of 57.
Eastern was second at 74, with Rochester, Western and Winamac rounding out the top five for semi state qualifying berths at New Prairie next Saturday.
“I’m glad that we are deep enough that I could rest some kids today,” said Erba, whose team won its other regional title in 2011. “Our goal is to get to State. We were able to give some others the chance to compete today in a big race. It’s great experience for some of our young kids to get a taste of the postseason. Today was the best case scenario for us. We rested some people and still had enough depth to win the regional.”
The trio of seniors Madeline Hooks and Aletheia Burritt and sophomore Claire Kehler who ran on Tuesday as Warsaw won the title at the Culver Academies Sectional rested Saturday. They were replaced in the Tiger lineup by junior Hannah Thompson and freshman Charlene Orr and Lauren Orr.
Erba has been impressed with how his young team has performed this fall.
“I’ve been really pleased with how this team has developed and improved this season,” Erba said. “We’ve continued to have more season best times and personal best times. As a team, they just continue to get faster and progress.”
Hannah Dawson turned in an outstanding race Saturday to lead her championship squad. The Warsaw sophomore placed fifth overall in a time of 19:47, a personal best performance.
“Hannah ran a really good race today,” said Erba. “This was her personal best time. You can’t ask for anything better than that.”
Sophomore Brooke Rhodes was ninth overall in a time of 19:58 for Warsaw. Fabulous freshman Allison Miller, Warsaw’s top runner all season, was 11th in a time of 20:16. Miller, who was second at the sectional Tuesday night, was bothered by a stomach issue Saturday.
The Tigers got strong performances from their No. 4 and 5 runners to outdistance Eastern and claim the team title. Sophomore Emma Hayward was 16th overall in a time of 20:38 and freshman Charlene Orr placed 21st in 20:50 for the champions. Hayward’s time was a season best effort and Orr’s was a personal best.
Junior Hannah Thompson placed 41st overall in a time of 21:47 and freshman Lauren Orr was 43rd in 21:49 to complete the Warsaw lineup Saturday.
Rochester senior Anna Bearss claimed the regional title with a winning effort of 18:46. Bearss, who ran her first two years at Warsaw, won the sectional championship Tuesday at Culver Academies in 18:56.
Triton captured 10th place Saturday with a team score of 285.
Junior Courtney Burns led the Trojans by placing 59th overall in a time of 22:41. Senior Taylor Hatfield was 72nd in 24:00 for Triton with senior Kayleigh Craig 74th in 24:09. The freshmen trio of Aimee Gladieux, Michaela Best and Megan Hayes were 82nd, 83rd and 86th for Triton in respective times of 25:32, 25:33 and 27:07.
Brooklyn Conley represented Tippecanoe Valley Saturday. The sophomore finished 65th in a time of 23:01.
Warsaw will compete in a loaded 20-team field next Saturday at New Prairie, looking for a return trip to State. The Tigers will need to finish in the top six at semi state to earn a spot in the State Finals in Terre Haute on Nov. 2.
“It looks like there are probably about 14 teams, looking at sectional times, that will be competing for those six spots to State,” said Erba of the semi state field. “It’s going to be close and every second and every place is going to be very important for us next week. We just have to gear up mentally for it.”