WARSAW – A deep lineup may just be the recipe for success that the Warsaw girls cross country team needs to get through a deep semi state Saturday.
The young, but talented Tigers, will be shooting for a return trip to the State Finals.
Coach Scott Erba’s No. 21 squad is one of six ranked teams in a strong field at the New Prairie Semistate.
Warsaw, fresh off sectional and regional titles at Culver Academies, needs to finish in the top six of the 20-team field Saturday to earn a berth for the second straight year at the State Finals.
“When you look at the sectional and regional times, we’re right in the mix,” said Erba Monday night. “We talked today at practice about how close it will be.
“I think that if we run the way we are capable, we’ll get another chance to go to State. I don’t think it’s going to take anything outstanding by our young ladies. We just need to run well and we will be in the discussion.”
Warsaw was fifth in the semi state at New Prairie a year ago. The Tigers, who went on to place 19th at the State Finals, return four runners from that team in Hannah Dawson, Madeline Hooks, Claire Kehler and Emma Hayward.
“The goal of this team all season has been to get to State,” said Erba, who graduated his top two runners in Ashley Erba and Sarah Ray from last year’s team. “We’ve had so many girls step up this year. They have just gotten better and better. We had a workout today (Monday) and girls were 45 seconds to a minute faster than they were 6-8 weeks ago. That gives them a huge boost of confidence.
“It’s important that we had girls run at semi state last year, but I think it’s more important with how these girls have run the last couple of weeks. We’ve had quite a few strong races. We’re on an upswing and I think our girls feel good and they have a strong internal belief in what they can do.”
The Tigers won the regional last Saturday with a team score of 57 to outdistance runner-up Eastern (74). Sophomore Hannah Dawson led the champions with a fifth place finish in a personal best time of 19:47. Sophomore Brooke Rhodes placed ninth overall for the Tigers. Freshman Allison Miller, the team’s No. 1 runner this season, was slowed by a stomach issue and was 11th. Miller was second at the sectional and is expected to be okay this weekend, according to coach Erba.
Warsaw will go with the lineup Saturday that won the sectional at Culver Academies on Oct. 15. It will feature seniors Madeline Hooks and Aletheia Burritt, sophomores Dawson, Rhodes, Emma Hayward and Claire Kehler and freshman Miller.
The trio of Hooks, Burritt and Kehler did not run at the regional Saturday as Erba opted to rest them and give some of his other runners valuable postseason experience.
The semi state field is led by No. 3 West Lafayette, the defending champion. Also in the mix are No. 13 Portage, No. 16 LaPorte, No. 19 Lake Central and No. 24 Valparaiso. The remainder of the semi state includes Eastern, Rochester, Western, Winamac, Crown Point, Hobart, Munster, Hebron, Twin Lakes, Seeger, Lafayette Harrison, Clinton Central, New Prairie and Chesterton.
The top six teams and the top 10 individuals not on an advancing team on Saturday earn a spot in the State Finals Nov. 2 in Terre Haute. Racing action at New Prairie starts with the boys’ race at 11:30 a.m. (ET), followed by the girls’ race.
“There are quality teams and it’s a deep semi state this year,” Erba said. “It’s all about who sets themselves up early in the race. We’re planning to thrive.”