BRISTOL – Quality and quantity.
The Warsaw girls and boys cross country teams exhibited plenty of both impressive traits Tuesday evening.
Both Tiger teams opened up Northern Lakes Conference action by setting the tone from the start with wins over NorthWood and host Northridge.
Coach Matt Campbell’s ladies team and coach Jim Mills’ boys squad made it look like a walk in the park, both literally and figuratively, in the league opener at Bonneyville Mill Park.
Both teams showcased plenty of determination and depth to best the Panthers and the Raiders over a difficult course.
The Warsaw girls, ranked No. 15 in the state, defeated Northridge 25-30 and NorthWood 15-50. The boys topped Northridge 20-42 and NorthWood 15-49.
Campbell watched his loaded team take the first step, albeit a huge one, towards breaking the stranglehold that Northridge has had on the conference for the most part the last two decades.
“Northridge has been the dynasty in the NLC for a long time and I have a lot of respect for them,” said Campbell. “Winning the conference this year is a huge deal to us. This is one small step to doing that. This meet tonight is probably one of the top five meets of the year for us.”
The Warsaw girls program won the conference title outright in 2011 and shared it with the Raiders in 2009. Every other season dating back to 1990, Northridge has won the league championship outright.
The Warsaw girls, who placed 21st at the State Finals in 2013 (Northridge was 16th), showed a complete team effort in the win. The Tigers took third through seventh places as individuals to offset the 1-2 finish by Northridge. Warsaw dominated with its No. 1 runner Allison Miller having what Campbell termed as an “off night”.
“It just shows that we had a whole team effort tonight,” Campbell remarked. “This defines the character of this team. They work hard and they stay together. Allison is our frontrunner, but we have five legit girls who can play anywhere for us.
“We came into this thinking that we are the better team, but we didn’t think we would win this easily tonight. Luckily we have a team that backs each other up. We like the team making the headlines for us. This team could be the best we’ve ever had at Warsaw.”
Junior Hannah Dawson was third to lead the Tiger parade to the finish line in a time of 20:33 on the hilly and demanding course. Sophomore Anna Craig was fourth in 20:49, with junior Emma Hayward fifth in 20:55, sophomore Allison Miller sixth in 21:03, junior Brooke Rhodes seventh in 21:12. Freshman Mia Beckham was 12h in 22:16 and senior Hannah Thompson 14th in 22:21 to complete the top seven.
“Hannah Dawson ran a really big race for us tonight,” noted Campbell. “It was nice to see her rebound from last week and lead the way. Anna picked it up at the end and Emma was very solid. It’s so hard to single out anyone because we did this as a team.”
McKenzie Love of Northridge won the girls race in a time of 20:08. Morgan Blyly was second overall for the Raiders in 20:22.
The Warsaw junior varsity girls also posted two wins. Leading the way were Claire Kehler in 15th place (22:47), followed by Lauren Orr in 16th (22:48), Charlene Orr in 18th (23:31), Emma Lemon in 24th (24:38), Liza Lewis in 25th (24:45), Mallory Hicks in 26th (24:45) and Meredith Phipps in 27th (25:00).
The Warsaw boys impressed their coach with old-fashioned effort Tuesday night.
“Our guys put forth their best effort of the year tonight,” said Mills. “I’m thrilled to death with the effort of our entire team tonight. You can throw out the times because this course is so tough. But, we walk out of here feeling pretty good.”
The Tigers opted not to put it on cruise control despite the fact that the Raiders are down this season and the Panthers were without their top two runners.
“This was a meet where our guys could have come out here and lolly gagged,” said Mills. “They didn’t do that. They hammered it on a tough course.”
The Tigers took four of the top five places to dominate the meet. Junior Owen Glogovsky was second in a time of 17:22, finishing behind Conner Sandt of the Raiders (17:04).
Warsaw took third, fourth and fifth with the trio of Daniel Messenger (18:03), Jonathan Beres (18:22) and Jacob DeBoest (18:23). Avery Torres was sixth in 18:26, with TJ Day seventh in 18:38 and Lucas Howett 10th in 18:50 to round out the top seven.
The Tigers, who placed 12th at State last year (Northridge was eighth) were without Nick Bergen. The senior missed the meet due to some inflammation in his lower leg.
The Warsaw boys also had Nick Adams in 12th place in a time of 19:06. Eric Cusick placed 20th in 19:40, followed by Cam Hoskins in 22nd (19:55), Nathaniel Gottschalk in 23rd (20:02), Jacob Adley in 28th (20:21), Sam Yeager in 29th (20:23) and Trent Thompson in 30th (20:39).
The Warsaw girls will compete Saturday in the Fort Wayne Northrop Invitational. Both the girls and boys return to NLC action next Tuesday at Wawasee.