SYRACUSE – It seems Warsaw can put any name in the cross country hat and come up with a winner. Tuesday night, it was Mia Beckham.
The talented freshman found herself out front with a small group of contenders in the girls cross country dual with Wawasee, and Beckham pulled away for an 18-second win at 20:11. Warsaw claimed the win, 23-38, with a huge effort from it’s core group.
Wawasee’s Courtney Linnemeier and Sarah Harden were second and third at 20:29 and 20:43, respectively, but for the Warsaw squad, it has been all hands on deck.
“Our goal was to have our top five sit back, and if we needed to, attack,” said Warsaw head coach Matt Campbell. “We were trying to get our six through 10 up there, get faster and build confidence. We were trying to get some different kids up near the front.”
Beckham’s placing looked odd in how Warsaw composed itself. With headliners Allison Miller, Hannah Dawson and Brooke Rhodes intermixed with a pack of seven Lady Tigers, the experience proved invaluable in bringing Claire Kehler to fourth at 20:54, which brought in the train of Warsaw runners, Rhodes the caboose in 11th at 21:00, which required a small sprint to beat Wawasee’s Aubrey Kuhn to the line.
Kuhn was merely third for her team, which found themselves unable to keep up with the Warsaw herd. Wawasee also had Yanelly Pizana 14th (21:16); Molly Swartz 16th (21:32) and Elizabeth Zorn 17th (21:51).
“Hat’s off to Warsaw’s girls team, they ran great,” stated Wawasee head coach Doug Slabaugh. “Matt’s done an incredible job with them and it’s been fun watching them from a distance. It was a tough night for our girls to get around that pack. Being a young team, we didn’t have the experience to work with that big of a pack.”
Campbell’s group, which has seen Miller, Beckham and Dawson all lead the team in times this season, moves to 3-0 and firm command in the Northern Lakes Conference. Seeking an outright title for the first time since 2011, the Lady Tigers have already knocked off perennial NLC juggernaut Northridge and now upstart Wawasee, which was 2-0 coming into the night but now have an ‘L’ on the right side of the win-loss column.
“We’re focusing on team right now,” Campbell said. “Right now we are trying to take care of business in these NLC matches. We are really focusing on doing our jobs now getting ready for the NLC in a couple weeks. We’re not really worried on who wins a race or whatever, it’s just about getting kids confidence and building.”
For Slabaugh, and Campbell for that matter, the race is part of the building process for the aforementioned Oct. 4 NLC Championship at Ox Bow. Four of Slabaugh’s runners had personal records, including Harden, and a pair set season-bests in Swartz and Abigail Mejia (22:27).
“Courtney really struggled at the beginning of the year with some health issues,” Slabaugh said. “You can tell she is gaining strength back and that’s huge for her. Sarah Harden is just in beast mode right now. She broke over three-and-a-half minutes faster than what she ran on this course last year. She’s running as fast as ever.”