SYRACUSE – Needing to gain precious momentum heading into this weekend’s Northern Lakes Conference cross country tournaments, Wawasee’s boys and girls programs found themselves on both sides of the equation. Both programs split Tuesday, losing to Northridge and beating Concord to conclude the NLC regular season.
Northridge were fantastic in both of its showings heading into the weekend, winning the race with Wawasee 24-35 in the boys race and 17-46 in the girls race. Wawasee bested Concord 19-39 and 22-36, respectively, while the Raiders crushed Concord 16-46 in boys and 16-47 in girls.
Northridge, which moved to 6-1 in NLC girls duals, showed it is ready to take on undefeated Warsaw for the conference title this weekend with a tour de force. Northridge put four in the top five and three more in the top 10, led by Morgan Blyly’s 19:25 and followed by MacKenzie Adams (19:41) and Briana Eggleston (19:48).
Only Wawasee’s Courtney Linnemeier (fourth, 19:55) and Concord’s Vanessa Steiner (sixth, 20:00) broke into the top nine. Linnemeier breaking the sub-20 mark was the first such time of the senior’s season.
“Give credit to Northridge, they ran great races today,” stated Wawasee head coach Doug Slabaugh. “Their frontrunners were solid. There isn’t much you can do when you run personal bests and they are still beating you.”
Wawasee’s Aubrey Kuhn and Sarah Harden broke up the Northridge run with 20:35 and 20:36 runs, respectively, to take 10th and 11th places. Yanelly Pizana (20:49) and Elizabeth Zorn (21:08) made up Wawasee’s scorers.
Highlighting Slabaugh’s team (4-3 NLC) was a performance fit for tournament entry, where 14 of the 16 Lady Warriors achieved either a personal or season best Tuesday.
“Our freshmen are really making their name known, which is helping the team out a lot,” Slabaugh said of Kuhn, Pizana and Reagan Atwood. “They are becoming solid runners in our top five.
“Sarah and Courtney are also running very well. We wanted to see them run a little harder tonight to see what they can do.”
The Warrior boys also had a smashing night as far as personal gain went, with nine of the 11 runners hitting a personal or season best. One of the two not tabbed, Zach Cockrill, still ran a 16:31 and was second overall in the race, only trailing Northridge’s Conner Sandt’s 16:24 winner.
Northridge kept its pack together, which went a long way to deciding the triangular. Nolan Rhodes (16:53) and Austin Clark (17:12) gave the Raiders three of the top four spots, with Clark holding off Troy Carolus at the finish; Carolus’ 17:13 still a personal record in his final home race as a senior.
Northridge would take six of the top 10 spots overall to secure the two wins.
Jaxon Bame labored to take sixth in the race at 17:18 for the Warriors, with teammates Erik Diaz (17:47) and Sam Griner (17:57) adding up the Wawasee tallies.
“I was hoping we could have been more competitive with them up front,” Slabaugh said. “We got separated from them a little, but we ran really good, so it’s hard to be mad about any of it.”
Slabaugh’s boys team has been reeling all year with injuries and illnesses. Tuesday’s races impressed the coach, who thinks his team (2-5 NLC) can make some moves in the eight-team stampede at Ox Bow.
“Jaxon is running a lot better, and Troy is running as well as he has all season,” Slabaugh said. “That should really help us Saturday. We just need to get a couple other guys a little closer to them to help the pack stay with some of these teams.”
The NLC races will be intermixed with the Northern Indiana Conference boys and girls races Saturday morning in a running extravaganza at Ox Bow Park.
The combined NLC/NIC girls JV race will start at 9 a.m., followed by the combined NLC/NIC boys JV race at 9:30. The girls NIC race will start at 10, followed by the girls NLC, the boys NIC and the boys NLC races. Northridge’s girls and Warsaw’s boys are defending NLC tournament champions. Goshen’s win over Warsaw Tuesday night in the boys race and Warsaw’s win over Goshen in the girls race left the Goshen boys 7-0 and the Warsaw girls 7-0 heading into the weekend.