CULVER – Running is usually the punishment for athletes in most sports, but that is obviously not the case in cross country. For the harriers that dare the courses across the state week after week, getting to run is the point and during the postseason getting the chance to run more is the reward.
56 harriers representing 10 different schools gathered on the beautiful campus of Culver Academy Saturday morning with the goal of keeping their seasons, well, running. The field at the Culver Academies Sectional paled in comparison to the dominating performance of Warsaw. The Lady Tigers won their fourth consecutive sectional title with a score of 17 points, cruising by second place Culver Academies (70).
It all started at the top for Warsaw as the Tigers occupied five of the top six spots in the final standings, including the top three positions. Sophomore Allison Miller paced the Tigers, finishing first in the race with a time of 19:33.2. Freshman Mia Beckham (19:56.2) and sophomore Charlene Orr (20:01.3) took the next two spots.
Adrianna Dague (20:08.2) of Caston came in for a fourth place finish, edging out Warsaw’s Brooke Rhodes (20:08.9). Lauren Orr took sixth place as the final counted score for Warsaw with her time of 20:34.7. Claire Kehler (20:54) and Hannah Thompson (21:15.7) also finished in the top-20 for the Tigers. The dominance was even more impressing when realizing that Warsaw had a portion of its top runners held out for rest. But, that’s the benefit of being miles ahead of the competition in your sectional field.
“We rested three of our top seven today and we’ll do the same next week,” said Warsaw head coach Matt Campbell. “We’ll continue to switch girls around, we can do that because we’re deep enough. We’re very fortunate.”
“I’m very happy with today. We had some girls with personal records today which is encouraging going into the regional and then semi-state in two weeks. Semi-state is what we’re focused on knowing that the regional field won’t add anyone that will challenge us.”
While Warsaw rolled through the sectional field, two other local teams did not have the same success but still managed to advance a couple of runners.
Makayla Musilli and Baylee McIntire of Triton and Karly Kitch and Breelyn Conley of Tippecanoe Valley all advanced as individuals to next week’s regional, also held at Culver Academies.
Conley used a top-30 finish to get through with her time of 23:04.9 while Kitch finished in the top 25 with a time of 22:10. Courtney Burns (24:02.5), Sierra Rudd (24:04.1), Brooklyn Conley (24:28.5), Alexia Durkes (27:57.1) and Abbi Miller (28:12.3) rounded out the times for Valley in Saturday’s race.
McIntire led the Lady Trojans harriers with her time of 21:49.6, good enough for an 18th place finish. The time by McIntire was a PR, shaving five seconds off of her previous PR from the Northern State Conference meet last weekend. Musilli was close to getting her PR but fell just a little short. That didn’t matter, however, as the senior extended her final season at least one more week by narrowly making the cut to advance.
Getting two runners through made head coach Wes Rettinger a very happy man.
“I’m really pleased with the two we got out today,” Rettinger began. “I think it’s harder to run faster here than it is up at New Prairie but Baylee (McIntire) ran a PR. Times are usually just a little slower here, so I was happy to see her finish with that time.”
The girls race at the Culver Academies Regional will start promptly at 10:30 a.m. next Saturday. Warsaw won the regional in 2011 and 2013. Culver Academies, Plymouth, Rochester and Manchester will join Warsaw at the regional next weekend.