WARSAW – Make history.
That’s what the young and talented Warsaw girls cross country team is aiming to do on Saturday.
The No. 6 Tigers of coach Matt Campbell head to the State Finals with one big goal in mind.
Warsaw, with all underclassmen in its lineup, is looking for the best finish ever in program history. That would mean finishing in the top 10 of the 24 teams entered in the girls’ field in Terre Haute.
The Tigers earned an 11th place team finish in 2011, the year in which star Ashley Erba of Warsaw won the individual championship.
“We would be very satisfied with a top 10 finish Saturday,” said Campbell. “We believe that is realistic and it would give us great momentum too for next year.
“This team wants to be known as the greatest girls’ team to go through Warsaw and a top 10 finish would do that. That being said, we don’t feel any pressure. We feel like we’re a team that is still trying to surprise some people.”
Warsaw earned a third-place finish last Saturday at the New Prairie Semistate. That came after the deep squad easily won sectional and regional championships at Culver Academies, led by individual champion Allison Miller.
The Tigers plan to run the same lineup Saturday as competed at the semi state. Sophomore standout Miller will lead the way and will be joined by talented teammates a plenty in juniors Brooke Rhodes, Emma Hayward and Hannah Dawson, sophomores Anna Craig and Charlene Orr and freshman Mia Beckham.
The foursome of Miller, Rhodes, Hayward and Dawson all ran at the State Finals a year ago for the Tigers.
“Our goal is to go out harder Saturday and just be mentally tough,” said Campbell. “We need everyone to race well and they are all capable of it.”
The Tigers placed 21st as a team at State in 2013. This is the fourth straight year the program has qualified to run at the final meet of the season as they were 19th in 2012 and 11th in 2011.
Campbell expects Miller, who placed fourth at the semi state last Saturday and was the top Warsaw finisher at State last year in 50th place overall in a time of 19:15, to have a good day.
“Allison is racing well for us and I’d like to see her contend for the top 25 on Saturday and All-State honors,” remarked Campbell. “I’m encouraging her to go after it and the lower she finishes the better for us.”
“We just expect all of our girls to go in there and give it their all and run their best. We need to go after it and be mentally tough regardless what the weather is like. We’ve ran in all kinds of weather this season, so bring it on has to be our approach.”
Campbell, who is directing the team this season as head coach Scott Erba took a year off, says it’s been about the routine this week.
“We’ve just stuck to our routine and it’s super important to just keep things normal,” Campbell said. “It’s the same stuff, the same story for us. This is the race that we have prepared for all year.”
The girls’ race Saturday, which also includes Northridge, begins at 1 p.m. at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course at the Wabash Valley Sports Center in Terre Haute.
The girls’ field of 208 runners over the 5,000-meter course will be led by star Anna Rohrer. The Mishawaka senior won the individual title in 2012 and then had to miss the State Finals last year due to an injury. The field also includes standouts Sierra Moore of Elkhart Memorial and Madison Woods of Penn. Moore was 15th overall and Woods placed sixth at the State Finals in 2013.
No. 1 Carmel is once again the team to beat in the girls’ field of 24 teams. The Greyhounds have won four state championships in a row.
The boys’ race, which also includes 24 teams and 208 runners, begins at 1:45 p.m. Saturday. That strong field includes Goshen, along with West Noble and South Bend Riley.
No. 1 Carmel is also the team to beat among the boys’ squads. The Greyhounds have won the last two state championships.