CULVER – First one down, next one up. The cross country sectional tournaments are officially in the books and the regionals are next on the list as the IHSAA state tournament marches on. With it, more dog-eat-dog scenarios as runners know exactly what will be expected to live for another weekend.
“When it gets down to the regional and semi-state, particularly the semi-state, our 4-7 are going to be the most important. But that doesn’t mean we can relax at the top, either,” said Warsaw boys head coach Jim Mills. “We know there will be some quality runners coming into the regional. But I think today was a wake-up call to our guys that we can’t just expect to come in here and have everyone just move aside for us.”
Warsaw’s boys team, granting grace in not having senior ace Owen Glogovsky, still found out winning sectional titles is not just merely showing up and saying, ‘We are Warsaw, fear us.’ Rochester was only nine points off the title pace Warsaw set, and had three of the top six runners at the sectional, including race champion Wesley Meyer. With Glogovsky back, Warsaw should be able to wedge some of that gap away from Rochester, but the field will not look the same as last weekend at Culver Academy.
The Academy course will house the regional this Saturday morning, but powerful Winamac will be in town with its studs Kyle Collins and Zen Zupin. Logansport also has a quality team coming in, and Culver Academy placed all five of its scorers in the top 20 at the sectional, mindful of its home course.
Mills expects Zeb Hernandez to continue his torrid ascent as the freshman has far exceeded expectations. The Northern Lakes Conference champion, sectional runner-up and also having run one of the top times overall at the Culver Academy Invite in late September in an elite housing of talent, Hernandez led all but the final 100 or so meters at the sectional before Meyer caught him. Lucas Howett, Xavi Ramirez and Jon Beres should have a huge say in how Warsaw fares in defending its regional crown.
Scott Erba’s girls team is rolling, and were very impressive at the Academy last weekend. With Allison Miller running in championship form, the Lady Tigers crushed the field even without three of its starters racing. Much could be the same this weekend, whether Erba decides to have Mia Beckham, Hannah Dawson and Anna Craig dressed and ready to go, or not.
“You want to see that depth run well here (at the sectional), because anything can happen and you want to have others with experience,” Erba said. “There is a lot of pressure for our girls to do well, knowing semi-state and state are the bigger goals for us. We want to do well there, but we have to take care of business first. And I think the sectional was a great step in the right direction for us.”
Fortunes could also be in favor for several of the individuals from the area schools in the Culver regional. Triton’s trio of Baylee McIntire, Bailey Watkins and Cordell Sherow have a legitimate chance to sneak out with semi-state berths if their times hold from their sectional runs. Tippecanoe Valley’s Jesse Floor and Karly Kitch also posted times that will be close given the crossover times from those from feeding in from the Logansport sectionals.
Wawasee’s girls are still alive at the Elkhart Central regional, but barely. Squeaking out fifth place by one point over Fairfield at the sectional at OxBow Park, Wawasee will need a much more consistent race set with the additions of powerhouses Penn and Mishawaka to the fold this weekend.
Aubrey Kuhn has led the Lady Warriors all season and did so again at the sectional with a 16th-place run, followed by Elizabeth Zorn and McKenzie Smith.
The Wawasee boys did not qualify a team, but have three running Saturday in Luke Griner, Sam Griner and Bennett Hoffert. Luke was 12th overall while Sam trimmed a full minute off his NLC race time.
Whitko will have just one runner in the regional round, and LCA will have two. Brigit Nemitz qualified for this Saturday’s West Noble Regional after finishing 20th overall and second among non-team individuals at the Fort Wayne Northrop Sectional. LCA’s Josh Gervasi and Alex Plastow each made the regional field by taking ninth and tenth in the boys individual standings.