All of the hyperbole and chocolate milk parties are coming to an end. The preseason beaters in the heat and the rolled ankles on tree roots have to be put in the rearview mirror. The cross country postseason is here, beginning with sectionals across the state this Saturday.
Here’s a look at area sectionals and what’s at stake:
Of note – the IHSAA is charging $5 per person at the sectional, regional and semi-state races around the state. Note parking fees could be extra at the various sites.
Elkhart Central at OxBow Park
Locally, Wawasee is one of the potential contenders to advance as a top-five team in both the boys and girls races. Both clubs finished fourth at the Northern Lakes Conference meets, which removing Warsaw from the top of the ledger in both categories as the Tigers will compete at Culver Academy, and Wawasee finds itself in good shape. Northridge will likely claim crowns again as the perennial juggernaut in the proverbial ‘Battle Of Elkhart County’, and Concord has a solid lineup as the two are likely clear of a Wawasee charge. Goshen’s boys and NorthWood’s girls could give Wawasee some problems in the standings, but not enough to drop the Warriors out of the top five.
Leading the Lady Warriors is Elizabeth Zorn, who has come into her own as a senior, and should be shadowed by Kenzie Smith, Lila Gregory and Aubrey Kuhn. What could make or break Wawasee is a fifth score. The Warriors likely will welcome back Braxton Alexander to the front of its pack, complimenting an already solid one-two punch of Luke Griner and Spencer Hare. Sam Griner could be the wild card for the Warriors.
Warsaw’s performance at the NLC last weekend put the CMA sectional on notice once again. For all the times coach Jim Mills poo-poos his boys roster, they go and win yet another title. Warsaw has done very well at Culver since it departed from the OxBow course five years ago, sweeping both the sectional and regional titles with great ease in all of those seasons.
Warsaw’s boys are led by Zeb Hernandez, who has shown the potential to run with the state’s elite, and has become the clear No. 1 for the Tigers. Lucas Howett and Xavi Ramirez aren’t far behind, and add in Taylor Mills and Nathaniel Gottschalk, and Warsaw is going to be tough to beat again the next two weeks. But stacking the top of the chart at the Academy won’t be easy for Warsaw, as Caston’s Mitchell Rans and Rochester’s Thomas Rohr will battle Hernandez for top honors. Rochester and Caston both could be sneaky podium chasers as could Winamac. Rochester comes in as Three Rivers Conference champions and Winamac and Caston one-two from the Hoosier North Athletic Conference. Triton’s Bailey Watkins could work his way into the podium places after a successful conference meet.
On the girls side, it’s Warsaw or bust. The Lady Tigers have been a top-10 program all season, and have the depth to rest a starter or two and still get the job done. Leading Warsaw has been the trio of Mia Beckham, Allison Miller and Anna Craig, but the Orr twins – Lauren and Charlene – along with Angie Sanchez-Vigil and Megan Metzger, have been solid when needed. Sanchez-Vigil surprised even herself by placing eighth at the NLC, her best-ever tournament finish.
Looking down the list, Manchester has the horses to run with Warsaw, notably its ace Rae Bedke. The TRC champion has run well all year and has the speed and smarts to keep up with Warsaw’s finest. Winamac’s Claire Collins, Rochester’s Kelsey Tyler and Caston’s Adrianna Dague could challenge for top-five spots. Culver Academy also runs well on its home course, watch for them to pull a team ticket to regional.
Fort Wayne Northrop
Whitko is the lone area team working at Northrop, and will have a lot of work to do if it wants to continue onto West Noble on the 15th. With teams from Carroll, Homestead, Columbia City and a bevy of talented individuals dotting the lineups, it could be a rough day for the Wildcats.
Whitko’s girls got a full roster into the TRC meet, landing sixth, but didn’t have a runner in the top 20. Frontlining the Lady Wildcats are Sarah Walter and Hanna Yohe. The Whitko boys, led by Logan Busz, is a four-man group so they won’t be eligible to compete as a team, but can qualify as single runners. Busz has been the top Wildcat, but will have his hands full with the loaded Fort Wayne sectional.