CULVER – Clearly, Warsaw has awoken from its wake-up call during the regular season. Rebounding from what Warsaw boys cross country coach Jim Mills has referred to as a ‘rebuilding season’, the Tigers were up to their old tricks once again in the postseason. Putting all five of its scorers in the top 12 overall, Warsaw steamrolled to yet another regional team championship Saturday morning at the Culver Academy Cross Country Regional.
With three titles in its last three weeks of tournament racing, Warsaw looked comfortable and highly competitive along the banks of Lake Maxincuckee. The fifth straight regional placard for the Tigers saw Zeb Hernandez lead the way again, but bring his teammates along for the ride.
Hernandez and sectional champion Mitchell Rans of Caston were tops of the field again, Rans winning going away at 16:04 but Hernandez comfortably in second at 16:25. What Mills wanted to see, however, was how his pack would create its opportunities.
Lucas Howett was sixth overall at 17-flat and Xavi Ramirez ninth at 17:22, giving Warsaw its usual top three. But closing the gap was Taylor Mills, who was just behind Ramirez at 17:26 and Nathaniel Gottschalk at 17:35, putting the fifth Tiger score into the top 12.
Thomas Lemon (17:48) and Justin Fleming (18:21) completed Warsaw’s active roster.
“This was, by far, our tightest team race,” Mills said. “We were looking at their times, and this course didn’t run very fast today, and we were just tighter one through seven. Looking at our fourth, where we’ve had problems early in the year, he was only 15-20 seconds behind our third. That is what is going to get us out of New Prairie.”
Warsaw scored 39 team points to move well clear of runner-up Culver Academy’s 75 points. Rochester (111), Plymouth (115) and Logansport (153) made up the semi-state qualifying teams.
“New Prairie is really a fast course except for that suicide hill, and we have always run well there,” Mills said of the semi-state site. “A lot of fast runners are coming in, and you’ll have company unlike the sectional and regional where everyone is spread out. There are seven ranked teams coming in, unless something weird happens, and we’ve beaten three of those teams this year. We’re right there, and feel like if we put in the team effort, it’ll be there for us to get to state.”
Triton had its top three runners in the regional, and barely missed getting its ace to the semi-state. Bailey Watkins had the inglorious honor of taking 11th place, needing to get within the top 10 to advance to New Prairie next week. Watkins ran an 18:30, but was six seconds short of Pioneer’s Matt Williams, who was the tenth individual to cross the line not on an advancing team.
“Bailey has come a long way this year,” said Triton assistant coach Bryce Wanemacher. “He loves this sport. It’s his passion. He has had a great year and has nothing to be ashamed of win or loss.”
Russell Reichard timed in at 18:35 and Josiah Page was at 19:20 for the Trojans.
The New Prairie Semi-state will feature teams and individuals from regionals at Culver Academy, New Prairie, Lafayette Harrison and Crown Point. Racing starts at 10 a.m.