It’s that time of year in cross country where survive and advance has turned into ‘just two more weeks.’
Hips and knees, lungs and egos are all burning as the semi-state ladder of the IHSAA Cross Country State Tournament series hits this Saturday at four sites around the state. For those teams that continue to find success at the sectional and regional levels with expected results – such as Warsaw, Penn, Northridge and others, it’ll be put up or shut up time as the metropolises will converge at both New Prairie and New Haven sites.
Warsaw has an interesting route, moving virtually unchallenged with both its boys and girls teams romping to sectional and regional championships at Culver Academy. But now, both teams are up against a much, much more difficult field at the New Prairie Semi-state. On both sides, 12 of the state’s ranked teams, along with some of the state’s best individual runners, will be at the famed New Prairie course. Among the elite will be both teams from Valparaiso, included the No. 2 Viking girls, and Chesterton’s Jakob Kintzele, who ran a 15:39 at the regional.
“We have always run better at New Prairie than here,” said Warsaw head coach Jim Mills after the CMA Regional. “It’s a flat course and stuff, but I think it’s a little deceiving. We have never run our best times here. I think at the invite, it’s the excitement, and they bring in out-of-state runners that are really high class so you have this high level of competition. And then you come here…and we just have run better at New Prairie over the years than we have here.”
Warsaw’s girls come in ranked No. 22 and have the sectional and regional champion Mia Beckham leading the team. Beckham’s regional time of 19:04, however, ranks fourth to the other three regional champions, where Maggie Gutwein of Twin Lakes bringing in the top time of 18:25.
“We’re just not competitive enough,” said Warsaw girls coach Matt Campbell. “When you’re watching a race, it looks like we’re in la-la land compared to what we’ve done before. A lot of these girls that are running back there have been a minute to a minute-and-a-half faster. We have something mentally going on, and we have a week to figure it out. They just need to throw a Hail Mary next week. That’s what it’s going to take.
“The lineup will look a little different next week. But this was supposed to be one of our strongest lineups, so this was a little disappointing.”
Tippecanoe Valley will have a pair of individuals working in Jordan Owens and Jadyn Kolesiak.
It’s a slightly more difficult road for Wawasee’s boys program, which had been good but not great in reaching the semi-state for the second straight year. The Warriors were fourth at the Elkhart Central Regional, well back of Penn but not unreasonably far from Northridge and Concord, yet tied with Goshen and only a couple points clear of Memorial, which missed the cut.
At New Haven, No. 2 Westview, No. 8 Fort Wayne Carroll, No. 21 Fort Wayne Concordia along with regional champions Huntington North and Pendleton Heights will all be on hand. Some absurd individual times also come in with Westview’s Matt Yoder at 15:43, Carroll’s Connor Goetz’s 15:53, Lapel’s Luke Combs at 15:58 and Mississinewa’s 15:59 and Westview’s Richmond Stoltzfus at 16:07 all on hand.
With Wawasee’s top two times coming from Luke Griner (16:38) and Spencer Hare (16:50), the Warriors are going to have to dig deep.
Wawasee’s Kenzie Smith and NorthWood’s duo of Erica Stutsman and Kate Jarvis will also be looking to secure state spots.
Added Smith, who is racing the New Haven Semi-state for the second consecutive year, “I’ve raced the course before so I know it better than last year and hope to use that to help me be ready to go. Saturday is an opportunity for me to put it out there and see what I can do.”
New Prairie starts at 10 a.m. and New Haven opens at 1 p.m. The top six teams and top 10 individuals from non-advancing teams will qualify for the IHSAA State Finals at Terre Haute on Oct. 28.