Last Saturday, Warsaw’s decorated cross country programs earned their eighth straight sectional championships. The Tigers are looking to build on those streaks when they travel back to the Culver Academies for this weekend’s regional race.
Warsaw’s girls placed five in the top 10 overall on the way to a dominant 34-point tally, well ahead of host CGA’s second-place score of 68. The top five from that race — including Manchester, which finished fourth last week — will all reconvene at the Academies for the regional race, and they’ll be joined by the top five from the Logansport Sectional, led by meet-champion Western. Once more, the top five teams and top 10 individuals from regional all advance to the next stage of the IHSAA state tournament — namely, the New Prairie Semi-State — and the Lady Tigers should have plenty of margin for error to make it out. What they’d really like is not just to make the cut out to semi-state, however, but to claim a sixth-straight regional title in the process.
With a deep lineup to play around with, head coach Jason Fleming will try to give his team the best chance to do that, but also to prepare his runners for what is likely an inevitable semi-state berth the following week, too.
“Same course, hopefully the same result,” he said. “We’re going to play around with some of our runners, position-wise and look at the more tactical parts of the race and see what we can do once as a coaching staff we all sit down and decide how we want to attack regional. You might see some new faces in that lineup, kind of in preparation for ultimately where we’re going to be at semi-state. We’re still looking for that desire — who still has that desire to run, who still has room to improve and is willing to push themselves to that point. I feel all of them do, it’s just who is going to step up that day.”
On the flip side of the coin, Warsaw’s boys were pretty much just as dominant last week, placing three in the top 10 and five in the top 15 on the way to a 36-point score, again far ahead of runner-up Plymouth’s 60. As with Fleming’s girls, Tigers boys head coach Jim Mills has plenty of depth to play with, but he put his team’s best foot forward at the start of the state series, running four of his top five at sectional. Jacob Kissling sat out the race with a nagging hip injury and may rejoin the lineup this weekend. Likewise senior Noah Marshall will join the Tigers for one last regional run.
The Tigers are looking to extend an even longer championship streak as they head into the CMA Regional as the six-time defending champs already, but the main goal is what lies ahead at New Prairie the following weekend, where a top five placement would punch Warsaw’s ticket to the state finals.
“We practiced really hard (leading into sectional) so I wasn’t surprised that maybe guys were a little heavy-legged, but we want to go into the semi-state feeling confident that we’re not like a ninth or 10th place team,” said Mills.
“We move on, and hopefully we’re sharp and then get ready for New Prairie.”
While Warsaw’s teams return to Culver Academies for regional, Wawasee’s make the trip back to a course they’ve run the past two weeks at OxBow Park for the Elkhart Central Regional.
The Warriors first ran the course on Sept. 29 at the Northern Lakes Conference championship meet, then returned for the Elkhart Central Sectional last week, where the Warriors collected a third-place finish, and the Lady Warriors grabbed the last team spot out to the regional in fifth place.
The Warriors have shown some pretty steady improvement at the tail end of the season, particularly among its top three and are hoping that trend continues as they try and advance at this weekend’s race. In fact, they showed significant improvement from the NLC race to the sectional race just one week later, based on head coach Chad Hoffert’s estimates.
“In a mock race based on (the NLC race) we would have scored 97 points, and today we scored 86,” he said following sectional. “Even though times were slower overall due to weather, that is improvement that I am looking for. Looking forward to regional.”
For Doug Slabaugh’s Lady Warriors, it’ll be a steep hill to climb to make a cut out to the New Haven Semi-state as the team grabbed the last berth out to regional. But if nothing else it’s great experience for an overwhelmingly young squad.
“Always great to move on to the next round of the state tournament; that’s always a goal. Excited for this group, as so many of them have never run cross country before,” he said.
“Hope to see some fans and locals out there to support these teams.”
Also alive at regional are a number of individuals from area teams.
Tippecanoe Valley’s Valeria Jimenez, Haley Hoover and Ava Craig all qualified individually for the Culver Academies Regional, as did the Vikings’ Matthew Howes and Mitchell Smith.
Triton’s Russell Reichard and Brandon Kitch also return to the Academies, as will Manchester’s Carter Bedke, Wilson Nettleton and Reece Adamiec.
For NorthWood, Hannah Brubaker, Whitney Wolfe, Megan Miller and Laura Schrock are all back at the Elkhart Central meet Saturday, while Tyler Evers, Sam Schlatter, Stephen Schmidt, Eric Hochstetler and Garrett Myers all moved on on the boys’ side.
The Culver regional is slated for 10:30 a.m. The Elkhart race starts at 10 a.m.