WARSAW — The Lady Tigers got off to a fast start to the cross country season at their home invitational Tuesday night — a very fast start.
Warsaw’s girls squad earned three of the top five and six of the top 11 places en route to a dominant, 31-point tally and the team title, well ahead of Columbia City’s runner-up score of 73. Manchester placed third with 96 points, NorthWood was fifth with a 113, and Tippecanoe Valley finished seventh with a 207 score.
Warsaw’s girls picked up pretty much where they left off at the end of 2018, debuting a number of talented newcomers alongside some of the veteran cast that earned the team a state berth last fall. The byword for the Lady Tigers is still pack running, and that’s just what head coach Jason Fleming got from his girls Tuesday.
Wini Barnett, Adree Beckham and Ava Knight returned at the front of the lineup, finishing in order in third through fifth with respective times of 20:26 20:33 and 20:52. Not far behind, freshman Mikayla Mimnaugh (21:21), Erica Bugg (21:23) and Hannah Bloemandaal (21:27) placed ninth through 11th at the seven-team invite. All told, 10 Warsaw runners finished in the top 25 of Tuesday’s girls field.
“If you looked out there, there were very few individual runners of ours. This is what we work on. Now the strategy moving forward is to get these two (Mimnaugh and Bugg) moving up with these two and just keep moving up that ladder,” said Fleming.
“Our freshmen are coming in, and our times are a lot better than where they were at this time last year… These are good times for early in the season, so I’m pleased. There are a lot of positives to take away from tonight.”
Warsaw’s boys also showcased some strong pack running on the way to their third-place finish in the boys’ race.
No. 13-ranked Crown Point had Genesia Christofanelli and Quinton Bock place first and second, respectively, on the way to a first-place team finish with a score of 31, while the host Tigers finished just two points behind Columbia City’s 64. NorthWood finished a distant third with a tally of 117, Tippecanoe Valley ninth with a score of 263, and Whitko was 11th with 331 points.
“I had no expectations, and I walked away feeling really good about how the guys ran,” said Warsaw boys head coach Jim Mills. “Only two points out of second, and Crown Point is definitely the real deal, so I’m thrilled.”
Pacing the Tigers were Jacob Kissling and Tanner Stiver, in seventh and eighth with respective times of 17:10 and 17:18. Battling a severe stitch, Sam Lechlitner finished 16th in 17:35 just three seconds back of Fernando Niebbia in 15th place. Austin Fleming (17:48) and Cameron Zimmerman (17:38) were 20th and 21st for the Tigers.
“We talked before the race how if we’re going to get anywhere this year, we’ve got to have a group of guys coming in one after another,” explained Mills.
“Jake and Sam, one could win one week, and one could win another. Tanner is the one, he’s got the wheels from track, and today is one of the few days that I have watched him go out hard and then hang on. Because he has a tendency to go out too slow and then he’s running the 100-yard dash finishing. He was the one I was really pleased to see run as well as he did.”
NorthWood’s boys got a trio of top-25 finishes in Brady Hunsberger, who entered the chute just a second behind Stiver in ninth place, while Eric Hochstetler and Jordan Burden finished back-to-back in 23rd and 24th with respective stops of 17:56 and 17:57. Sam Schlatter was 32nd (18:22), and Grady Stevenson was 37th (18:34) to complete Wood’s team score.
NorthWood’s girls were paced by Kaitlin Burden in 17th place (22:02), followed by Emilie Allen in 20th (22:29). Mia Wellington was 27th (23:00), Reese Barhydt was 30th (23:02), and Megan Miller was 37th (23:19).
Valley’s girls were led by Valeria Jimenez in 42nd place (24:18), while Talia Holder finished 69th (27:13), Ella Mayers was 75th (28:02), Rachel Luce came in 88th (31:45), and Marissa McLean crossed the finish line in 92nd place (32:35).
Matthew Howes was one place out of the top 25 for the Vikings in a time of 18:!6 on the boys’ side.
“He definitely had a good run today. We focused a little more on his mile- and two-mile time, to keep it consistent. I told him he could go after that, which is what he did really well.,” said Valley coach Mike Inglehearn.
Mitch Smith placed 86th (19:53.4), Chase Miller was 132nd (21:19), Jace Holloway was 135th (21:23), and Evan Mayers was 184th (23:35).
For Manchester, Carter Bedke finished in 19th place (17:47), Raven King was 47th (18:49), Cade Jones was 66th (19:24), Elijah Burlingame was 93rd (20:03), and Jonathan Eberly was 102nd (20:18). Josie Briner was sixth (20:54) in the girls’ race, Kambree Cashdollar placed 13th (21:29), Halle Briner was 18th (22:16), Anna Markham finished 35th (23:11), and Sydney Diefenbaugh was 40th (23:47) for the Lady Squires.
Whitko fielded just two runners in the girls’ race, as Amanda Leppek placed 80th (29:19), and Laura Jackson was 89th (31:57). Jacob Porter was the first Wildcat across the boys’ finish line in 107th (20:27), while Gavyn Alexander was 175th (23:01), Kendrick Metzger was 183rd (23:30), Mario Romero was 185th (23:39), and Caden Marcum was 207th (26:33).