By Mike Deak
WARSAW – In the only entry where one is just like the other, we didn’t feel two teams that made state and got there on literally the same path should have been split.
So, Warsaw boys and girls cross country, you are a collective No. 6 on our team list for this past year.
The new format for the 2020 cross country season didn’t have nearly as many dual races, but just the two Northern Lakes Conference duals – the first at NorthWood and the second at Warsaw – to determine the regular season champ. It was in those two meets that Warsaw’s girls went 14-0 in the two NLC races, and then backed it up with a championship score at the NLC meet at OxBow a few weeks later.
Warsaw’s boys were not as polished, going 6-1 in the first round, but missing its top three in the second meet, and took on three more losses to finish at 10-4 overall. But with their talent back at the conference championship, Warsaw only came up short to No. 8-ranked Goshen and claimed a runner-up spot. The top four for the Tigers were 14 seconds apart, which helped them stay ahead of Northridge and NorthWood for the red ribbons.
As is the scheduling design by the state, Warsaw again had its road show head south for sectionals, and maintained their control of the trophy cases.
The Lady Tigers, however, ran into a Culver Academy team that featured Lexi Allen, one of the top runners in the state, and needed every bit of its tournament magic. Adree Beckham had her moment in the sun at the sectional. A sixth-place run of 21:09 gave Warsaw the tiebreaker over Culver’s 22:05 sixth-place time, which broke a 41-all tie and gave Warsaw the sectional over the Eagles.
The boys race wasn’t even close, as Warsaw got a healthy Tanner Stiver back, and Jacob Kissling was cruising. Kissling won the race at 16:28, 10 seconds faster than the next runner, and Stiver, just seventh, was getting his sea legs after missing a chunk of the regular season to a leg injury. Ahead of Stiver were both Sam Lechlitner and Harrison Phipps, which gave Warsaw quite a foursome to contend.
Same deal a week later, as Warsaw and Culver Academy battled on the girls side, this time Erika Bugg gave Warsaw its fifth score and one point better than the Academy, 64-65, while Stiver moved to second overall at the regional as the Tigers outpointed Western for the regional crown.
The semi-state at New Prairie saw Warsaw finish second in boys and fourth in girls, each claiming a state berth, the first for the Tiger boys in eight years. Kissling was eighth overall and Wini Barnett was 19th for the Lady Tigers, the two placing 60th and 81st, respectively, a week later at the IHSAA State Finals. Warsaw’s boys would place 16th as a team in Terre Haute, the Lady Tigers 24th overall.