IndianaRunner.com: 2019 Cross Country State Meet Preview – Boys Individuals
I have been affiliated with Indiana high school cross country for a quarter-century and this is the most wide open I can recall for the boys individual race. It is hard to consider anyone a true favorite heading into this weekend. Nevertheless, we have identified 40 individuals who are the most likely candidates to finish on the individual podium (top 20) this weekend. We also detail some of our individual favorites and how we expect the race might play out.
Top 40 Individual Predictions:
1. Luke Combs, 12, Lapel
2. Reece Gibson, 12, Concordia Lutheran
3. Gabriel Sanchez, 12, Lowell
4. Lucas Guerra, 11, Highland
5. Dalton Kane, 12, Plainfield
6. Geno Christofanelli, 12, Crown Point
7. Jesus Garcia, 11, Zionsville
8. Paul Rushton, 12, Bloomington North
9. Jack Kovach, 12, Brebeuf Jesuit
10. Izaiah Steury, 10, Angola
11. Alex Frey, 12, North Central (Ind.)
12. Travis Hickner, 11, Noblesville
13. Caleb Williams, 12, Harrison (WL)
14. Kole Mathison, 9, Carmel
15. Matt Newell, 10, Columbus North
16. Wilson Whicker, 12, Concordia Lutheran
17. Cael Light, 11, Terre Haute South
18. Paul Stamm, 11, Cardinal Ritter
19. Jackson Miller, 12, Jasper
20. Grant Moon, 12, Carmel
21. Spencer Carpenter, 11, Westview
22. Alex Freeman, 12, Brownsburg
23. Landon Wakeman, 12, Columbia City
24. Nick Hruskoci, 12, Cathedral
25. Jarred Neff, 12, Homestead
26. Drake Kropf, 12, Concordia Lutheran
27. Braden Sweet, 11, Southwood
28. Cole Kimmel, 11, Noblesville
29. Krishna Thirunavukkarasu, 10, Brebeuf Jesuit
30. Tim O'Laughlin, 12, New Prairie
31. Keagan Stuckey, 12, Homestead
32. Uriah Guthrie, 12, Eastern (Pekin)
33. Jack Gillard, 12, Bloomington South
34. Nathaniel Beeler, 12, Avon
35. Robby Pratt, 12, Zionsville
36. Will Clark, 11, Fishers
37. Kai Connor, 10, Westfield
38. Steven Schnepp, 12, South Putnam
39. Drew Costelow, 9, Center Grove
40. Matthew Mitsch, 12, Yorktown
Making the Case for the Individual Champion
* Why Luke Combs will win: Combs put down the most impressive race of the season at the FlashRock Invitational. He is the only athlete in the field with a sub-15:00 PR. He could gap the field in the second half of the race and use his aerobic strength to maintain his advantage over the final minutes. He has more pure leg speed than most might realize - remember he has a 4:13 PR for 1600 meters.
* Why Reece Gibson will win: Gibson has the ideal combination of strength and speed to win (9:04 indoor 3200 this winter). He outkicked Combs last weekend to win the New Haven Semi State. He has looked impressive throughout October. As long as he maintains contact with the leader, he is a threat to outlast everyone down that long home stretch in Terre Haute.
* Why Gabe Sanchez will win: Do not be fooled by Sanchez’s 3rd place finish at New Prairie Semi State last weekend. He is a big time performer at the state meet. Even though we do not expect him to be setting the pace early on, he should put himself into the mix late in the race. Sanchez clearly has the best pure speed in this field, boasting a 1:51 PR in the 800. Do not forget what a brilliant race plan he executed a year ago to finish runner-up in this event.
* Why Lucas Guerra will win: Guerra is coming off the biggest victory of his career, defeating Christofanelli, Sanchez, and Williams last Saturday at New Prairie. Each season he just keeps improving, and now as a junior, he finds himself in the lead group with a shot to win. If he can repeat the dominance he displayed last weekend, he will be hard for anyone to run away from on Saturday.
* Why Dalton Kane will win: Kane might be the most improved elite male runner in Indiana this season. In August, nobody was talking about him as a potential state champion. A few weeks ago, he proved he belongs in that conversation. With a huge 5th kilometer surge, he won the State Preview, slipping past Luke Combs right before the finish line. He is also coming off a dominating win at Shelbyville Semi State last Saturday, where he defeated several other all-state individuals.
How the race might unfold:
The first kilometer of this race always run quick. The first quarter-mile is flat, before runners head down a sizeable hill toward the 1K mark. Look for the first kilometer to be quick (~2:45-2:50 range), but look for all of the individual favorites to be together at this point in the race.
Without a clear individual favorite, I expect there to be little action during the second kilometer. The lead group will probably come through the mile in the mid-to-high 4:40s, but nobody will make a big move yet and none of the top runners will be dropped or be in too much discomfort quite yet.
At some point in the 3rd or 4th kilometer, someone will make a move to try to break things open. This move will not win the race, but it will split up the lead group. With a kilometer to go, I expect 3 or 4 of our lead runners to still be in striking range. In fact, I could envision 3 guys still together as they round the last turn and approach the long 500 meter homestretch.
Combs ran a very aggressive race on this course a month ago at the State Preview meet. Perhaps that was a practice run for this weekend. I think Combs’s best strategy would be to make a move somewhere in the 4th kilometer and try to hold it all the way to the finish line. If he can open up a 5-second lead, it will be difficult for anyone to reel him back in late in the race.
I would expect runners like Gibson and Sanchez to wait in the wings during the middle of this race. Sanchez, in particular, knows that he can out-kick anyone in this race if it comes down to a 100-meter sprint to the finish. Gibson also has an amazing kick, so he probably has a lot of confidence that he can win if the race comes down to the final stretch.
Guerra and Kane both ran brilliant races last weekend to win their respective semi state races. Either one of them could spoil the party with a strong mid-to-late race surge. Kane’s final K at the State Preview is probably still in the back of Combs’s mind heading into this weekend.
I think there will be a big move in the 3rd kilometer that will break things open, but I do not think the winning move will come until closer to the 4-kilometer mark. Having said that, I also would not be shocked to still see three guys side by side entering the final homestretch.
Whatever happens on Saturday, this promises to be one of the most intriguing individual boys races in recent history.