Sectional week has come and gone and the calendar turns to the IHSAA regional state wide. The weather forecast looks nearly ideal and the competition should heat up as teams look to punch their tickets to semi-state. Our choices for meet of the week are:
Boys= West Noble Regoinal
Girls= Noblesville Regional
These two races appear to be the deepest with some awfully good teams which won't qualify for semi-state action. We can argue and discuss about the competitive equality of each sectional/regional/semi-state (and we should), but for this week we should just enjoy the amazing races we'll see at both of these sites. At West Noble, the boys race is fully loaded. Our #1 ranked team, Concordia Lutheran, heads an impressive field that boasts eight of the top 75 ranked schools on inccstats.com. Concordia was pushed by Homestead at the sectional and will again have to race an honest effort to hold off the Spartans. The final qualifying posts should be close with FW Carroll and East Noble trying to figure out a way to advance. Reece Gibson (Concordia) is the individual favorite.
As strong as the West Noble boys regional is, the Noblesville girls regional race is even more loaded. An argument could be made that this race is deeper than the Shelbyville semi-state will be next weekend. Eight teams find themselves ranked in the IR top 20! While Carmel is the favorite to win (if they run their full lineup...might we see Phoebe Bates race for the first time since early September?), it appears to be very competitive for places 2-8 with Noblesville, Brebeuf, Chatard, and Cathedral as the highest teams on our rankings. Westfield, North Central, and Pike look to knock off one of the aforementioned schools. Brebeuf's Madeline Keller appears to be the favorite here...look for upwards of 20-25 girls to break the 19 minute barrier.
The 2019 cross country season has seemingly flown by and we find ourselves at IHSAA Sectional time. What a wonderful time of year! We at IR feel that this is the best month on the calendar. Our meet of the week each week is not in the predicting business...just giving the facts. So, don't expect any final result projections here. Instead, we highlight what just might be the most competitive of the 32 IHSAA Sectionals. The meet of the week is-->
The IHSAA Fort Wayne Northrop Sectional.
Let's start with the obvious...our #1 ranked boys and girls teams begin their march toward a state title at this sectional. The Concordia Lutheran boys and the Carroll girls have established themselves as the teams to beat come November 2nd and that quest begins at Northrop on Saturday. However, the depth of this sectional also stands out. The Homestead boys are currently ranked #4 on our IR weekly poll and have quietly had a magnificent season. The Columbia City boys are #24 on the inccstats website and have been a very solid team all season long. Add in the fact that there are at least 8 teams that probably feel like they could advance from this boys race and it should/could be the most intense sectional race statewide.
The girls race is equally impressive, featuring 4 teams currently ranked in the inccstats.com top 30. The #1 Carroll Chargers will face off against Dwenger, Homestead, and Concordia. Like the boys race, there are more than 5 teams that genuinely have a chance to advance out of this sectional making for added intensity and intrigue. The individual race here is exciting as well with one of the state's best, Erin Strzelecki (Dwenger) toeing the line against other stars in Zoe Duffus (Carroll), Rayna Fruchey (Carroll), Ellie Cates (Concordia), and Julia Dvorak (Homestead). Expect both races to be exciting this Saturday at Northrop.
It is "conference" weekend throughout the Hoosier state with many teams hoping to add championship trophies to their school display cases. However, if we are looking for the meet with the best potential we choose...
NIKE VALLEY TWILIGHT
There are so many reasons why this is such a great meet. First, the races will be held at the historic Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute. Here at IR, we are always grateful that we have perhaps the finest XC course in the USA to compete on each year. Secondly, this race is at NIGHT! So cool. The championship races begin at 8:30pm and the meet finishes with awards ceremony and fireworks(!) at 9:45pm. Thirdly, we are going to, yet again, see many of Indiana's finest cross country squads go head-to-head in this final weekend before sectional action. Additionally, many of the top teams from around the Midwest will travel to Terre Haute to glimpse the course before the Nike "NXN" Regional held in November.
Boys Championship Preview: 30 teams will toe the line led by an amazing group of central Indiana schools. #3 Carmel, #5 Columbus North, #6 Bloomington South, #7 Noblesville, #8 Brownsburg, and #9 Fishers could post some impressive times as they look to battle for supremacy. That's 6 of Indiana's current top 10 teams! It is difficult to discuss those individuals who will try to make a run at winning the race as many of the out-of-state athletes will certainly push for the title. Expect strong finishes from Zionsville's Jesus Garcia (fresh off of his HCC title) and possibly Lapel's Luke Combs (two weeks removed from his stunning 14:56 at the Riverview Health "Flashrock" Invite).
Girls Championship Preview: 28 teams will head to the starting line in this race. The #2-5 ranked Indiana girls teams will compete for the title, led by #2 Zionsville. The Eagles dominated their conference meet last Saturday but will face stiffer competition in the #3 Carmel Greyhounds, #4 Columbus North Bulldogs, and the #5 Bloomington North Cougars. Fishers, Avon, and Hamilton Southeastern will also be ranked teams in attendance. Individually, Zionsville's Katelyn Wasson has won two big races in a row...can she make it a third? Will Carmel's Phoebe Bates compete? We can't wait to find out on Saturday night!
If we were choosing our meet of the week based on size of the field or picturesque setting the choice would be the always awesome Culver Invitational. However, if we are looking at the competitiveness of Indiana schools this week's MOW is....
The HOOSIER CROSSROADS CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
First, let's point out that 13 of the 16 teams (8 boys teams and 8 girls teams) are currently ranked in our weekly top 25 poll! That's insane. Secondly, let's mention that it is entirely possible that (weather permitting) it could take a sub 16:00 for boys or a sub 19:00 for girls to earn all-conference. That's crazy.
The boys will start the racing at Brownsburg's home course at 10AM. The #5 Fishers Tigers look to defend their HCC title but they are going to face some fierce competition. The #7 Noblesville Millers are fresh off of a strong 4th place finish at the Riverview Health "Flashrock" Invite and hope to knock the Tigers off. Additionally, the #9 Brownsburg Bulldogs nearly defeated the Tigers at the First to the Finish Invite (in Peoria, IL) two weeks ago, finishing only three points behind Fishers. Add in top 20 ranked teams from Zionsville (#13), Franklin Central (#17), Hamilton Southeastern (#18), and Westfield (#20) and this is going to be not only one of the best conference meets of the 2019 season, but one of the best meets of the season period. Noblesville's Travis Hickner and Cole Kimmel, Zionsville's Jesus Garcia, Brownsburg's Alex Freeman, and Avon's Nathaniel Beeler all enter as individual champion hopefuls (among others).
The girls race kicks off at 10:30AM and features six of IR's top 25 ranked teams. The #3 Zionsville Eagles will try to defend their HCC title but lurking right behind them are the #4 Fishers Tigers. While Fishers lost this match up at the Flashrock Invite last week, they were without their top runner Hannah Sale. Could her return give the Tigers a shot? The #15 Noblesville Millers, the #16 Hamilton Southeastern Royals, the #19 Brownsburg Bulldogs, and the #23 Westfield Shamrocks will all try to battle to finish in the top three. Individually, Zionsville's Katelyn Wasson looks to lead the field. Brownsburg's Brooke Dixon could use the home course advantage to challenge Wasson. The real strength of this field is the depth. There could be 40 runners capable of breaking 20 minutes if the weather is good.
This week's meet of the week is....
RIVERVIEW HEALTH XC "FLASHROCK" INVITATIONAL
Many of the state's best teams and individuals will run at either the New Prairie Invite or the Riverview Health XC Invite. And while the New Prairie Invite is hosted at an actual semi-state site and the "Flashrock" Invite is not, we still give the competitive edge to the Riverview Health XC Invitational. Why? Let us count the ways:
1) The top 2 boys teams in the state will clash for the second time this season as the #1 Concordia Lutheran Cadets will once again try to hold off the #2 Carmel Greyhounds.
2) The top 4! girls teams in the state will do battle as the #1 Zionsville Eagles look to hold on to that top state ranking.
How often to do you get to see the top 2 ranked teams go head-to-head at an invite in the regular season? How often do you see this for both genders? This meet is a great treat for the Indiana cross country world!
3) The individual races promise to be something to behold. The boys race features state title hopefuls Reece Gibson (Concordia Lutheran), Alex Frey (North Central), Jack Kovach (Brebeuf), Luke Combs (Lapel), Nick Hruskoci (Cathedral), and Travis Hickner (Noblesville). The lead pack could remain large until the last few minutes of the 5k, producing drama and excitement for those in attendance.
4) The girls individual race is equally as loaded. Carmel's Phoebe Bates is one of the headliners but she should be challenged by Madeline Keller (Brebeuf), Zoe Duffus (FW Carroll), and Katelyn Wasson (Zionsville)
5) Both the boys and girls championship races feature 9 of the state's top 25 ranked teams from inccstats.com. This meet is like an early glimpse at the state finals. In fact, it is probably one of the most competitive races of the regular season in the entire Midwest.
The meet begins with the boys championship race at 9AM at Northview Church in Carmel. The girls championship race follows at 9:25AM.