The boys and girls cross country sectionals begin Saturday morning at 32 sites across the state. Schools hosting area teams include Pendleton Heights, South Putnam, Ben Davis, Noblesville, Brebeuf, New Palestine, Franklin and Brown County. Admission to all sites is free.
The top five teams and top 10 individuals on non-advancing teams will qualify for the Oct. 17 regionals. Here are five things to look for heading into the tournament:
1.) WWCD (What will Carmel do?)
The Greyhounds boys and girls teams are both ranked No. 1 in the state and could be atop the podium at the Oct. 31 state finals in Terre Haute. They came oh-so-close to accomplishing the feat last year, with the Carmel girls winning the state championship and the boys finishing as the runner up, just seven points behind West Lafayette.
How deep are the Greyhounds’ girls? They won the Sept. 26 Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference meet – with their junior varsity runners competing. Senior Ben Veatch, the defending state champion, leads the Carmel boys.
“Carmel will always be the team to beat for boys and girls,” said Brebeuf coach Karl Knerr. “(Former coach) Chuck Koeppen established a monster powerhouse at Carmel that will live on for many more years to come.”
Carmel will compete in the Noblesville Sectional, which begins at 10:30 a.m.
2.) About that Noblesville Sectional …
The field is deep at Noblesville, on both sides. After the top-ranked Greyhounds boys are No. 2 Fishers, No. 3 Hamilton Southeastern and No. 7 Westfield. The girls side includes No. 13 Hamilton Southeastern, No. 18 Noblesville, No. 19 Westfield and No. 23 Fishers.
Despite the abundance of strong teams, they’ll all be chasing Carmel, which has won five consecutive girls and seven straight boys sectional titles.
3.) Zionsville girls on the move
Zionsville won the loaded Hoosier Crossroads Conference championship Oct. 3, in which six of the seven teams were ranked. Even more impressive for the No. 9 Eagles was that they won their first conference championship rather easily with 42 points to runner-up Hamilton Southeastern’s 61.
The Eagles have a solid varsity team of seven, with Sophia Rigg, Samantha Mitchell and Angelina Ellis all running sub 19-minute conference times on the 5,000-meter White River Elementary course.
Zionsville is gunning for its third straight state finals appearance and a spot among the top five teams on the podium. The Eagles placed sixth last year and ninth in 2013, their only other finals appearances.
“This is the first year I think that we really feel like we truly can do something there,” said Zionsville coach Suzanne Rigg.
4.) Brebeuf boys back strong
Brebeuf’s Knerr knew his team would have a tough time returning to the state finals last year after losing four seniors from its first state finals team in 2013. But the Braves made the podium with their fifth-place finish on the heels of individual state runner-up Zack Snider.
Now, Snider’s gone, along with three other seniors from that team, and the challenge for the Braves remains to do it again. This year’s team, led by senior David Coffey, will take its first step in Saturday’s sectional on Brebeuf’s home course.
“Making it to state this year would be a testament to the program we – my outstanding staff – have built,” Knerr said.
5.) Others to watch
The list of girls contenders is long this year with the departure of two-time state champ, Anna Rohrer from Mishawaka. Avon’s Taylor Nicholson, a junior, is last year’s state runner-up and is coming off winning the HCC crown. Pendleton Heights’ Alex Buck (the Marsh Athlete of the Month), Cathedral’s Katherine Free and Greenwood Christian’s Alexandra Dalton all have shown the ability to lead the pack … Don’t sleep on the Avon boys. The Orioles are ranked sixth in the state. Avon’s top five, led by senior Alec Scheerer, all finished within six seconds of each other (16:05-16:11) in the HCC meet … Fishers won the HCC boys championship in the field of six ranked teams, while HSE sophomore Gabe Fendel won the individual conference title ahead of Brownsburg’s Hari Sathyamurthy. Both could be in the mix for a state title.