Oct. 14—The best runners and teams from last weekend's IHSAA cross country sectionals at Terre Haute North — actually the LaVern Gibson Championship Course — and Bedford North Lawrence will converge on BNL's course for the regional Saturday morning.
The boys race is slated for 10:30 a.m., with the girls to follow at 11:30. Both are 5 kilometers.
The top five teams in each regional race, plus the top 10 individuals not on those teams, will advance to the Brown County Semistate on Oct. 23.
Top teams competing in the regional include the Northview boys, ranked No. 13 in the state, and Northview girls, ranked No. 7, both champions from the TH North Sectional last Saturday. Meanwhile, from the BNL Sectional, Bloomington North's boys (ranked ninth) and Bloomington North's girls (ranked 12th) were team winners. Bloomington South also will be bringing two state-ranked squads — boys 16th and girls 24th — after both finished second behind the crosstown rival Cougars in their sectional.
Northview coaches Tim Rayle (girls) and James Grounds (boys) think the Knights will be ready for their B-Town challengers.
"As long as we stay healthy, we'll be able to compete with Bloomington North for the team title," Rayle told the Tribune-Star this week.
"We have seven runners who are capable of running stride for stride with [Bloomington] North's top seven.
"In order to win the championship, we'll need a perfect race by all seven of our runners. Bloomington North is well-coached and they are focused on keeping us from earning the title two years in a row."
"Provided nothing crazy happens, I believe that we have a really good chance of qualifying for the Brown County Semistate," Grounds noted. "If things go well, we hope to be fighting for the regional championship with Bloomington North and Bloomington South. Bloomington North looks to be a tough team to beat, but I feel that we are ready for the challenge and hope to bring home a regional title."
Northview's girls are led by two-time sectional champ Gnister Grant, a mere sophomore. She won last Saturday's race by almost 50 seconds over runner-up Peyton Smith of Linton.
"After a season of ups and downs, it's exciting for the team to have Gnister back up front as we head into the IHSAA regional meet," Rayle said. "She's trained smart and is now in position to race with Indiana's top runners. I look for Gnister, Ellia Hayes, Micah Peals, Halle Miller and Maisie Eldridge to be in the lead pack on Saturday."
From the boys perspective, Terre Haute South senior Matt Gambill (16 minutes, 24.3 seconds), Northview senior Nolan White (16:25.3) and Terre Haute North junior Dylan Zeck (16:27.0) finished in a tight first-second-third sectional battle.
"Nolan has been running really well for the past month," Grounds emphasized. "He's running with a lot of confidence. He's been a great leader on the team this season and shows a great quality in the fact that he doesn't back away from any challenge that is thrown his way. I expect him and [teammates] Stuart Bennett and Jcim Grant to all three be fighting with the top runners in the field for an individual title.
"A couple of those fighting for the individual title will be Matt Gambill and Dylan Zeck, who are great competitors and helped provide a great race for the individual title at the sectional. Hoping we can see a great Valley contingent up front leading the way this weekend."
Team-wise, placing second behind Northview in both races last Saturday were Terre Haute South and Terre Haute North respectively.
"After a step back in the right direction, advancing to the semistate as a team is well within our reach as long as we show up in Bedford on Saturday and do our job," Terre Haute South boys coach Josh Lee mentioned. "We have seen the four other teams projected to advance as well several times and I have challenged my guys to push to the next group and find a new race in the postseason, someone who has beaten them throughout the regular season."
Josh Lee praised a few of his key performers, including Gambill.
"Ethan Aidoo isn't outworked by many and he has put himself on the bubble of an individual berth as we approach the state championship," he assessed. "I was pleased to see him a little upset after his sectional race as it shows his true heart and love for the sport and I look to see him have a bounce-back this coming weekend.
"A trio of seniors [Tate Alcorn, Eric Haworth and Mason Cranford] and a pair of freshmen [Connor Lauritzen and Braden Fears] will continue to represent the Braves as we head to the regional championship and battle for a team berth to the semistate.
"As for our frontrunner, Gambill won the regional championship as an individual as a junior and he has certainly put himself in contention to repeat that. A tactical race and a well-timed final burst at the sectional was the confidence booster Matt needed to begin his final postseason as a Braves cross country runner. I'm excited to see how his career wraps up and how he pulls along his teammates through the next few weekends."
The coach's brother, Terre Haute South girls coach Jon Lee, sounded equally enthusiastic.
"Two of our girls will be [at the BNL Regional] for the eighth time in their careers and know what it's made of," Jon Lee pointed out. "Lots of winds, some elevation and a very tight course, but the girls are excited and will be ready. We talk about those conditions daily and make sure our training reflects that. On paper, we should expect to advance. But we still have to show up and race.
"We hope to get some girls back toward healthy and hope to keep others that way. The student-athletes have had a lot going on these last couple weeks and with the end of the grading period this week, we continue to push that focus in the classroom is just as important. So we have some very hard-working kids. When you have all those kinds of stresses in life, staying healthy takes a lot of little things to go the right way. So we are excited to get back to 100 percent hopefully."
Terre Haute North boys coach Aaron Gadberry spoke optimistically as well.
"I like our chances of advancing out of the regional," he stressed. "We run in big meets all year long to get ready for this. I think guys will run with confidence and guts.
"Zeck has had a great season and he is one of the guys who will be in the lead pack with a chance to win the regional."