While cross-country is a team sport, especially at the elite level of the Indiana High School State Finals, the runners who make up those teams each have goals for themselves and where they feel they need to be to be successful.
The Northview girls cross-country team is no different. While they got there as a team and will compete as a team, each runner has their own goals for their performance on Saturday afternoon.
From standing on the podium as a member of the All-State Team, to running a personal best or beating a set time, each of the competitors has their own method for success.
"I'm hoping to run a personal best," commented junior Emily Pugh. "I'd like to be down around a 15:15."
Pugh is one of a couple of team members who has set a time-oriented goal for herself. Senior Shandra Kirby has a goal that is just behind Pugh's for the race. "It's great just to make it (to the State Finals)," commented Kirby. "I'd like to be around a 15:30 for the race."
While Kirby and Pugh have their own set of goals, senior Mary Pugh, who is the only Northview girls' cross-country athlete with prior State Finals experience has another goal. "I think we'd all just like to surprise everyone again. Everyone was so happy when we got past the Semistate. I'd like to do that again at the State Meet," said Pugh. But after pausing for a moment, she added with a smile, "And I'd like to beat Shandra (Kirby)."
Emily Pugh placed 12th overall in the Terre Haute North Semistate while Kirby was 28th in 15:46 followed closely by Mary Pugh in 15:47. Senior Nikki Royer was 64th in 16:13 with Kim Deakins in 100th place, Emily Lutes in 152nd and Brit Hoffman was 157th.
In last season's State Finals appearance, Mary Pugh placed 74th overall with a time of 15:58.6. She, along with the rest of the Knights will see a familiar face joining them in Terre Haute North's Kayla Alexander who will also be making the trip.
Alexander placed fifth as an individual in the Semistate and moved on with her time of 15:06. She placed 69th in last year's Finals race and should battle with Emily Pugh for the position as the top finisher in the Wabash Valley.
As a whole, the Knights will have their work cut out for them against some of the best runners in the state, but that doesn't faze boys' senior runner Justin Scherb who will also run on Saturday. "I'd like to maybe finish in the top-25 and stand on the podium," said a confident Scherb.
That confidence comes with experience for Scherb who has made a pair of appearances already in the finals with excellent results.
This year he is looking to use his experience to his advantage. "I'd like to cut maybe 15 seconds off of my time. Experience is important on this course. A lot of people go out way too fast."
Scherb's knowledge of the course and his abilities on the Indiana University Course will surely give him an edge on the rolling, hilly course. But he did acknowledge a bit of his strategy when discussing the final stage of the race.
"Two years ago I passed about 30 people at the end. If you go out too fast you don't have anything left."
What Scherb was referring to is the final straightaway leading to the finish line, a stretch that extends for several hundred meters.
That setting could be the proving ground for Scherb and whether he can achieve his goal of a podium berth.
Each of Northview's runners will get the opportunity to make that final sprint towards the finish line with hundreds of fans cheering them on their way.
Whatever lies at the end of that straightaway for each runner, a personal best time, a dream of winning a medal, or beating a certain competitor, one of the biggest goals has already been accomplished. Being one of the best in his/her sport.