Emily Pugh seems to have been flying under the radar of most cross country gurus outside of the Wabash Valley this season.
That is until her performance over the past two weeks.
Heading into the postseason, Pugh hadn't gained that much notice by the dedicated eyes of cross country experts on the indianarunner.com website. A site dedicated to prep running and widely regarded as one of the best guides to Indiana high school track and cross country somehow missed the Northview senior until her second place finish in last Saturday's Brown County Regional.
Even after leading Northview's girls' team to a state finals berth last year, she was seeded well below other central Indiana high schoolers. But Pugh is coming on strong when it counts.
On Saturday she will make the trip to the Bloomington North Semistate and compete on the IU Course. That berth was gained after placing second to Terre Haute North's Kayla Alexander in sectionals and regionals.
Northview girls' coach Bob Stuckey attributes Pugh's success to a strong work ethic.
"Emily (Pugh) has shown a lot of dedication this year," said Stuckey. "Though I'm used to coaching individual sports. I've always set a preseason goal for my athletes to be competing on the last possible day and I think we're on track for that."
Pugh has last season's experience to draw from in running with the state's top harriers that she believes will help a great deal in Saturday's semistate and possibly another trip to the state championship meet.
"It really helps to have run in these meets before," recalled Pugh before a Thursday practice. "Running in last year's state meet was a little overwhelming with so many fast runners, but having been there already will help a lot."
Not only has Pugh had Stuckey and boys' coach Jeff Gambill to help her in her quest for the state finals, but she might have a bit of a secret weapon in assistant coach Jessica Crowder who is student teaching at Northview.
Crowder has quite a bit of her own experience on area courses. She culminated an outstanding career for the Indiana State University cross country team with a Missouri Valley Conference Championship last season and placed 47th in the nation in the NCAA Championships at Northern Iowa last Nov. 24th.
The North Central (Farmersburg) graduate, whose home course was the LaVern Gibson Championship Course on which the Indiana High School State Championships will be held, also has experience on the IU course on which she finished 25th in the state as a junior and 32nd as a senior for the Thunderbirds.
While running has come second nature for Crowder, being a coach has been an interesting change of pace. "(Coaching) has definitely been an experience," Crowder noted. "I've always appreciated my coaches, but now I definitely appreciate them a lot more."
Having Crowder as a coach, Pugh believes, will help her even more on the way to a state qualifying finish at the semistate. "She's definitely pushed me a lot," said Pugh. "She's given me a lot of advice about running and helped motivate me too."
Crowder's experience on the IU Course as well as the LaVern Gibson course should definitely come in handy over the next couple of weeks as well. "On Tuesday we ran the IU Course together and ran some surges. It's definitely an advantage to know the course well. Hopefully we'll be able to do the same thing at Bird Gibson next week," said Crowder.
While Pugh will be attacking the semistate course on her own for the first time this year. She certainly won't be lacking in support. "I've never ran without my teammates before," said Pugh. "But I know they'll be there and that will give me a lot of confidence."
Pugh has plenty of reason to be confident after her strong postseason performances this year. A fact that has been noted by Indianarunner.com this week where Pugh has suddenly risen to a third place ranking in the Terre Haute Semistate behind Alexander and Silver Creek's Kelsey Page who won the Eastern (Pekin) Regional last week.
"I feel like the coaches have planned good workouts for me and I'm really peaking at the right time," said Pugh.