The 2004 cross country season reaches its conclusion this weekend with the IHSAA State Finals at the LaVern Gibson Championship course in Terre Haute.
After placing fifth in the Bloomington North Semistate run on the former state finals course at the IU Golf Course, Northview senior Emily Pugh hopes to improve on last year's 79th place finish on Saturday afternoon.
Coach Larry Stuckey for one believes that Pugh has an excellent shot at that particular goal.
"Emily (Pugh) got a good starting spot for the race," said Stuckey before Wednesday's practice. "She's got plenty of competition to bring her along. She's done a fantastic job this season. Getting back to states isn't always easy."
In Pugh's case she has a little extra drive after her finish in last Saturday's semistate.
After running in third place much of the race, Kacie Klem of Southridge and Lindsay Overton of New Albany were able to overtake Pugh in the final meters of the race to bump her down to fifth place overall. "I felt like I ran as hard as I could (at semistate)," said Pugh on Wednesday. "I just didn't have anything left at the end and (Klem and Overton) were able to catch me."
This week's practice has been geared towards being able to finish strong on a course that Pugh has run quite a few times. In fact, Pugh and assistant coach Jessica Crowder, a former Indiana State Sycamore Cross Country standout, ran together on the LaVern Gibson Course to develop a strategy.
"I think I, along with the Terre Haute runners, have a large advantage because of our knowledge of the course," said Pugh. "Coach Crowder and I ran surges and tangents (Tuesday) to work on the finish."
While Pugh has set modest goals of finishing higher than last year's placing and running a faster time than last year, Stuckey believes that she has the ability for much more.
"I think that after semistate and by comparing some of the results (in other semistates) that Emily might be able to get into the top-30. We've preached so much the mental aspect or running very well. I think with good course conditions that we've set a goal of breaking 15 minutes."
Though Pugh is the lone Northview runner competing at the state finals this year after she advanced with the entire girls team last year, she is not alone in her quest for a top state finish.
Boys' team members Logan Wegner, Kyle Colson and James Grounds each were at Craig Park on Wednesday to work out with Pugh. "Logan (Wegner) and James (Grounds) have been here everyday," said Pugh. "It really helps to have them there for the speed workouts. I think that they've helped me more than they realize. All my coaches, teammates and family have been so supportive, it's been great."
That support will be prevalent when Pugh steps to the starting line for the 1 p.m. girls race on Saturday. The boys state championship race will follow at approximately 1:45 p.m. Admission is $5 per person.