Bottom left: Freshman Chris Smith will be big part of the Knights' hopes on moving on to regional competition this evening.
Bottom right: Andrea Ladd hopes to help her Eels to a solid finish.
The much anticipated cross country postseason kicks off this evening with Clay County schools participating in the Terre Haute North Sectional at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course.
Last year, more than 130 runners competed with their teams for a chance to be one of the top five girls and boys teams to advance to the regional level. The top-15 also advance if they are not one of those advancing with a qualifying team.
Terre Haute South's boys and Terre Haute North's girls teams will be looking to defend their team championships from last season, but will have their work cut out for them.
The Patriot girls lead by defending champion Kayla Alexander are one of the favorites but will get plenty of heat from the Braves who have Ariel Hall, Kate Goeller and Adriane Wunderlich to lead the way.
North won the team's dual meet this year by a single point so this year's battle for the trophy should be one for the record books.
In the boys' event, the Patriots should be the frontrunner, but the Braves are not to be overlooked.
Josh Bedford of the Patriots is the defending sectional champion and is running very strong again this year and is coming off his fourth straight dual meet victory over the Braves.
South freshman Andrew Sullivan was the runnerup in the meet last year and is joined by Brandon Tullock, Kenny Kauffman and a wealth of strong South runners looking keep the trophy in South Vigo.
Northview and Clay City's boys teams have gotten stronger all season long and will certainly be in the running for one of five regional spots.
James Grounds has been huge for the Knights this year, coming off a second place finish to Brown County standout, Curtis Carr, in the Western Indiana Conference meet, he should be a frontrunner tonight.
"(James Grounds) has run some pretty fast times," noted Northview head coach Jeff Gambill. "He finished right behind Bedford at the South Knox Invitational. Bedford has been a little inconsistent, I think he's been bothered by some injuries but he's a tough, experienced runner."
Gambill believes that his squad is ready for a top finish in sectional action this evening and his squad is preparing for regional already.
"I think we're a pretty solid top-five team," commented Gambill. "As young as our team is we're really just focused on getting through the sectional and focusing on running our best in the regional."
Clay City's Logan Bettenbrock is also hitting the postseason in stride after winning both the Tri-River Conference and Southwestern Indiana Conference titles over the last couple of weeks. He will lead a strong Eels squad into the postseason after they won team titles in both conference events.
Adam Schroer has been a strong second place runner for the Eels and will get plenty of help from Cole Schroer, Tyler Moon and Kevin Cook who all were All-TRC Conference runners. Braxton Griffith and Austin Vansickle give the Eels the depth they will need at this level of competition.
Clay City placed third as a team last season and returns their top four runners.
The Knights have a bevy of youngsters who will be counted on for their best efforts this evening as Northview works for a regional berth.
Freshman Chris Smith placed seventh in the conference meet ahead of sophomore Landry Moore and will be very important in scoring well for the Knights. Other key members of the regional chase for Northview will be Eli Kirby, Logan Wegner, Hunter Reberger and both Ryan Lutes and Drew White.
In the girls race, the Knights have been lead for much of the season by Hannah Hunter who helped lead Northview to a conference championship recently.
The Knights also have Jennifer Jeffers, Cassandra Barnett and Felicia Smith to lead the squad with freshman Allie True in the mix, senior Emilee Lutes and Shelby Colson.
For the Eels, Rachael Narlock and Andrea Ladd have been the clear frontrunners for Clay City and will get help from Alisha Drake, Kristin Tyler, Erica Kimmel and Whitney Ames.
Sectional action will kick off at 5 p.m. for the girls race with the boys race next at 5:30 p.m.