Times Sports Editor
The LaVern Gibson Complex will be hectic this weekend with big races slated for both Saturday and Sunday.
The course will play host to the Indiana High School State Finals Meet this afternoon before switching gears for the collegiate Missouri Valley Conference Meet on Sunday.
The Wabash Valley will be represented today by the No. 12 ranked Terre Haute North girls' team and Terre Haute South's boys' and girls' teams. West Vigo has senior Andrew Kump and Terre Haute North senior Tyeson Mundy will also be competing.
Senior Futsum Zeinasellassie of North Central (Indianapolis) is looking to complete one of the best high school cross country careers that the state has ever seen. He comes in as the favorite and is the defending state champion. What makes his career even more impressive is that Zeinasellassie was second as a freshman (15:25) before winning as a sophomore (15:51) and as a junior (15:16).
The senior Panther won last year's meet by 15 seconds over Franklin Central's Jason Crist, who returns as a contender this season for the Chargers.
In a stacked Carmel Semi-state last weekend, Zeinasellassie (15:06) was the winner over Hamilton Southeastern junior Troy Reeder, who was 20 seconds back as the runner-up. Columbus North's Michael Sublette was third ahead of Crist.
Columbus North was the team winner at the Carmel Semi-state with 47 points followed by Hamilton Southeastern and Carmel.
Columbus North looks to be a marginal favorite for the team championship with several Bulldog runners a serious threat for overall top-10 finishes.
Christopher Kelsey has gotten back to full strength with Sublette and Diehn also chasing top-10 finishes.
In the girls' meet, there is no discounting the dominance that Carmel and Columbus North have shown over the course of the state meet.
The schools have produced a remarkable 58 state meet appearances in 31 years according to www.indianarunner.com and have alternated first and second-place finishes at the last two state finals.
Carmel comes in as the favorite and has eight girls that have broken the 19-minute barrier this year led by Renee Wellman, who fronts a deep lineup. Wellman won the MIC Conference title and has the state's best time at 17:50. Her teammate, Sarah Bennett, is also a top contender and is the state's top returnee from last season's state meet (third).
Terre Haute North is hoping that this could be their year led by junior Chanli Mundy, who has the state's second-best time. She was a runaway winner at the Brown County Semi-state.
The Patriots however will have to fight their way past some pedigreed programs like West Lafayette and Westfield along with Hamilton Southeastern, a girls' program that ended a 31-year drought to earn its first state finals berth.
Indiana State hosts its second major collegiate event of the season as they welcome the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference for the 2011 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships.
The men's eight-kilometer race starts at 10:30 a.m. and the women's five-kilometer race starts at 11:30 a.m.
"We haven't had a good history of competing in this meet when we have hosted it," John McNichols, Indiana State men's cross country coach said. "I believe that if we race like we should, we will do better this year."
outhern Illinois edged Indiana State by three points to win the 2008 men's title but the Sycamores turned the table in 2009 by edging the Salukis by a single point. Indiana State dominated the 2010 championship by scoring 25 points to 61 for second place Southern Illinois. Indiana State has won five of the last seven championships with Southern Illinois winning the other two titles.
"I really expect this meet to be wide open," McNichols said. "We have run in tough, competitive environments this season and that may give us an edge but we will just have to see how we race on Sunday."
The Sycamore men's team will be led by three returning All-Conference performers from a year ago. Junior Albaro Escalera finished third at the 2010 Championship held in Wichita, Kan., while senior Craig Padgett was fourth and senior Jeremiah Vaughn was fifth. Senior Dustin Betz placed 11th a year ago and will also be making a run to a top 10 finish.
"Our top four are pretty well established," McNichols said. "We need the rest of the team to close the gap and finish closer to the top."
The battle for the fifth scoring spot for Indiana State will be between freshman Milton Brinza, freshman Drew Gambill, senior Tyler Kent, junior Brandon Query, freshman Tristan Selby, and junior Andrew Sullivan. Query competed in the 2010 event and finished 31st.
Six members of the Sycamore women's team competed at the 2010 MVC Championships and are looking forward to improving their race positions this year on the home course. Sophomore Jessica Zangmeister is the top returnee for ISU after a 20th place finish a year ago while senior Kacie Klem was 22nd. These two have been the top runners for the Sycamores this season.
Also returning for another shot at a top 10 finish are junior Andrea Prusz, senior Kristy Twitchell, and sophomore Ashley Name. They will be joined by sophomore transfer Kalli Dalton, sophomore Valerie Burns, freshman Nicole Lucas, junior Hanna Mercer, junior Serena Simeoli, and senior Kelsie Slater.
Former Northview standout Kylee Thacker, a junior with the Sycamores, will likely not compete following surgery this week.
Wichita State was picked first in the women's pre-championship poll with seven first-place votes and a total of 97 points. The Shockers' have a lot of depth in their lineup as Aliphine Tuliamuk, Scarla Nero, Patrober Murindat and Samantha Shukla are in the top 10 of Valley 5K performances. Tuliamuk currently holds the fastest conference 4k, 5k and 6k times of the season and has been named athlete of the week on three occasions.
"The team knows that they are better than some of the performances we have had this season," Gartland said. "They are certainly looking forward to running well on the home course."
The Saluki men have earned the most team championships in the Valley and hope to make this year their 13th win.
The Shocker women are seeking to continue their winning streak with a seventh-consecutive title, which would be the 13th title in school history as well.