Knights and Eels have sights set on cross country semi-state berths
By CAREY FOX
Times Sports Editor
Clay County cross country runners are on a scenic tour of their former stomping grounds this fall. A combined group of 20 Knights and Eels head to the Bedford North Lawrence Regional on Saturday for competition beginning at 10:30 a.m.
The confidence of the Northview boys is riding high after the Knights claimed their first sectional team title since 2000 by topping the field at Terre Haute North on Saturday.
“I think (winning the sectional) proved a lot of things to them. Terre Haute North smoked us the first time we raced them, putting eight guys in front of our number one runner,” Northview boys coach James Grounds recalled. “Now, finishing the season, we are running varsity to varsity spot with them. It proved a lot to them and I think they go into Saturday with a lot of confidence.”
According to a high school cross country statistical projection site (inccstats.com), the Knights were given a 0.0 percent chance of winning the sectional last weekend and were 50/50 on even advancing to the regional. Grounds has used those stats as a bit of motivation as the postseason heads into the next round.
The Knights are projected to most likely place in the eighth or ninth spot as a team with Clay City’s boys slated one spot ahead of them. Bloomington South and Bloomington North are picked as the team favorites for the boys teamss.
“We talked about (those projections) on Monday before practice started. One of my big things is that the stats mean nothing. They didn’t even give us a chance of winning sectional. We had a 55-percent chance of finishing fourth. I told the kids that if you look at those things then be happy because you proved them wrong,” James Grounds said. “But they don’t mean too much because we race well.”
Northview’s regional squad will include: Braden Norris, Thomas Chapman, Carter Mullenix, Evan Hendrich, Corbin Butts and Eric Dillman. Hunter Strain will miss the race with an ankle injury so Grounds will move another runner into the mix for the weekend. However, Grounds has stayed true to the game plan that his squad just needs to focus on what has gotten them to this level.
“Another big talking point this week has been that we just need to keep doing what we have been doing,” Grounds said. “We have been coming around at just the right time this season. If we go into (the regional) prepared then I don’t think there is any reason that we can’t make the semi-state.”
The Clay City boys also have designs on challenging for a semi-state spot after placing fourth in the sectional. Calvin Fry, Kyle Wolf, Eli Hostetler, Gabe Donnar, Jacob LaFary and Carter Myers were the top runners for the Eels last week. The senior-laden squad is aiming for a top-five semi-state qualifying spot as both Terre Haute North and South will be after the fourth and fifth spots along with Eastern (Pekin), Edgewood and the host school.
Northview and Clay City will each send three individuals into the regional with a goal of advancing as one of the top-15 runners not on a semi-state qualifying team.
Clay City junior Alexis Laswell was eighth in the sectional with Shakamak’s Jacy Collins winning and Owen Valley’s Brooklyn Hey placing third. Both of those runners will be in the mix for a semi-state spot along with West Vigo’s Madelyn Brown (sixth) and Brooke Stateler (seventh). Northview’s Eden Siples (12th) and Lindy Berry (14th) will be fighting for one of those spots as well.
“Eden and Lindy are right on the edge of qualifying. If they run a good race they will get through, but if they falter then they could possibly be out,” Northview girl’s coach Connor Strain said before practice on Wednesday. “But they have both ran very consistently all year. So I think they will run very well and I think they will have a very good chance of qualifying for semi-state.”
The Eels’ Lauryn Myers placed 31st in the sectional with Tara Arthur placing 37th. Both will be in action in the regional along with Northview’s Tia Jones (38th).
“Tia is a little farther back so we are shooting for a PR (personal record) for her to end the season,” Strain said. “We want her to get one more good final five-kilometer time in to build some confidence heading into track season.
“When we start facing off with some of those better teams, it makes our team want to race faster knowing that there are faster people,” Strain continued. “It is why I love big meets because even if we may not score well as a team right now it is making the girls run harder and push themselves because it is a higher level of competition.”
Course familiarity will benefit the Knights as the teams raced on the course on Sept. 23. The Brown County Semi-state would also be a course that the Knights have run on as well. Northview competed in the Eagle Classic on Sept. 9.
“All of the courses that we see in the postseason, we have run on a lot. Every year during the regular season we race at Brown County at least one time, Bedford once and we run Bird Gibson four or five times,” Strain said. “So we know that every postseason course that we will see, we know well.”