Opening thoughts: The pre-season forecast said York IL Boys ---> #1, Beavercreek OH Girls ---> #1... respect is earned and not given. We are going to see who is for real and who is fake. Both York and Beavercreek were tabbed top choice teams in their respective states and both teams are expected to punch tickets to Portland, Oregon once the Nike Cross Nationals bids are handed out. However, this first out of state indirect clash will be very telling.
Terre Haute, IN---
5:00pm - 6:00pm - Packet Pickup
6:30pm - Girls Freshman/Sophomore Race
7:00pm - Boys Freshman/Sophomore Race
7:30pm - Girls JV/Open Race
7:35pm - Sunset
8:00pm - Boys JV/Open Race
8:30pm - Girls Championship Race
9:00pm - Boys Championship Race
9:45pm - Awards & Fireworks
The Boys Fields are very deep and talented-
The 30 team championship field will feature top teams from five states. York seems to be on everyone's radar at the start of the season, but for some reason, the Dukes have yet to get untracked. Senior leader and top runner Ethan Kern hasn't raced yet this season. His father and coach Charlie Kern Sr. indicated last weekend that Ethan is expected to open up on Saturday. It would be a huge boost to a team that has seen senior Daniel Klysh do his best to keep things together. The Dukes have only run three miles on the season and all seven starters have broken 16:00. The move up to 5k will see a transformation in times as well as a tougher course variation. Most importantly, though, is the scoring split must be in the 45-second range to have an opportunity to win.
The state of Kentucky is the unknown here. The Bluegrass state is hosting a huge invitational called the Greater Louisville Classic but their two top-ranked teams are entered in Terre Haute. Trinity and Conner will duel on foreign soil. Ironically, they have not raced one another prior and they are clearly the two best teams in the state. Trinity has a 16:26 per man average to Conner's 16:37.
Trinity's best performance to date was the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational where the Shamrocks took third to North Carolina's top squad and one of Ohio's best teams. It could be a different tale come Saturday night. Conner recently finished seventh at the Saturday Night Lights Invite in Centerville, OH. They were beaten by Turpin OH by several slots and took down Lebanon OH by 29 pts.
Finally, the home state is bringing some major firepower to the dance. Seven of the top ten teams are entered. While it is getting dangerously close to the post-season time for the Hoosier state, the opportunity to race on the state championship course in late-season form cannot be discounted. Perennial power Carmel who at #2 appears ready to challenge for another crown at the end of the month. The Greyhounds are familiar with the likes of Noblesville, Fishers, and Zionsville. The Greyhounds beat all three teams in late September at an invitational. The key, of course, will be a tight scoring split in which Carmel and Bloomington South seem to have an advantage. It will be another notch in the feather cap to any team that comes out on top.
Individually, Luke Combs (Sr., Lapel) might be the man to beat. He is the only entrant to break 15:00 for the 5k distance this season. He won the Riverview Health Invite over the state's projected #1 runner Reece Gibson (Sr., Ft. Wayne Concordia) in 14:56. Can he dip under the watershed mark on the tough and challenging Lavern Gibson course? Klysh and Kern are good as well and should be among the top finishers. Others to consider are Kentuckians Sam Duncan (Sr., Lebanon), DK Schnieders (Jr., Holy Cross), and Nick Lewis (Sr., Trinity).
Key teams: Indiana- #1 Zionsville, #3 Carmel, #4 Fishers, #5 Columbus North, Hamilton Southeastern #14, Bloomington South #15, Brownsburg #21; Ohio- Beavercreek D1 #1, Springboro D1 #11, Lebanon D1 #14, Turpin D1 #16, Loveland D1 #18; Kentucky- DuPont Manuel #2, Butler #15; Missouri- Herculaneum C3 #7; Illinois- Yorkville 3A #3
There are some very good teams here and after Saturday we should get a sense of who to watch during the NXN run. Let's start with the Buckeye state which is sending its top team Beavercreek. The nationally-ranked Beavers have a dynamite runner in senior Taylor Ewert who happens to be one of the elite distance runners in the country. While she hasn't raced much to date, the depth of the program has reared its head. Senior Savannah Roark has stepped up big in the second slot running under 18:00 this season. The overall 18:22 per girl average could be better if the #5 runner improves (60 secs through the first four runners).
Another nationally touted team in the field is Zionsville. The Hoosier state's top team is undefeated and when the scoring split is under 1:00 with a top running low sticker like senior Katelyn Wasson, the Eagles are going to challenge for the win. Four of the state's top five teams are entered including powerhouse Carmel who very well could be a top-three finishing squad on Saturday night.
Illinois adds one of its top teams to the mix in national power Yorkville. The last time the Foxes competed on Indiana soil, they advance to the national final in Portland. So far on the season, the Foxes have been relatively quiet with just a handful of races under its belt. But as an experienced team, they should have several key members move up into victory formation late in the race. Junior Helena Kleronomos will lead the charge.
Dupont Manual of Louisville is the state of Kentucky's top entrant. This program has had some outstanding individual talent in past years, but this time around the strength of the Rams/Crimsons. They faced off against some of Ohio's top teams last month and beat Beavercreek with Ewert and Roark.
The battle for the individual crown is Ewert's to lose Saturday night. The "dual-threat" is the defending meet champion and certainly knows how to race on the tough course. Ewert is now ready to go after big performances after selecting the University of Arkansas as her future collegiate home.