IHSAA 2017 Cross Country Semi - State Previews: #2 Shelbyville

Shelbyville Semi State

Feeder Regionals: Ben Davis, Noblesville, Rushville, Shelbyville

Boys Teams: Avon, Zionsville, Pike, Brownsburg, Danville, Carmel, Fishers, Cathedral, North Central, Westfield, Franklin Central, New Palestine, Roncalli, Hagerstown, Cambridge City Lincoln, Franklin, Center Grove, Southport, Whiteland, Perry Meridian.

To say that this field is loaded is almost an understatement. We have EIGHT teams coming into this meet on Saturday who are not just ranked, but are in the top 20 of the rankings. That doesn't even include #18 Hamilton Southeasten, who will be represented by Gabe Fendel and Grant Wilson as individuals. More on Gabe in a bit. Obviously to unfortunate reality of sports is that everyone can't advance in a tournament. In this case, there are only six spots available for teams to get through to Terre Haute. All twenty teams entered for Saturday have the toughest road to State in Indiana. There will be no easy tempos to advance at Blue River Park this weekend. Let's break this down by each advancing position.

The first team we have to talk about is Carmel. They come in as an overwhelming favorite, and rightfully so. They are ranked 10th in the nation according to the Flo50 poll from last week. They have claimed the #1 ranking in the IATCCC poll every single week this year. The stats love the Greyhounds too. Their scoring five have averaged 15:55 this season, and they can lay down a devastating 35 second split between their first runner and their fifth. The don't have a low stick, because their whole team gets low sticks. They have been cycling through their runners in the Sectional and Regional rounds. Top Runners Colin Murphy and Keelan Grant rested at Sectionals, while four and five runners Trey Harris and Thomas Gastineau sat last Saturday. I think they run everyone this week, and they win in a big way.

The second team I have to advance is Fishers. They are a serious podium contender at Terre Haute. They are led by senior Sam Kuhn, who is a likely All State runner next week. While they can't quite match Carmel, but no other team in this field can really match them. They run in a relatively tight spread, 45 seconds, and can get everyone in under 16:30 if need to, especially at Blue River. They take second fairly easy.

North Central and Cathedral are next on the list. They will be racing for that 3rd position on Saturday, and will be bubble podium teams in Terre Haute. Cathedral is led by Cole Hocker, who is coming off of a upset win over Fendel last week. They have a really solid team, but their spread is the loosest among the top four teams. North Central can put together a tighter pack. This match up was separated by just two points last week at regionals. Cathedral has the slight advantage because they should get that 1 team point from Hocker again, and that could just be enough to get third.

That leaves us with the big race within the race. Avon, Zionsville, Westfield and Franklin Community fighting for the last two spots. If you read my meet preview of the Golden Bear invitational, you knew it would come down to this. That is not to write off any of the other schools in this race. Brownsburg brings in a very good boys teams, as does Southport, but when we get down to it, it will be Avon and Zionsville taking the last two spots. They finished first and second at the Golden Bear over Westfield, Brownsburg and Southport, on the course that they'll be racing on this week. The conditions will vary a bit from that race three weeks ago though. At Golden Bear, it was about 85 degrees, and many teams were bitten by the heat snake. This weeks it will be clear and cool. Ideal conditions for some incredibly fast times at Blue River.

Those are my team picks though. Carmel wins. Fishers, Cathedral, North Central, Avon and Zionsville all punch their tickets to Terre Haute.

I would be remiss if we didn't spend some time talking about the individual race between Gabe Fendel and Cole Hocker. Cole beat Gabe this past weekend, which is enough to vault him into the National Individual Rankings. Hocker is 23rd in this week's Flo50, while Fendel dropped from 4th to 5th. To put things in context, Fendel did trip with about 600m left in the race, which sealed the victory for Hocker. This was actually the second time though that Hocker has beating Fendel, after taking him down last season at FlashRock. That makes him the only Hoosier not named Curtis Eckstien to take down Fendel in the last year, and he has done it twice now. Gabe is coming off of a infamous misstep in May, when he false started at Regionals in the 3200m, DQing him from that event for States. He came back the following week and blasted a 4:04 1600m, easily taking home his first State Championship. I think history will repeat itself Saturday. Blue River is the fastest course in Indiana, and I think Gabe takes this out incredibly fast to leave nothing to chance. Hocker will give him a go, but Fendel takes the win.

Girls Teams: Zionsville, Brownsburg, Pike, Avon, Plainfield, Brebuef, Carmel, Hamilton Southeastern, Fishers, Noblesville, Franklin Central, Rushville, New Palestine, Warren Central, Greenfield Central, Center Grove, Greensburg, Southport, East Central, Franklin Community.

This field is even more stacked than the boys. We again have eight ranked teams, and again this doesn't even include #16 Cathedral and #22 Westfield who didn't even make it out of their Regionals as a team, but will have runners entered as individuals. This field will include 60% of the top 10 teams in the State. We have a very potential of a top 10 team getting left home come next Saturday's State Championship. This is going to be a incredibly tight race, with the potential of the top 8 teams only separated by about 80 points. Let take a look at each advancing spot.

The team that has the most momentum coming into Saturday is Brebuef. They have gone from senventh, to fifth, to fourth and now to second in the IATCCC Poll the last few weeks. They are a team that is peaking at the absolute right time. As of three weeks ago, people thought that the Girls State Title was locked up. Now because of injuries, the door has been reopened and the ladies from Brebeuf are taking full advantage. They took down Carmel last week with a convincing 44 point win. Look for that trend to continue this Saturday.

Carmel and Zionsville are in that next tier for me. That is not to say they couldn't take down Brebuef, I think that is within each team's capabilities. Carmel is still the seven time defending champion, so they always have to be considered one of the favorites in every meet they are in. Phoebe Bates has run an outstanding Sophomore season and should get the Greyhounds a low team point. Zionsville in their own right is an elite team. They have three outstanding runners in Margaret Allen, Sophia Rigg, and Katelyn Wasson. They put together a 50 second spread at Regionals. All that being said, I give Carmel second and Zionsville third on Saturday.

That leaves with five teams really fighting for those last three positions, and it is going to be close. Just looking at the team's season averages, I think that they could separated by as little as 4 points. Brownsburg should lead the way, and have little trouble advancing. They are a bubble podium team, who have performed well throughout the season. So we are down to two. I am giving that to Hamilton Southeastern and Fishers. This is strictly a what have you done lately pick. Both beat Noblesville at Regionals, so I have to go with that trend. I think that Nobelsville is a great team though, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if they beat either team, if not both. Same with Franklin Central.

So those are my advancing teams. Brebeuf wins, Carmel, Zionsville, Brownsburg, Hamilton Southeastern and Fishers punch their tickets to State.

Emma Wilson comes in as the overwhelming favorite in the Individual Race. She blew away the competition at the Ben Davis Regional, winning by almost a minute over Brownsburg's Abby Lynch, who is having a fantastic season in her own right. I think Wilson will put in a great race before Terre Haute and really could threaten to get down in that 17:15 area. I also wouldn't be surprised though if she leaves some in the tank ahead of what is sure to be an epic clash between her and Tyler Schwartz next week.