IHSAA 2017 Cross Country State Previews: Girls Teams

Teams Involved: Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Floyd Central, Evansville Memorial, Columbus North, Edgewood, Brebeuf, Zionsville, Carmel, Hamilton Southeastern, Fishers, Brownsburg, FW Carroll, Penn, FW Bishop Dwenger, FW Concordia Lutheran, Homestead, Northridge, Valparaiso, Lowell, West Lafayette, LaPorte, Crown Point, Chesterton.

Welcome to the Big Show ladies. We have an incredibly tight race and exciting race in store for Saturday afternoon. The Girls Team race is completely open and there are several teams that can seize the day and take home the title. We have a lot of story lines in play, with injuries, streaks on the line, and teams returning to the Championship race after long layoffs.

Let's jump right in. First off we will talk about teams fighting to get into the top 10. In that group, I have Chesterton, Lowell, Penn, and Bloomington South. Lowell, Penn and Bloomington South all finished second in their respective Semi States, so they are in the top part of this tier. South has one of the tightest packs in the field, with a spread of just over a minute. Tight packs are always a big advantage in big races. Lowell benefits from their top runner, Jordyn Boyer. She will be looking to grab a single digit team place, and if she gets it, Lowell will be effectively scoring just 4 runners. Their downfall will be that the rest of their pack will be far back. Penn is right smack in the middle. They don't have a super low stick, and while their spread is looser than South's and tighter than Lowell's.

Ranking this tier I would go with Bloomington South, Penn, Lowell, Chesterton.

Our next tier are teams who should be solidly in the top 10, but will be fighting to eek onto the podium. In this one, Valparaiso, Bloomington North, Floyd Central and Fishers. Valparaiso and North are both Semi State Champions. Both of them have very similar team make ups, one low stick backed up by a solid group of runners. Valparaiso do have a slight advantage because their number two runner, Logan Ferngren is well ahead of North's number two runner. Next on the list for me is Floyd Central. This might surprise a few people, because they did finish behind Bloomington South at Brown County. They are definitely a dark horse pick, but the Highlanders have a very specific strength that will play very well on Saturday, their pack. They have one of the tightest packs in the field. Not only that, but they have three girls who will be pushing to get into All State position. If they can get one or two into the top 30, I think they will be in great contention. There is only on team who has a better pack than Floyd Central, and that is Fishers who can put their five scorers in 31 seconds. If they can maintain their pack and work them up to that 30th-50th place area, look for them to get onto the podium.

Ranking this tier I've got Fishers, Valparaiso, Bloomington North, Floyd Central.

Next tier just has Brownsburg and Hamilton Southeastern. Hamilton Southeastern has a great low stick in Lulu Black backed up by one of the better second runners in the state in Halle Hill. With two All State caliber runners on their team, that will push them up to the front. Brownsburg has an excellent first through four runners. They probably even have the best first four in the State. The problem they will run in is their number five. If their fifth runner can get in the front have to the race, they should have a really good shot at a top 5 spot.

Picking this tier is hard, because both either one could finish ahead of the other. Gut feeling has me giving the edge to HSE.

That leaves us with the cream of the crop. FW Carroll, Brebeuf, Carmel and Zionsville. Each team is writing their own story and each team has a shot to take home the trophy. FW Carroll came into the start of the season as not only the best team in the State, but one of the best in the Nation. They seemed like a lock on paper for the top spot, but as they say, you gotta run the race. Unfortunately as they have been running through the season, they have been snagged by injuries. Their number one runner, Abby Green is out for the season. That seemed to be an obstacle they could overcome. There team is such that good, but the last two weeks their number two runner Zoe Duffus has not run. I have no inside information to share about her status. Carroll was able to win the Semi State by 60 points. That speaks to their depth and their excellence, but I think they need Duffus to win.

Carmel comes into this race as the seven time defending champion, and winners of eight of the last nine championships. That is a large history to back up a great team. They have been ranked Nationally for most of the season in the Flo50. They fell out of the rankings this week, but are still good enough to be considered an honorable mention. They are led by Phoebe Bates, who should grab them one point which is always big in such a large race. A few places behind her, Maddie Dalton should be coming to the finish line. Bates and Dalton are easily the best team duo in the race. If they can combine for a single digit score, that will give the Greyhounds a huge advantage. I think they still could win, but the odds are long. They need strong races from top to bottom.

Zionsville is coming in after a solid Semi State runner up finish. They are also returning to Terre Haute as a podium finisher last year, coming in fourth in 2016. They are also coming in as nationally ranked team, moving up in the Flo50 this week to the 24th position. Their team is basically the same as their medaling team from last year. All of these factors play as a big advantage. They have a lot of momentum and will be running with some confidence on Saturday. Last week, though finishing second, they ran an incredible 18:48 average and a 56 second spread. Those are some powerful numbers. Their biggest weakness is their fourth and fifth runners. I say that, and they ran a 19:12 and 19:16 at Semi State, so they are by no means weak. If they want to win on Saturday though, both will need to maintain that level, and try to push closer to Brebeuf's fourth and fifth runners who were 10 seconds ahead.

Brebeuf are on a miracle run. They started the season just hoping to make it to Terre Haute for the first time since 1993. They were hardly in consideration to actually win, but here we are. They have sky rocketed up the rankings in the last month. Their streak has even gotten some national attention, as this week they broke in to the Flo50 debuting at #20 in this week's rankings. They are led by Katherine Modrall, who was an All State 800m runner last track season, but hasn't run Cross Country since 2014. She has come back to the grass on fire, finishing in the top 3 in every race, under 19 minutes every time. If her team can follow her lead, and things fall in place exactly right, they might take hope the trophy on Saturday afternoon.

These are the hardest four to rank. Every team has a legitimate shot of winning. I think that if you run this race 4 different times, you could have 4 different winners. No team can take anything for granted. Predictions would be Brebeuf wins, Zionsville second, Carmel third, and Carroll fourth. I literally changed that three times as I typed it out. That is how close it is. If Duffus runs, Carroll could win. Carmel could put everything together and they could win. Zionsville experience could pull them to a win. It is going to be a great race, one which I can't wait to watch.