October 31st is nearly here. Saturday will bring Halloween and a full moon to Indiana, but perhaps most importantly it is the day of the IHSAA Cross Country State Finals. It has been a season unlike any other, and there are storylines aplenty as we get ready to wrap up another year of racing.
The State Finals will be the third and final round of Nicki Southerland versus Zoe Duffus. Southerland, a Freshman out of Delta High School, beat Duffus by just a few tenths of a second in the first meeting at the Marion Invitational back on September 5th. Experience paid off as Duffus struck back last weekend in the New Haven Regional, putting twelve seconds between herself and the young Eagle. Duffus has been here before, as the Carroll Senior and Penn State commit will be making her fourth appearance in the state finals.
Duffus and Southerland have been the class of the state this year, but they won't run away on Saturday. Lowell's Karina James has gone undefeated in the state tournament as she rolled through the northwestern part of the state, while Columbus North's Makenzie Barnett has done the same in the south. Carmel Senior Annie Christie won the Shelbyville Semi-State last weekend with a 17:59, the only girl other than Duffus to run under 18:00 in a semi-state this season. Christie was followed closely by two teammates from Park Tudor; Sophia Kennedy and Gretchen Farley.
Carmel's girls team has been flawless all year long, and they come in as heavy favorites to win this year's state title. The entire Greyhound lineup is capable of running under 19:00, and look poised to win their 19th state title.
Carmel's closest challenge could come from the reigning champions, Fort Wayne Carroll. Carroll won the New Haven Semi-State in a landslide, and still have many of the key figures from the state championship team. Another girls team that could make some noise is Columbus North, who have dominated the southern part of the state this year. Even if Columbus North and Carroll can't quite catch Carmel, those two squads should have a great race for second.
Kole Mathison has been consistently the best runner in Indiana this year, and has had a great state tournament so far. Mathison ran a 15:12 in the regional and a 15:19 in last week's semi-state, securing the race win for Carmel on both occasions.
Whiteland's Will Jefferson and Angola's Izaiah Steury are the only two runners to have eclipsed 15:00 this year, but both of those runs came all the way back on September 5th. Jefferson ran a 14:59 at the Rick Weinheimer Classic that day, while Steury's 14:51 came at the Marion Invitational on the ultra-fast course at Indiana Wesleyan. Steury won the New Haven Semi-State last weekend, and Jefferson finished just a few seconds behind Mathison in the Shelbyville Semi-State.
Corydon Central's Camden Marshall beat Columbus North's Reese Kilbarger-Stumpff in a dead heat at the Brown County Semi-State last week, and both will be contenders this Saturday. Lucas Guerra is the fastest runner out of the northwest, as he dominated the New Prairie Semi-State last weekend and will represent Highland at the front of this field.
Noblesville Senior Travis Hickner has been one of the fastest boys in Indiana this season, but has had a disappointing postseason. Hickner couldn't keep up with Mathison in the Regional round, and only managed a fifth place in the Shelbyville Semi-State. Of course, none of that will matter if Hickner can win the state title, and he is still one of the favorites to do so.
Columbus North has rolled through the southern part of the state this October, and with five boys capable of running under 16:00 they are the favorites to win their sixth state championship. Brebeuf Jesuit beat Carmel by just a few points in the Shelbyville Semi-State, and the two of them will be contenders for the state title this weekend. Hamilton Southeastern took the title in the New Haven Semi-State, and should also be in the mix on Saturday.
Both Columbus North and Carmel have a chance to take two state titles this weekend. If either team wins both, it would be the first time since Carmel secured both titles in 2015.
The girls race will get started at 11:30 AM Eastern Time, with the boys race set to begin at 3:00 PM. Both races can be viewed on IHSAAtv.org for $14.95.