The track season in Indiana ended with an explosion of incredible performances from the distance events. Indiana had three girls finish ranked in the Top-10 nationally at the end of the season, including Addy Wiley, Huntington North, leading the country with a 4:38 mile. Both Lily Cridge, Bishop Chatard, and Sophia Kennedy, Park Tudor, also finished in the Top-10 with rankings in the 2-mile and 3200m runs. The XC State Champion, Karina James, Lowell, earned two medals at the state meet, running 4:52 to get 6th in an electric 1600m race. We have yet to mention one of the fastest freshmen to ever run in Indiana, Nicki Southerland, Delta, who set PR's between 2:10 in the 800m and 17:35 for 5k. To say Indiana is experiencing a plethora of talent this year in distance running would be an understatement.
Let's take a look at the case for each of the top five runners coming in this season based upon their XC and T&F performances. In no particular order:
Addy Wiley, Huntington North - Her track season ended with a huge bang. She won both the 800m and 1600m runs convincingly, just missing both state meet records. After the state finals, she lowered her PR's in both events to 2:04 in the 800m and 4:38 for the full mile- leading the nation with that mark. With nation-leading performances, you would have to consider her a favorite. The only question mark could be determining how her track times at the 400m-1600m translate over to 5k on grass. However, with her 4:38 nation-leading mile, this should not scare anyone away from calling Addy a favorite.
Lily Cridge, Chartard - Cridge broke Anna Rohrer's state meet record this spring with a 10:03 to win the 3200m, leading almost the entire race with a punishing pace. Her time ranked her 6th in U.S. this past season. She looked to have much more in the tank at the finish which makes her look tough for 5k on the grass. She also showed her range with a 2:17 PR in the 800m and a 4:54 best in the 1600m. Her range and ability to run such an even race for her 10:03- she ran in the neighborhood of 4:59/5:04 for her splits- would really suggest she could be a strong favorite to be right there at 3 miles. Her one question mark could be experience running on the LaVern Gibson course in Terre Haute. She did miss last year's state meet series but that should not factor as much as one would think after her track success.
Sophia Kennedy, Park Tudor - Kennedy had a very strong track season, her first really, as she lost her freshman year to Covid-19. Kennedy has developed quickly and seems to have great endurance and a huge aerobic capacity. This is a must for cross country development. She ran very strong PR's during the season and then lowered her 1600m once more in post-IHSAA competition. Her PR's in track are normally the type of marks that would get an athlete ranked #1 in each for Indiana. Kennedy's PR's came after the state where she ran 4:49 for the 1600m and 10:14 for the 2-mile- the equivalent of around 10:10 for 3200m. That 2-mile time had Kennedy also add a national Top-10 ranking in the event finishing at #7 in the country. Her growth later into the summer highlights a progression in training that should be steady throughout her career. Kennedy is definitely someone that should be in the mix entering the last 1,000m at the state meet.
Karina James, Lowell - How many times is the defending champion not the odds-on favorite? James was a double medal winner this spring. She was a strong 6th in the 1600m and 4th in the 3200m. Her obvious strength was highlighted at the state meet by running a 4:52/10:38 double on the hot evening while other runners had much difficulty completing any double performances. James also has shown a huge ability to perform at her best when it matters most. Do not take her lightly, she always races strong. James has a knack for turning it up at the best moments. This is a truly a characteristic of a champion. James will get a benefit from her experience at the state meet course and her meet schedule. She will see some of Northwest Indiana's best several times this fall to sharpen her form before heading to Terre Haute. James should be considered the favorite until knocked off by someone- so look for her to take the lead at some point and make someone take the title away from her.
Nicki Southerland, Delta - Sutherland has the least experience overall racing at this level but she has been a force since bursting on the scene last year as a freshman. Her track and XC times rank high in state history already. She has run 2:10 and 17:35 to show huge range in the sport. Sutherland should also benefit from being a year wiser and a year stronger. It is amazing the progress that can be made between the 9th and 10th-grade seasons. This could make her a scary runner come October. Judging by her stats, she got a ton of experience last season- racing almost two times per week during both seasons and running well each time. You could look at this negatively but it could also be argued that she is gaining huge strength with the performances and also getting great on-the-job training. She may have found herself just out of the blue ribbon in track, but it would not be a surprise to see her make that jump to first in the fall.