The girls race at this year's state finals is loaded with talent and promises to be a thrilling event with at least half a dozen runners that have a legitimate chance at being crowned state champion at the end of Saturday's activities.
Bishop Chatard's Lily Cridge smashed the state record in the 3200-meter run at the 2021 IHSAA Track State Finals, and with a best time of 17:04.5 this year Cridge has to be granted the status of the favorite this weekend. That time is not only the fastest in Indiana for this season, it ranks second only to Anna Rohrer's 16:52 all-time. Cridge could have a shot at the state meet record time of 17:08, but she will have to overcome a potentially soggy course after a particularly rainy October in Indiana.
Lowell's Karina James is the defending state champion, and hasn't been beaten in a cross country meet since recording a fourth place finish at the 2019 State Finals. The Toledo commit ran a season best time of 17:56 at the New Prairie Semi-State, and although James doesn't always post the flashy times that we see from some other runners she always finds a way to win.
Nicki Southerland from Delta is another runner that has gone undefeated this year in what has been a stellar sophomore season. Despite missing a few weeks due to injury, the Delta Eagle has continued to impress this year, turning in a season best time of 17:27 at the Maconaquah Invitational and cruising to wins in the first three rounds of the state tournament. Southerland led early in the state finals last year before falling to ninth in what was a very impressive Freshman outing.
Park Tudor Juniors Gretchen Farley and Sophia Kennedy both cracked eighteen minutes at their semi-state meet last week, and both should be able to hang in what should be a large lead pack. Columbus North newcomer Julia Kiesler won the Brown County Semi-State in what is her first Indiana state tournament after moving into the state this summer. Kiesler ran a 17:41 to win that race, and she could certainly be a factor in these state finals.
With Kiesler and teammate Lily Baker both likely to finish in the top ten, Columbus North looks like the squad to beat for the team championship. Columbus North has a very good chance at winning both the boys title and the girls title, something they did once before at the 2009 State Finals.
The Carmel Greyhounds are a strong bet for second, with Noblesville, Westfield, North Central, and Floyd Central all in the mix for a top five in the team standings.
The boys race will begin at 12:00 on Saturday, with the girls following at 3:00. Both races will be run at the Lavern Gibson Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, and both will be streamed on IHSAATV.