Conference Preview: Western Indiana Conference

(Edgewood's Clara Crain at the 2021 State meet. Crain is one of the top athletes in the WIC conference and will be among a great individual field in this years meet. Photo courtesy of Kent Graham)

The conference meets in Indiana got underway last week with the Conference Indiana Championships taking place in Columbus on Saturday. Over the next 2 weeks we will see a majority of the remaining conferences compete in their championship meets. This week, MileSplit Indiana will have coverage at two of the conference meets taking place over the next several days.

The Western Indiana Conference (WIC) taking place on Tuesday, and the Hoosier Crossroads Conference (HCC) competing on Saturday, will be two of the highlighted meets during the week. Two incredibly competitive Conferences in the State that will have many great athletes running for Conference individual and team titles.

Expect a preview of the HCC later in the week, and read below a preview of Tuesday's WIC Championships.

Western Indiana Conference Championships

Though a conference with smaller sized schools, this year the WIC is high in quality with many ranked teams and some All-State caliber individuals. The teams that comprise the WIC are Brown County, Cloverdale, Greencastle, Edgewood, Indian Creek, North Putnam, Northview, Owen Valley, South Putnam, Sullivan and West Vigo

Let's first preview the girls race at the WIC Championships!

As far as individuals go, the WIC girls race is actually one of the best individual fields in the State when looking at conferences. There are 7 girls here that have run Top 40 times in the State to this point in the season.

That group is led by Edgewood's Clara Crain (pictured above) who ran 18:13 at the Eagle Classic meet 10 days ago. Crain entered this season with a couple All-State medals to her name after placing top 20 as a sophomore in cross country, and then in the following track season placing 5th in the 3200 meter run when Lily Cridge (and Crain's sister Annalyssa) both went under the old state record. Crain has had a few setbacks over the last 12 months but her performance at Eagle Classic showed that she is back to running with the best in the state. Oh, and Clara's younger sister Hannah Crain also ran 18:53 at Eagle Classic and will surely contend for a top spot here.

Two more individuals coming from the same team will factor into the top individual spots. Indian Creek's duo of freshmen Libby Dowty and senior Abby Fleetwood both ran under 18:30 at Eagle Classic and are running as one of the top duos in the State right now. This is another team with powerful family genes as Dowty's older sister Phoebe Dowty has also been a solid runner for the Braves this year. If Indian Creek can get good races from their fourth and fifth runners, they could very well play spoiler in the team competition. 

Another individual here to keep an eye on is Brown County's Hadley Gradolf. Another athlete that broke 19 at Eagle Classic, Gradolf has been a consistent runner over her time as an Eagle. Look for her to contend for the win at the WIC as well.

The other top individuals here also come from the projected top team in the WIC. The Northview Knights currently rank 24th in the State, and they have a great trio to back up that ranking. Gnister Grant, Ellia Hayes and Halle Miller have been the core of a Knights team that has contended for Top 10 spots at the State Meet the last couple years. Northview certainly enters this meet as the favorite, and solid performances from their fourth and fifth runners can almost certainly guarantee them the team victory and a conference championship.

The boys race at the WIC has slightly less individual excitement, but the team race could be incredibly tight with teams that have already battled to close finishes this season. 

First, on the individual side, this race could be a one-on-one battle between Brown County's Chase Austin and Northview's Jcim Grant. The two went back and forth at the Harrier Classic earlier in the season where Austin was the eventual winner and Grant placed third. Since then Austin has ran to a career best of 15:37 ranking as the 20th best time in the State. The numbers favor Austin but it will be another exciting matchup of two top runners in Indiana.

As good as the girls individual matchup will be, the boys team title could be the race of the day. The three teams that look to be separated from the rest of the field are Northview, Edgewood, and Indian Creek. The advanced statistics site, INCCStats, projects these teams as the 41st, 49th, and 53rd teams in the State. Here is how each team can pull off the team title on Tuesday.

Northview- The Knights formula is simple, score 1 or 2 points with their #1 and then have the remaining scorers run like the veterans they are. That is one thing Northview has the advantage on head to head with the other two teams, experience in bigger meets for their scorers.

Edgewood- The Mustangs are the youngest of the group of contenders, but have a ton of talent. Sophomore Caleb Webb has shown great things already when he won the Eagle Classic Varsity race in 16:35. Edgewood also has home course advantage here which is important to note, especially on a tougher, hillier course, the Mustangs could certainly steal the team victory and enjoy it on their home course.

Indian Creek- The Braves frontrunner, Luke Neibert, placed second to Webb at that Eagle Classic varsity race in 16:40. The one spot the Braves have an advantage over Northview and Edgewood, their fifth runner! If they can get their pack in tight enough and far enough up in the race don't be surprised if Indian Creek is team champions at night's end. Also important to note that Indian Creek "edged out" Edgewood in that Eagle Classic Varsity race by only 4 points.

Conference week is going to get off to a great start with an incredibly competitive WIC Championships. Look out for results and content from the meet on the MileSplit Indiana website in the coming days!