IHSAA State Meet Preview: Girls Individual Race

(From left to right, Columbus North's Lily Baker and Julia Kiesler, Nicki Southerland, Lily Cridge, Addison Knoblauch, and Park Tudor's Sophia Kennedy and Gretchen Farley. - Graphic by Owen Fink)

IHSAA State Meet Girls Individual Preview

State Meet week is here and anticipation is building for the 416 runners that advanced to the state finals either on a team or as individuals. MileSplit Indiana is previewing every aspect of the IHSAA State finals races throughout the week ahead of the State Meet on Saturday. Today, we preview the individual girls race that could see records fall, and national caliber athletes take the stage at LaVern Gibson.

The girls individual race may have the lowest chance for drama out of the four races Saturday. This year has seen Lily Cridge picking up where she left off from last season as the favorite. A solid group of girls follow her with some more nationally elite talent that is expected to take the next several top spots. Just remember when watching these individuals that you may be seeing one of the deepest fields in Indiana Cross Country history. 

Here's how the girls individual race could play out as girls fight for titles, top 10 finishes, and podium spots with the hopes of going home with a medal!

Individual Title Favorite

Lily Cridge - Bishop Chatard - 1st at Sectional, Regional, and Semi-State

Bishop Chatard Senior Lily Cridge has an unmatched resume to the rest of the Indiana field. Cridge is the defending state champion and could become the 7th girl in Indiana history to win multiple State cross country titles (Emma Wilson of Greencastle was the last to do so in 2017/2018). Cridge has already run sub-17:00 in all three of her tournament races this postseason. Her current PR of 16:46 would be one of the fastest times ever ran at LaVern Gibson and if Cridge does break 17:00 on Saturday, she would be the first girl to do it at the IHSAA State meet. Cridge has the most national cross country success in the field, the fastest times, and won this meet one year ago. All the signs point to Cridge as the individual title favorite this weekend, and deservedly so. 

Outside Shot at the Win

Sophia Kennedy - Park Tudor - 2nd at Sectional, Regional, and Semi-State

Julia Kiesler - Columbus North - 2nd at Sectional, 1st at Regional and Semi-State

Addison Knoblauch - Homestead - 1st at Regional, 2nd at Semi-State

Nicki Southerland - Delta - 1st at Sectional, Regional, and Semi-State

Group Overview

Yes, we believe that Lily Cridge is the clear favorite to win the state title. If Cridge does not end up as state champion on Saturday, the above four names are the most likely contenders we'd expect to see in that top spot. In almost any other year, any of these four athletes by themselves would certainly be title favorites, but unfortunately for the individuals, and fortunately for Indiana XC fans, this is one of the most elite fields Indiana has ever seen.

Nicki Southerland of Delta has the next best time of non-Cridge Indiana athletes this year running 17:05 in the sectional and regional rounds, which in most other years would be the best time by a good margin. Southerland is also coming off her first state title after winning the 3200 at the 2022 Track State Finals and will try to make a run for her second career state title on Saturday.

At last year's state meet, Addison Knoblauch of Homestead was the only athlete that decided to go after Lily Cridge in the first mile of the race. Though she didn't defeat Cridge, her fearlessness was rewarded still with a fifth place finish and then again a few weeks after when she beat Cridge at the Nike Midwest regional. After a track season cut short because of injury, Knoblauch has to be itching to get back onto the biggest stage of the Indiana XC season and she will be fearless in doing so.

Sophia Kennedy is another athlete that has competed on the national stage after qualifying and placing really well at the Eastbay National Championships last year. Her PR time of 17:10 is third best in Indiana behind Cridge and Southerland. Kennedy has several all-state medals and will certainly add another one with a probable top 5 finish on Saturday.

To round out this tier, Columbus North senior Julia Kiesler has been dominant this season. She has won 4 races this season against pretty stellar competition and comes into the State meet having run a new PR of 17:17 at the Brown County Semi-State. It has to be fair to say that Kiesler would be in contention for the win if it comes down to one of the girls in this group being the winner. 

These four could easily fill the rest of the top 5 after Cridge. They still absolutely need to show up ready to race well as the group following them is not far behind and ready to pounce. You should still expect to see Southerland, Knoblauch, Kennedy, and Kiesler in the front of the pack through the majority of this race.

(Nicki Southerland competing in the New Haven Semi-State where she would go on to be the individual winner. - Photo by Mike Kepner)

Contenders for a Top 10 Finish

Lily Baker - Columbus North - 3rd at Sectional, 2nd at Regional and Semi-State

Gretchen Farley - Park Tudor - 3rd at Sectional, Regional, and Semi-State

Bridget Gallagher - Guerin Catholic - 1st at Sectional, 4th at Regional and Semi-State

Lillian Zelasko - New Prairie - 1st at Sectional, Regional, and Semi-State

Group Overview

This group of four has quite a bit in common as they set to compete for top 10 finishes and all-state medals. Lily Baker and Gretchen Farley for one both have teammates that run ahead of them the majority of the time. Being a number two athlete on a team and still being able to place in the top 10 at the state meet is a rare feat. The Columbus North and Park Tudor duos are two of the best duos of all-time in Indiana and they could both place in the top 7 individual at the State meet.

The remaining two runners, Bridget Gallagher of Guerin Catholic and Lillian Zelasko of New Prairie, have been two of the more underrated athletes in Indiana the last couple years. Each has an all-state XC medal (Gallagher was 13th in 2020, Zelasko 9th in 2021) and both ran well under 18 minutes this year with times of 17:38 and 17:46 respectively.

This quad of athletes has a little separation from the group behind them, but they could also break into the group ahead of them with solid races. All have the achievements and the experience needed for a big performance at LaVern Gibson on Saturday.

(Bridget Gallagher of Guerin Catholic racing to a 4th place finish at the Shelbyville Semi-State. - Photo by Kent Graham)

Likely to Contend for a Medal (Top 20)

Libby Dowty - Indian Creek - 1st at Sectional and Regional, 6th at Semi-State

Mary Eubank - Penn - 1st at Sectional and Regional, 4th at Semi-State

Veronica Hargrave - Plainfield - 2nd at Sectional and Regional, 7th at Semi-State

Jessica Hegedus - Avon - 1st at Sectional and Regional, 9th at Semi-State

Jasmine Klopstad - Carmel - 8th at Sectional, 13th at Semi-State

Addison Lindsey - East Noble - 1st at Sectional, 3rd at Regional and Semi-State

Haley Meade - Princeton Community - 2nd at Sectional and Regional, 6th at Semi-State

Heidi Meade - Princeton Community - 1st at Sectional and Regional, 3rd at Semi-State

Lily Myers - Bloomington South- 1st at Sectional and Regional, 5th at Semi-State

Nadia Perez - Noblesville - 6th at Regional, 20th at Semi-State

Maggie Powers - Hamilton Southeastern - 1st at Sectional, 5th at Semi-State

Maddie Rocchio - North Central - 5th at Sectional, 7th at Regional, 8th at Semi-State

Julia Score - Bishop Chatard - 4th at Sectional, 5th at Regional and Semi-State

Kaitlyn Stewart - Floyd Central - 1st at Sectional and Regional, 4th at Semi-State

Group Overview

This group is a big mix of veteran, experienced athletes and young but proven underclassmen that can race with the best in the state. In this tier, there are three athletes that did medal last year, another few that were in the top 30 of the 2021 State meet, and a duo of freshmen battling to be the best of their class. 

Julia Score of Chatard and Libby Dowty of Indian Creek burst onto the scene this season as the best of the freshmen class. Last year was the first girls state meet since 2012 that didn't see a freshmen place in the top 20. We believe that at least one, if not both, of Score and Dowty can help start up a new streak this year.

When thinking about proven veterans in this group, look no further than Carmel's number one runner Jasmine Klopstad. Klopstad has placed 28th, 33rd, and 18th at the last three state cross country meets. Her consistency and experience certainly gives her a leg up on girls hoping to nab their first medals while Klopstad goes for medal #2.

Another senior, Lily Myers of Bloomington South, is ready for reclamation and redemption. Myers 2021 XC season went about as well as she could've hoped, ending with placing 14th at the State meet. Then at the 2022 Track and Field State finals, Myers was 0.02 seconds away from claiming a 2nd career medal finishing 10th in the 3200 meters. She is certainly poised for redemption and ready to go after another all-state medal in cross country.

Whether they are going for their second medal or hoping to land on the podium for the first time, these girls have put themselves in a position to have a great chance to leave Terre Haute with some bling.

(The Meade Twins, Heidi on the left and Haley in the center, run with Maggie Powers of HSE at the Riverview Health Invitational in September. - Photo By Kent Graham)

Ready to Break into the Top 20

Ansley Applegate - Noblesville - 13th at Regional, 22nd at Semi-State

Tame Baylis - Northridge - 1st at Sectional, 2nd at Regional, 6th at Semi-State

Callie Bentley - East Central - 1st at Sectional, 2nd at Regional, 10th at Semi-State

Abby Fleetwood - Indian Creek - 2nd at Sectional, 5th at Regional, 15th at Semi-State

Lila Gillisse - LaPorte - 3rd at Sectional, 9th at Regional, 5th at Semi-State

Sarah Maple - Concordia Lutheran - 1st at Sectional, 2nd at Regional, 7th at Semi-State

Hannah Moore - Northwestern - 1st at Sectional, 2nd at Regional, 4th at Semi-State

Brianna Newell - Columbus North - 1st at Sectional, 3rd at Regional, 7th at Semi-State

Josefina Rastrelli - Warsaw - 1st at Sectional and Regional, 3rd at Semi-State

Summer Rempe - Noblesville - 9th at Regional, 14th at Semi-State

Cheyanne Stock - Valparaiso - 2nd at Sectional, Regional, and Semi-State

Xavery Weisman - Pike Central - 2nd at Sectional, 3rd at Regional, 8th at Semi-State

Lucy Wood - Brebeuf Jesuit - 8th at Sectional, 16th at Regional, 11th at Semi-State

Group Overview

The girls individual field is so stacked that all the above girls are completely capable of medaling at the State meet. It is also very possible that none of them come away with medals. There are multiple girls in this group that have State medals from Track and Field, and others that have been Top 25 in cross country, but are yet to ascend the medal stand.

Hannah Moore of Northwestern finished 22nd here as a freshmen and got more big meet experience running in the 1600 and 800 at the State Track finals this past spring. Summer Rempe of Noblesville was an all-state medalist in the 800 in track season and will be trying to score low points to aid the Millers in their team title hopes. Josefina Rastrelli from Warsaw, another medalist from the 2022 State Track meet placing 8th in the 1600 has been in three state meets already and could be primed for her first cross country medal as a junior.

This group is surely ready to prove they can break into the top 20 and compete for a medal. Do not be surprised to see multiple of these athletes on the podium at LaVern Gibson on Saturday.

As we mentioned at the top, this is one of the deeper fields the girls individual race at the State meet has seen in some time. There are 36 girls that we have highlighted as notable athletes for this meet, and we would not be surprised if someone not on this list ends up placing Top 20. 

The defending state champion going for another crown, multiple other national elite talents competing, and a big group fighting for spots on the podium, the girls individual race is a must watch when athletes line up at LaVern Gibson on Saturday.