Previewing the 2023 Girls NXR Midwest Regional

Girls Individual Preview
The NXR Midwest championship will take place at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, a familiar site for most Indiana athletes. The meet will have several boys and girls races throughout the day capped off by a fast championship race. The boys and girls championship will feature some of the best talent from Indiana along with Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Missouri. Last year the girls race also broke the course record with Helen Sachs from Holland West Ottawa (MI) running a 16:47.9 for the win. She would help pace current University of Notre Dame runner Grace Schager (IL) and current University of Virginia runner Tatum David (IL) to sub 17 minute performances with times of 16:50.3 and 16:54.5 respectively.

Photo by Mike Kepner / MileSplit

The Indiana state championship consists of only one race per gender and featured
Libby Dowty outlasting University of Notre Dame commit Nicki Southerland who is ranked 19th in the most recent MileSplit 50 national individual rankings. Julia Score and Addison Knoblauch were also under 17:45 with times of 17:23.7 and 17:37.6. This group of 4 runners raced together throughout the race and have seen each other along with other Midwest competition at the Nike Twilight. Nicki would be the top runner in that race edging out Isabella Keller (IL) with a time of 17:06.3. Libby would get 4th with a 17:09.6 and Julia 5th with a 17:16.0. Addison was 11th in this race and is the top Indiana returner and second overall returner from NXR Midwest last year where she ran to a 7th place finish. Nicki did not appear on the entry list which means Addison, Julia, and Libby will likely be Indiana's top candidates to qualify for nationals.

Photo by Raymond Tran / MileSplit

Michigan has 4 divisions for the lower peninsula and 3 divisions for the upper peninsula for states. Last week, at the D1 LP finals
Rachel Forsyth dominated the race as she has all season. The Michigan State commit has the top time in the midwest AND the nation as she has run a 16:07.5 earlier this year. Other top runners from the LP D1 race that are also entered to race NXR midwest include Selma Anderson (17:13.6), Annie Hrabovsky (17:28.7), and Victoria Garces (17:29.1). LP D2 runner-up Gail Vaikutis (17:33.6), LP D4 champion Aiden Harrand (17:38.9). Helen Sachs is the top returner from last year running a new course record of 16:47.9 as previously mentioned. Helen has not been able to have as good of a season as last year but has seen improvement from every meet she has run in this year. Jessica Jazwinski owns the 2nd fastest time in the region this year with a 16:47.8 but looks to be off the entry list. Overall Rachel Forsyth should be the overall favorite to win with a few other Michigangers in the mix to make the transfer to Portland. 

Photo by David Nguyen / MileSplit

The Ohio state championship took place last week as well at Fortress Obetz with 3 division races taking place throughout the day for the girls.
Evelyn Prodoehl would easily win the D1 race winning by nearly 30 seconds with a time of 17:23.8 but was not listed in the NXR midwest entry list. Bentley Thomas was the runner-up in this race where she would run a 17:51.5 with Natalie Fouts also running sub 18 minutes with a 17:59.2. In the D2 race Reese Reaman (17:52.3) would win with Sophia Szolosi (17:58.7) finishing in 2nd. Sophia appears to be the only one of the duo to be entered for this weekend's race. Rebecca Geiss (17:55.0) was able to outlean Caleigh Richards (17:55.1) at the D3 state championship to round out Ohio's entries that went sub 18 minutes at states. Helen Randolph, who finished 34th last year appears to be Ohio's top returner as Efa Paschka who finished 17th last year does not appear to be running this year's meet. Without Evelyn racing Ohio may have a harder time getting individuals to qualify for nationals.

Photo by Michael Woolery / MileSplit

Illinois, who runs 3 miles for most races instead of 5Ks, had their state meet this weekend that also had 3 divisions. Top runners from the 3A race that are entered for NXR midwest include state champion
Scout Storms (16:38.46), runner-up Liv Phillips (16:42.47), and 3rd place Julie Piot (16:54.18). In the 2A race Becca Heitzig (16:34.75) would win by 5 hundredths of a second over Annika Swan (16:34.80). Becca was not listed in the entries this year while Annika is listed to run the championship race. Natalie Bierbaum (16:41.45) who finished 4th in this race also entered to compete this weekend. Freshman standout Isabella Keller (16:26.13) continued to dominate this season staying undefeated on Illinois soil and only suffering losses at Nike Twilight to Zariel Macchia (NY) and Indiana's Nicki Southerland. It will be interesting to see how she races without either of these individuals in this year's regional field. Other top runners from the 1A race entered into the championship this weekend include runner-up Mia Kotler (16:32.8), and Molly Farrell (16:57.63). Isabella should be one of Illinois' favorites to advance to nationals with a few others also likely to hang on to the lead pack. 

Photo by Chris Auckley / MileSplit

Natalie Barnard was the state champion at the Missouri 5A state championships where she would win by nearly 25 seconds in a 17:12.7. She has the 2nd fastest time of the entries in this field as she has run 16:53.3. Every other sub 18 minute performance for the girls also came from the same race with Elyse Wilmes (17:37.2), Mary McKenzie (17:40.9), Josie Baker (17:54.6), and Abigail Brackenbury (17:57.6). Based on entry lists it looks like the top 5 from 5A state will all race at NXR Midwest. From last year's race Josie looks to be Missouri's top returner where she finished 28th in last year's championship. Natalie will likely be Missouri's top finisher and be in contention with several other girls from the 4 other states for a qualifying spot to Oregon.

Girls Team Preview
Last year
Mt. Prospect (IL) and Elmhurst (IL) took the automatic qualifying positions to NXN in Portland. At the Illinois state meet this year Elmhurst (77) was able to secure the team championship over Downers Grove North (92), Barrington (115), and a Mt. Prospect (140) team that appeared to be shorthanded with Veronica Znajda missing from the results. Veronica is listed in the entries for the race and should make a significant impact for the team on LaVern where Mt. Prospect won Nike Twilight. The team won Nike Twilight with 91 points over Noblesville (133), Mason (153), and Homestead (153).

Photo by @IHSA_IL via Twitter (X)

At the Michigan D1 LP finals
Romeo (65) won convincingly over Ann Arbor Pioneer. Pioneer could make things interesting in a larger race as low stick Rachel Forsyth will have a larger impact for the team. At the Indiana state meet Homestead (108) narrowly defeated Fort Wayne Concordia (115) after exchanging wins with each other all season. This weekend will likely feature another close finish between these teams. At the Ohio D1 championships Perrysburg (102) and Hil. Davidson (124) broke away from the competition and notably beat Mason who was 3rd at Nike Twilight. At the Missouri Class 5 state championship Father Tolton Regional Catholic won with 103 points with a very strong top 4. Blue Springs South finished relatively close behind with a score of 117.