Oct. 24—Ranked seventh and 12th in the state respectively, Northview's girls and boys cross country teams expected to emerge out of the Brown County Semistate at Eagle Park on Saturday and qualify for next weekend's IHSAA state finals at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course for the third straight year.
And that's exactly what they did.
The female Knights got a fifth-place finish from sophomore Gnister Grant (18 minutes, 28.7 seconds) and a 14th-place finish from sophomore Ellia Hayes (18:48.9) to finish third as a team with 110 points, trailing only top-ranked Columbus North (65) and No. 3 Floyd Central (96). Other girls squads from this semistate advancing one more week are No. 20 Jasper (164), No. 12 Bloomington North (175) and Princeton (201).
"The girls ran a fantastic race — five season personal records [Grant, Hayes, Micah Peals, Halle Miller and Brooklyn Eldridge]," Northview girls coach Tim Rayle told the Tribune-Star. "All except Gnister ran career personal best times. The girls ran focused and are set for a great race at state. Gnister is near 100-percent [healthy]. She ran up front from the start and never looked back. She was close to running her career best today. She is poised to break into the top 25 individuals next week."
The other Wabash Valley girls team competing Saturday afternoon was Terre Haute South, which saw its season end with a 14th-place finish out of 20 schools.
"The game plan going in, knowing we were on the outside looking in and having nothing to lose, was to go out hard, trust our fitness to run a tough middle of the race and see what we could do at the finish," Terre Haute South girls coach Jon Lee explained. "We were led by Ava Rose, who wrapped up her cross country career as a senior with her fastest 5K ever [20:12.9]. She executed that plan to perfection.
"We had one other lifetime best with two very close to theirs and one other season best. Without a true frontrunner with a low stick to count on, we rely heavily on our pack and the girls set themselves up to have a great day. Unfortunately, you can't control how other teams perform and hats off to them. But I thought we were a better team today than our score shows."
Individually, Columbus North junior Julia Kiesler won comfortably in 17:41.6. Crossing the finish line 17th was Linton sophomore Peyton Smith, whose time of 18:53.5 proved fast enough to send her into next weekend's state finals as an individual.
In the late morning Saturday, Northview's boys earned fourth place team-wise with 157 points. They trailed defending state champion/No. 1-ranked Columbus North (45), No. 15 Bloomington North (129) and No. 21 Floyd Central (151). Rounding out the other qualifying spots were No. 14 Bloomington South (196) and Austin (213).
Columbus North senior Reese Kilbarger-Stumpff entered as the favorite to win individually and he did not disappoint, finishing in 15:10.5 to win by approximately eight seconds ahead of Forest Park senior Spenser Wolf.
Less than half a minute behind Kilbarger-Stumpff was Northview senior Nolan White, who two weeks ago got edged by sectional champion Matt Gambill of Terre Haute South by one second while earning runner-up honors. But last weekend at the Bedford North Lawrence Regional, White was third on his own team behind senior Stuart Bennett and sophomore Jcim Grant and fifth overall behind regional champion Gambill, runner-up Nolan Bailey of Bloomington North and his two teammates.
White admitted that the regional may have been a "down race" for him (although the Knights did capture the team title). But the semistate clearly was not and his eighth-place finish (15:40.0) demonstrated that.
White said his plan for the semistate was to "be smart but run tougher . . . and be extremely competitive."
"I was definitely pleased with how Nolan ran today," Northview boys coach James Grounds emphasized. "I know I talked to him before the race and I said, 'Hey, you're a tough kid.'" He went out there and wasn't intimidated by any of the guys he was racing with. That's what you have to do when you compete at this high level in cross country."
Grounds said the rest of his crew also ran hard in securing another state-finals berth. For example, Jcim Grant finished 19th (15:54.8) and Bennett 21st (15:56.8).
Although Terre Haute South's Gambill wasn't the individual winner for the third week in a row, he made his presence felt by charging down the home straightaway like a runaway locomotive to pass two runners before the finish line to place ninth — roughly five seconds behind White (15:44.9). These friendly rivals will get another chance to match up next Saturday at the state finals.
Meanwhile, Terre Haute North junior Dylan Zeck — competing as an individual Saturday — won't be returning to the state finals after participating last year. He placed 27th in 16:07.9, which didn't quite meet the semistate criteria for qualifying for a bonus week of cross country.
"He ran the best he could today," Terre Haute North boys coach Aaron Gadberry said. "Even when Dylan doesn't have his A game, he still competes and puts him self in position to do well. I'm very proud of how hard he competes."
Next Saturday at the state finals, the boys race will kick off at noon and the girls will start at 3 p.m. There will be separate award ceremonies following each race.
Last season at the state finals, the Knights' girls came in 14th and their boys placed 21st. Two years ago, both Northview squads finished 24th at state.
Now a senior, Gambill hopes to improve on his 39th-place finish from 2020 and this will be young Smith's first trip to the state finals. Terre Haute South boys coach Josh Lee pointed out that Gambill is the first male runner in school history to qualify for the state finals for four consecutive years as an individual.
"We came in knowing Matt had a real good chance to advance to a fourth state championship," the Braves' coach mentioned. "He certainly took care of that job. That's a pretty impressive feat."
The Terre Haute South boys team didn't fare quite as well as Gambill on Saturday. Its season came to an end after placing 10th out of 20 squads.