October 24th, 2013 – Girls New Prairie Semi-State Preview
by Chuck Heimberg
Top 20 Individual predictions
- Elena Lancioni – LaPorte – Rock solid all season long, Elena is the odds on favorite to win, following her fourth place finish last year. She has only lost a few times this season, and those losses were to the absolute best in the state. Expect her to take the pace out hard and separate from the field by the time she emerges from the Ravine. Elena has been a special runner the past four years for the Slicers, and a win would be a fitting end to her career on Northwest Indiana courses.
- Kristen Johnson – West Lafayette – If Elena should falter I expect Kristen to be the one to take advantage. She and her sister Lauren will be looking to set West Lafayette up for one of the lowest scores in NPSS history. 18:25 at last week’s Regional makes her a real threat for a win this Saturday.
- Lauren Johnson – West Lafayette – Lauren was Regional champion in 18:24 on Saturday, and should be expected, along with her sister, to be battling up front with Lancioni for the win. The scariest thing about the Johnson sisters is that they are only sophomores, but they may not be satisfied waiting their turn for a semi state title.
- Anna Bearss – Rochester – 1st individual qualifier – Anna appears to have recovered from whatever issues she faced at Culver and should improve a bit on last years 6th place finish. With two sub 19:00 races last week in what appeared to be easy wins, I think she is primed and ready for a top five finish.
- Taryn Thor – Northwestern – 2nd individual qualifier – Taryn has thrown down some amazing times this season, and before the Regional I was ready to rank her second in this race. I still think she has as good a chance as anyone to be the runner up, and could steal the show if others struggle.
- Celina Guerrero – Hobart – 3rd individual qualifer – Celina has been amazing things since her middle school days, when she was running sub 5:20 in 8th grade track. She has strength, great speed, and excellent running form. A high finish would go a long way toward leading the Brickies to a possible fairy tale top six finish and a trip to State.
- Rachel Thompson – New Prairie – 4th individual qualifer – Rachel looked smooth as silk on Saturday and may have been holding back a bit for this weekend. Running the semi state on her home course certainly has to be to her advantage, and I would not be surprised to see her finish even higher.
- Madeline Lilly – Twin Lakes – 5th individual qualifer – Another super sophomore, Madeline was fifth last year and has had another stellar season this year. It just shows the strength of this semi state that she is ranked a little lower than that going into Saturday. Like everyone in the top ten, it is certainly possible that we will see her finish even higher on race day.
- Rachel Bales – West Lafayette – Rachel and Delany, Delany and Rachel, no matter how they finish they are the icing on West Lafayette’s cake. They have been every bit as consistent as the Johnson sisters and are the reason WL is the juggernaut that they are. Expect one, or the other, or both, to be top ten finishers. And if they do, we are looking at one heck of a low score.
- Mindy Whidden – Hobart – 6th individual qualifer – Mindy and Celina have traded number one runner duties back and fourth all season long for Hobart. Mindy did some incredible things in the 4 x 800 last track season, so anyone who is in her sights with 400 meters to go on Saturday had better be ready to go deep into the well. She is the second piece of the puzzle for what could be a wonderful day for the Lady Brickies.
- Kayla McGurk – Crown Point – Coming out of the DAC meet Kayla was on a roll. From mid season on she has just gotten better and better every week. From what I understand she rolled her ankle cooling down after the Sectional last week and was held out of the Regional to be cautious. Had she run on Saturday Crown Point would probably have been the team champions, but a trip to state would make up for that loss.
- Alison Mundell – Valparaiso – Alison has been leading the charge for Valparaiso, along with Michaela, all season long. The last few races she has taken her game up a notch, and is now a contender for a top ten finish. 25th last year, I expect Mundell to carry on the Valpo tradition of front runners at the NPSS.
- Kyleigh Werner – South Central – 7th individual qualifer – Kyleigh finished 37th last year, but I don’t expect to see her outside of the top twenty this year. A top twenty finish should secure a spot at the state finals for her, and she has the talent to be top ten.
- Delany Barber – West Lafayette – see Rachel Bales above.
- Kailee Schoof – LaPorte – Kailee has struggled ever so slightly over the last few weeks, but the potential is there to do something big. The upside for Kailee is that she is not just running for herself, but for her team, as LaPorte will be looking to avenge their loss to Portage at the Regional. It is always easier to dig deep for your teammates when you know they are doing the same for you, and I think this LaPorte teams has a great deal of trust in each other when they step on the starting line.
- Michaela Gazdich – Valparaiso – Everything I hear out of the Valpo camp is that Michaela is a coaches dream. 40th last year, she has committed herself to becoming the best runner she can be, and it has really paid off for the Vikings. She is a great example to younger runners that in this sport, hard work and dedication can take you just as far, if not farther, than natural talent. I expect we will see another great performance from Michaela on Saturday.
- Kyra Ball – Portage – After a rough September of very limited racing due to a few health issues, Kyra is finding her form at just the right time for the Indians. Every week she is looking more and more like the runner who, as a freshman last year, finished 15th. At the regional she in the hunt for 3rd place well into the last mile, and with another week of racing and training under her belt I think she will be ready to take another step forward. The more she can close the point gap to Elena the better chance Portage has of being runners up.
- Sarah Hunsley – Lake Central – 8th individual qualifer – The first freshman in these rankings, Sarah began the season as a part of a tremendous one – two freshman punch for Lake Central, along with Sara Ramos. Unfortunately for the Indians, Ramos’s season ended with injury, but Sarah has continued to be a front runner and consistent sub 20:00 performer. Even if her team does not make it out I expect we will see Sarah in Terre Haute the following week.
- Carly Jones – Eastern (Greentown) – 9th individual qualifer – Carly was part of the Eastern team that finished second last season and looks to have a good chance to return as an individual this year. She ran very well at the Culver Regional and if she can produce that same type of effort this Saturday she has a great chance to return to Terre Haute.
- Olivia Johnson – Lafayette Harrison – 10th individual qualifer – Olivia finished just outside of a trip to state last year with her 17th place finish. She has run consistently well over the course of the season and in my predicted finish she will nab the tenth and final individual slot to the State Finals.
The team race for a trip to state
A one horse race
1. West Lafayette – I cannot envision any scenario where the ladies from West Lafayette are not the NPSS champions. They are in a class by themselves through the first five, and their six and seven are good enough to run in almost every other team’s top five, with the possible exception of Portage. I am probably selling Grace Denton a little short by not ranking her in the top 20, as I have her projected finish as 22nd. No disrespect to the rest of the field, but West Lafayette could win this meet with a very controlled effort; they are just that good. But I have a feeling the girls from West Lafayette plan on putting on a show for us on Saturday, and I, for one, can’t wait to see it.
The two teams with the best shot to be runners up
2. Portage – Portage’s strength is depth, and they put that depth on display at this past Saturday’s Regional. When they are all running their best they can put seven right with LaPorte’s third. Kyra Ball’s return to form has also closed the point gap to LaPorte’s one. I think the Indians are ready to run seven under twenty on Saturday, which should put them solidly in second place. The real question for the girls from Portage is; What will they do when they get to Terre Haute? They are due for a great team performance there, and a top ten finish is not out of the question if they race with, and for, each other.
3. LaPorte – The Slicers missed a trip to state by ten points last year, but that should not be a problem this year. Their top five have been solid all season, and they were able to win their first DAC title, then back it up with a Sectional win, by beating Portage both times by one. Portage got the best of them at the Regional, but the best way for LaPorte to secure their spot in Terre Haute is to run with the intention of beating Portage again and reversing my rankings. Lancioni, Schoof, Cave, Gerick and Didion have put this program on their backs and carried it into state prominence through hard work and a shared commitment to be great. I cannot see them finishing any lower than third.
A battle royale for the next three spots to state, fought out amongst six teams
4. Valparaiso – There was a point a few weeks ago where it looked like Valpo’s streak of twenty straight state meet appearances might be in jeopardy, but the Vikings are pulling it together at just the right time. The return of Aurora Bonner and Sydnye Nosbusch to their lineup has put a new spark into this team, and with the fantastic front running of Alison Mundell and Michaela Gazidich they seemed poised to make it 21. I think it is going to be an awfully close race for 4th through 9th places in this meet, but if I had to bet, I would bet on the Valpo tradition.
5. Crown Point – The Bulldogs were 2nd by five points to Lake Central at the Regional Saturday, and tied Hobart on points. But this was without their outstanding number one runner, Kayla McGurk. If McGurk’s ankle has healed enough for her to run her normal race, the girls from Crown Point are a real contender for the top six. After a down year last year, they got off to a slow start this season, but have been gaining momentum over the last few weeks. Sometimes you have to go with your gut, and my gut says Crown Point gets out.
6. Warsaw – I keep going back and forth on my next two picks. I think Warsaw is stronger at third runner, but will need Miller to run much better than she did Saturday at Culver to hold off Hobart. If she is on she can break up or even beat Hobart’s top two. I really think that the 5th through 9th place teams will be decided by their 4th and 5th runners, so Hayward and Orr will need to bring their A game to give their team a shot.
7. Hobart – Even though I have them rated seventh, a part of me leans toward picking Hobart sixth. Guerrero and Whidden are going to be big for the Brickies, and I think they may have enough at 3–5 to squeeze by the Tigers of Warsaw. The team that shows the most poise and confidence on Saturday is going to be the team with a smile on their face at the end of the day.
8. Lake Central – After the Lafayette Harrison Invite at the start of the season, Lake Central looked to be a lock for the state finals. The loss of number one runner Sara Ramos was a big blow to their team, but many girls have stepped up over the course of the season to keep them in the hunt for state. I think the Indians might have a secret weapon up their sleeve, and that is the tendency for Megan Zajac to run crazy well on this course. If Megan brings her New Prairie magic on Saturday, you can throw my prediction out the window and book rooms for the blue Indians in the Haute.
9. New Prairie – This is another team that can just as easily finish fifth as the ninth place I have them predicted. They have the talent to make some noise on their home course this Saturday, but will need Hope Myroup to run the sub 20:00 she is capable of, and be much better at four and five than they were last week to make their dreams of a State meet a reality.
Just outside of the group
10. Twin Lakes
Not quite contenders this year
16. Lafayette Harrison
20. Clinton Central