TERRE HAUTE —
Suspense at the top of the standings is not expected today, when as many as 14 high school cross country teams convene for sectional races at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course.
Terre Haute North’s girls, ranked seventh in the state as of Monday, are the overwhelming favorite to win the 5 p.m. competition, followed by their rivals from Terre Haute South.
All that’s different about the 5:30 p.m. boys race is expected to be the order of finish, with the 14th-ranked Braves expected to be trailed by the Patriots.
Five teams from each race get to move on to regional competition, however, so there could be a little drama there, particularly on the boys side.
Possible favorites to fill the third, fourth and fifth spots in the team standings — in both races — might be, listed alphabetically, Northview, Shakamak and West Vigo. The boys team that could disrupt that trio might be Riverton Parke, riding the momentum from its first-ever Wabash River Conference team championship.
The recent track and cross country realignments by the Indiana High School Athletic Association brings one new team, Owen Valley, with a rich tradition in the sport, but this hasn’t been one of the Patriots’ stronger boys teams and its girls haven’t always filled a complete lineup.
Teams from Clay City and North Central have been contenders for regional advancement in the past too; while either team of Eels could be a dark horse today, the Thunderbirds lack team depth. Linton’s boys are also small in numbers, although strong at the top of their lineup.
Individually, South’s Jackson Bertoli already has been listed as a threat to win the state and is a big favorite in the boys race today.
Likewise Chanli Mundy of North, like Bertoli coming off a Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference individual championship, is the favorite on the girls side.
Injuries will affect the lineup of the North girls, coach Mike Dason said Monday, with both Katie Loebker (ankle) and Mallory Sanders (hamstring) sitting out this afternoon and possibly Saturday as well. South standout Nikki Thiede has likewise been at less than full strength recently, although a Braves lineup led by emerging standout Katie Schmidt has taken up some of the slack.
Other individuals to watch who could be threats to break into the North and South packs include Shakamak’s Savannah Turner and Aleksey Green and Clay City’s Kelsey Wright in the girls race and Luke Sweet of Shakamak, Matt Haltom of Riverton Parke, Nic Yocum of Northview, Dean Danner of North Central and Janzen Franklin and Cole Riggleman of Linton in boys competition.
Another consequence of the IHSAA realignment is a new regional assignment for teams and individuals advancing today. They’ll be at Bedford on Saturday, not Brown County as in the past, although semistate competition is still at Nashville.