U.S. #6 Westfield (IN) Girls Winning State
The first set of NTN Regionals takes place this weekend. In the Midwest, while five states represent the region, only three states are allowed to travel to Terre Haute, Indiana for the meet. Illinois, Indiana and Ohio are the three states and each looks to qualify at least one team to Portland.
Road to Portland: NTN Midwest Regional
Date: November 10, 2007
Location: Terre Haute, Indiana
For the first time in its four year existence, Nike Team Nationals created regional competitions. From each regional competition the top two teams for both boys and girls qualify to Nike Team Nationals in Portland, Oregon. The Midwest Regional plans to be highly competitive as numerous squads have a realistic chance to make nationals.
On the boys side four favorites have emerged. Naperville Knee-Kwah CC Club (Neuqua Valley H.S., IL), Elmhurst XC Club (York H.S., IL), Medina XC Club (Medina H.S., OH) and Fishers RC (Fishers H.S., IN) each have front-running talent and solid packs to work with. Naperville Knee-Kwah enters as the heavy favorite to qualify. Ranked top five in the MileSplit National Team Power Rankings all season, the squad ran through the competition at the Illinois State Meet last weekend in grand fashion. Led by senior front runner Chris Derrick, Neuqua Valley uses a potent attack of junior Danny Pawola and sophomore Aaron Beattie to create a low score up top that other teams have to catch up to. The squad remains undefeated heading into Saturday's action.
Following Naperville Knee-Kwah at their state meet was Elmhurst XC Club. Elmhurst finished a strong second, running a fantastic 1-5 race. Led by senior Tom Achtein and junior Steve Sulkin, Elmhurst looks ready to qualify for their fourth straight Nike Team Nationals. The history behind the squad is truly remarkable. In 2004 the team placed first, in 2005 they placed 2nd, while last year they placed tenth despite a majority of their team falling in the first half mile of the race. This year's squad has higher question marks from the 3-5 spots, but know what it takes to be competitive at such a high level.
Medina and Fishers both enter as state champs. Medina rolled up the competition in Ohio using a very impressive 1:14 split from state individual champion Donny Roys (Jr.) to their fifth man. The strength of Medina lies in their 2-4 runners, who simply outmatched the competition in Ohio all season long. Fishers uses a similar tactic, although they have a leading 1-2 combination from junior Drew Shields and senior Cale Allen. If Shields and Allen run with every other teams top two then Fishers' shot to qualify is as good as anyone, especially since they had a solid 55 second split at their state meet.
Outside of those four team, many other teams have an outside chance to qualify. The four teams coming on strong the past few weeks are Warrior RC (Waubonsie Valley H.S., IL), Centerville RC (Centerville H.S., OH), Peninsula Woodridge TC (Peninsula Woodridge H.S., OH) and Carmel RC (Carmel H.S., IN). Each team lags behind the other four teams, most on front running strength, but if they run their best race of the year at regionals, they have a shot.
Warrior RC seems to come on strong at the end of each season. For the past two season the squad has entered the Illinois State Meet as clear underdogs, only to rise up and finish higher than expected. This year Warrior RC finished in fourth place, only ten points out of third. Another week to peak, and lead by senior twins Mark and David Schumacher, their momentum is only pointing up. Centerville also is peaking at the right time. Finishing second to Medina at state, the squad's high hopes come from junior Shawn Roberts leading the way. Roberts finished top ten at the Ohio State Meet, and leads a strong 1:12 1-5 split from state.
Carmel and Peninsula Woodridge's strength lies in their packs. Carmel finished in the top three yet again at the Indiana State Meet mostly because of their senior led pack, while Peninsula Woodridge's squad uses a potent 2-4 combination to beat its rivals. Other teams to note are John Hersey RC (Hersey H.S., IL) using a very strong top three runners, Franklin Community XC Club (Franklin H.S., IN) led by Sean Wilson and Middlebury TC (Northridge H.S., IN) who qualified for NTN in 2004 and has senior Ladd Mercer from that team as their senior leader.
In 2005 and 2006 the Westfield XC Club earned trips to Portland based off of their regional rankings. In '05 the squad finished thirteenth and last year they finished seventh. This year the team hopes to place even higher at NTN, but first must qualify out of the regional.
Westfield (Westfield H.S., IN) enters the small 15 team field as the heavy favorite. Two weeks ago at their state meet, Westfield used a potent top two, and a nice pack behind them, to beat strong competition. Led by senior Maggie Bingham and junior Kaitlyn Love, both finished in the top ten, and freshman Waverly Neer, this team looks destined to make their third trip to Portland and contend for a higher finish than last year.
Following Westfield for the final qualifying spot are: Brecksview RC (Brecksville-Broadview H.S., OH), Magnificat RC (Rocky River Magnificat H.S., OH), Lake Central-Indian RC (Lake Central H.S., IN), Ft. Wayne XC Club (Carroll (Ft. Wayne) H.S., IN) and Hinsdale XC Club (Hinsdale Central H.S., IL). Each team holds a strong position of experience and front running prowess, however no clear favorite stands out.
At the Ohio State Meet Brecksview and Magnificat dualed the entire race, with Brecksview pulling away over the final half mile for the state championship. Magnificat looks for redemption and a qualifying berth, while Brecksview hopes to mimic their state meet performance once again. Brecksview uses a strong 1-3 combination, led by Aly Dosen (Jr.) and Megan McAdams (Sr.). Both athletes should push for a top five finish, giving this team very low points up front. In a small meet like this those points mean a lot. Magnificat meanwhile uses their incredible depth to beat teams, while being led by sophomore Madeline Chambers.
The Indiana teams should push for both qualifying spots. Lake Central trailed Westfield all season, however many thought on their best day they might pull the upset on the defending state champions. While they tallied second at state this year, Lake Central counts on a strong 1-3 to contend with other top teams. Their fifth runners needs to step up big however if they hope to hold off the other top teams.
Ft. Wayne XC Club holds the most potent 1-2 force of the meet, equal to Westfield's. Freshman Brianna Johnson and senior Chelsea Blanchard finished at in the top ten at state, leading the team to third place, only five points behind Lake Central. Carmel is another Hoosier State team to keep an eye on. Much like their boys team, the girls use a very strong pack to dominate teams. Their consistent strength and knowledge of the race course should help this team quite a bit.
One team that comes into Saturday's meet with high expectations and little pressure is Hinsdale XC Club. The squad finished a disappointing fourth at the Illinois State Meet last weekend. Last season the team qualified for NTN and finished seventeenth overall. The hopes were higher for the squad this season, but a couple runners have not matched last year's results quite yet. Keep an eye on this team however. They know what it takes to qualify and are led by experienced leader Elaine Kuckertz. Weaton Lightning RC (Wheaton North H.S., IL) and Amos Alonzo Stagg (A.A. Stagg H.S., IL) are two other teams from Illinois that will have an impact.