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The Journal Gazette

  • Tim Creason | For The Journal Gazette Erin Strzelecki, right, of Bishop Dwenger finished second in the state cross country meet a year ago, helping the Saints to a sixth-place finish. Carroll won the team title, the first time an area school won the meet since Concordia in 1983. 

Friday, August 09, 2019 1:00 am

5 To Watch: Girls Cross Country season preview

VICTORIA JACOBSEN | The Journal Gazette

They finally did it. After knocking on the door, finishing as runners-up for three seasons, the Carroll girls claimed their first state cross country title last fall. It was just the second time a Fort Wayne-area team had won (Concordia was the first, winning the third state title meet in 1983). Will the path to a state championship run through Fort Wayne again this season?

Individuals

Erin Strzelecki, Bishop Dwenger: Strzelecki finished second at last year's state meet, less that 7 seconds behind state champion Emma Wilson of Greencastle. She followed that up with a third-place finish in the 3,200-meter run at the state track meet this spring. This could be her year. 

Monroe Rayna Fruchey, Carroll: After finishing 11th at semistate, Fruchey had a huge race at the state meet, hanging with Meagan Hathaway the entire way to finish sixth overall.  

Sydney Lambert, Norwell: Now a senior, Lambert has qualified for the state meet as an individual in each of her first three seasons, finishing as high as 31st in her sophomore year. 

Sarah Busch, Bishop Luers: Now a junior, Busch ran a 19:11.1 at the 2018 New Haven semistate to finish 17th and move on as an individual. She bettered that mark by 2 seconds at the state meet to finish 29th overall. 

Wini Barnett, Warsaw: Just a freshman in 2018, Barnett also made a big leap between her semistate performance and the state meet. She ran 43 seconds faster at the state meet to finish at 19:13.4 and in 35th place overall. 

Teams

Carroll: The Chargers lost Hathaway and Abigail Green but are hardly depleted. In addition to Fruchey, Carroll still has Mallory Clements, who finished 40th at the state meet. Zoe Duffus, who was Carroll's sixth runner at the state meet, qualified for the state track meet in the 1,600 this spring. 

Bishop Dwenger: All seven of the Saints' runners from their sixth-place finish at the state meet are back, including the front-runner for the individual state title. Sophomore Kaitlyn Wood took 27th place at last year's state meet. 

Homestead: The Spartans have reached seven straight state meets as a team and are well-positioned to make it eight. Julia Dvorak, who took third place in the 800 at the state track meet, was Homestead's top runner at the state meet last year, placing 56th. Six of the Spartans' seven runners from last season are back.  

Warsaw: Barnett will likely be a key member of the team for years to come, but three other members of the team who finished in the top 10 at the sectional meet (Adree Beckham, Ava Knight and Amslie Howett) should all be back for more. 

Norwell: The Knights won the Bellmont sectional last season and return all seven of their runners from a 10th-place finish at the New Haven semistate.

Storylines

Carroll vs. Bishop Dwenger: Both teams will likely be among the best of the state, and they will battling back and forth the whole way. The Chargers won each postseason meet in 2018, starting with the Northrop sectional, but the Saints will be stronger than ever this season.

Chargers dominance: If Bishop Dwenger or any other team knocks them off the top of the podium, it would end a sectional streak that dates to 2000 or a regional streak that started in 2001. 

Multithreat: Will Addy Wiley of Huntington North make a mark on the cross country stage? She won the 1,600-meter state title as a freshman, but the three-sport athlete played soccer in the fall of her freshman year. She has expressed interest in competing in both soccer and cross country this fall.

Strong run: If Strzelecki or another local runner claims the individual state title, she'll be carrying on a strong local tradition. Runners from Northeast Indiana have won eight individual titles, including Harding's Krystal Walker, who won the first in 1981. 

Stacked semistate: Four of the top 10 preseason teams (Carroll, Bishop Dwenger, Fishers and Homestead) are all in the New Haven semistate, and three of those are all in the West Noble regional. Whoever advances out of that regional will be well prepared for the state meet.

vjacobsen@jg.net