---- — One of the most colorful of all IHSAA state championship events on the calendar takes place Saturday as runners from across the state will converge on the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute to determine this year’s state champions. The boys race begins at 1 p.m. with the girls race to follow at 1:45 p.m.
Twenty-four full teams and 40 more individuals who qualified without their squad (208 runners in each race) will compete in each race over the 5,000 meter course known as one of the finest in the nation.
The boys team title could be a showdown between the top two teams in the latest coaches poll – No. 1 Carmel and No. 2 Columbus North. The two schools own 17 state championships between them and shared the last five in a row with the Greyhounds ending the Bull Dogs three-year run a year ago.
Six of last year’s top 20 finishers are back for another shot at the tape including Zachery Panning of Fort Wayne Concordia, last year’s state runner-up and local favorite Jackson Bertoli of Terre Haute South, last year’s fourth place finisher. Besides those two, other semi-state winners last weekend were Ellis Coon of Warsaw and David Dalton of Greenwood.
On the girls side, defending state champion Anna Rohrer of Mishawaka is not participating in this year’s tournament after being sidelined earlier this season with a broken bone in her foot just days after recording the fastest 5,000 meter time in state history (16:52.24) back in August. Her absence leaves the door open for someone else to etch their name into the history books.
Some of the prime contenders include semi-state winners Mackenzie Caldwell of Columbus North, who finished fourth last year, Elena Lancioni of LaPorte, Kelcy Welch of Carmel or Maddie Woods of Penn. Or it could be one of the other seven returnees from last year’s top 20 finishers.
Like their boys team, Carmel’s top-ranked girls are the three-time defending state champion. The Greyhounds will be seeking their fifth title in six years and would become the first school since Floyd Central (1989-92) to win four consecutive. The school’s girls golf team already earned the state title on Oct. 5.
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