The first few years after Guerin Catholic opened in 2004, the Eagles didn’t have the required five runners for their girls cross-country program to even score as a team.
How things have changed for the private school with an enrollment of fewer than 800, as Guerin prepares for Saturday’s 10:30 a.m. Noblesville Sectional at the Chinquapin Ridge course at White River Elementary School.
Boys and girls sectionals get underway statewide, with the top five teams and top 10 individuals from non-advancing teams moving on to next week’s regionals. Ben Davis, Brebeuf Jesuit, Pendleton Heights, New Palestine, Franklin, South Putnam and Brown County are other sites hosting area schools.
The Eagles are ranked seventh in the statewide coaches’ poll, the highest ranking in program history. Guerin won the Circle City Conference, the small-school division of the State Preview meet and the Indiana All-Catholic Championship. Senior Megan Slamkowski has been the team’s top runner this year.
Now the team wants to make some noise in the postseason. Guerin made it to the regional for the first time in 2014, and the program fielded its fastest team ever last year, said fourth-year coach Renée Anderson. However, they didn’t advance beyond a sectional loaded with Hamilton County powers. Top-ranked Carmel, No. 8 Hamilton Southeastern, No. 10 Noblesville, No. 13 Fishers and No. 17 Westfield are the teams once again in Guerin’s path. Last year, Westfield edged the Eagles by eight points for the final advancing spot.
“We know (we have) a tough challenge set before us each year,” Anderson said. “We like being the underdogs.”
Brebeuf boys looking for strong push
The No. 7 Braves host their sectional and are a strong favorite to win. However, Brebeuf coach Karl Knerr and his squad have bigger goals.
The Braves won the Marion County meet and recently topped quality programs in No. 10 Avon and No. 15 Zionsville in the Golden Bear Invitational at Blue River Park in Shelbyville. That location will also be the new site of this year’s semistate, replacing the Northview Church course. Senior Brady Harless, who has run 15 minutes, 33 seconds this year, is the Braves’ front-runner.
“We had four runners in the 15-(minute range) and our number five came in at 16:04,” said Braves veteran coach Karl Knerr. “(The Golden Bear) course is very fair and fast, and our performance was the fastest Brebeuf team performance in school history.”
The Braves have aspirations to reach the Oct. 29 state finals in Terre Haute and improve on their 19th-place finish last year.
“(Our) focus will be on strong races at the toughest regional, the toughest semistate, and ultimately running our best at the state meet,” Knerr said.
Carmel, which produced team and individual state champions last year in senior Sarah Leinheiser and current Indiana freshman Ben Veatch, enters the state tournament with both its boys and girls ranked No. 1. Leinheiser has the second-fastest girls time in the state this year (17:37) to Dekalb’s Tyler Schwartz (17:30), according to Athletic.net… Oldenburg Academy’s Curtis Eckstein, last year’s top returning boys finisher (third place), has the fastest time this season at 15:10. Hamilton Southeastern senior Gabe Fendel (15:20) has the second-fastest time… In addition to the six ranked girls teams, the boys sectional at Noblesville promises to be a treat. The top-ranked Greyhounds could be tested by No. 3 Hamilton Southeastern and No. 4 Fishers. Westfield (11th) and Noblesville (17th) are also ranked.